Jamaica Patois Wisdom – Fools

by Jefferson David Tant

The Jamaican Patois dialect is colorful, unique and humorous. It is my desire to share some of the philosophy shown in this mix of colorful phrases that are witty as well as thought-provoking. I hope the readers both profit and enjoy. In my quarter-century plus of teaching there, I have come to appreciate some things about their culture.

Patois: Empty barrel mek di most noise

English: An empty barrel will make the most noise

Meaning: – A person with little or no knowledge tends to do the most talking

Did you ever know a person who rattles on and on about anything and everything? I have known a few in my lifetime. You cannot get away from them without appearing to be rude, so you endure the chatter, hoping your cell phone will ring, or someone will come to rescue you. And others explode at the slightest injury or provocation. This reminds me of a line from one of Shakespeare’s characters who said, “Life is a tale as told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

My father told of an incident when we lived in Denver. A woman in the church there seemed to take pride in “speaking her mind.” One Sunday she was telling my father how she had “told somebody off,” and concluded by saying, “You know what I always say, ‘You might as well say it as to think it.’” My father replied, “You know, the Bible says something about that.” She was curious and asked about it. He then read “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards” (Proverbs 29:11). I like the old wise saying: “It is better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Solomon’s wisdom lends some thoughts to the matter. Consider a few passages that urge caution and wisdom concerning our tongues.

  • Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, But in the hearts of fools it is made known” (Proverbs 14:33).
  • A fool's anger is known at once, But a prudent man conceals dishonor” (Proverbs 12:16).
  • When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).
  • Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness. Yet the fool multiplies words” (Ecclesiastes 10:12-14).
  • Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

Remember, God hears our words as well as the one to whom we are speaking.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). We often use this passage with respect to knowing the Scriptures so we can give appropriate answers to those who ask questions, but it also has application to how to respond to those who may provoke us.

If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (James 2:2-6).

We will let James have the final “words” on the matter. “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). In all things, use your brain before you use your tongue. Don’t be an empty barrel.

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