Jamaica Patois Wisdom – Meddling

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: Cockroach nuh business inna fowl fite
English: A cockroach should not interfere in a fowl fight
Meaning: People should not get into arguments that do not concern them

It should be pretty obvious that if a cockroach gets mixed up in a fight between two roosters, they might lose interest in one another pretty quickly and pounce on the cockroach for a good snack. I have seen roosters sparring with one another, and have seen plenty of cockroaches in my life, but I don’t think I ever saw a cockroach join in. Perhaps they have better sense than that.

I wish it were that way with humans, that they would exercise restraint and common sense before they get involved in the affairs of others. Peter gave some good counsel in I Peter 4:15: “For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters.” It is interesting to consider the “company” in which this meddler is cast—murderers, thieves, and evildoers. Many of us tend to categorize sin. While we would not think of committing murder, or theft, or telling a “black lie,” we somehow rationalize “little white lies,” or gossip, or tale-bearing, etc.

Have you ever noticed the particular wording in Revelation 21:8? “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." I believe there must be some significance in the words “all liars.” Obviously the abominable and murderers, etc. will be lost, but then the Holy Spirit didn’t have John write “liars,” but he said “all liars.” That should get our attention that there are no “little sins” that God will overlook or excuse.

Solomon has a few words of wisdom about such things.

  • Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
  • Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him” (Proverbs 26:17).

Solomon warns about the dog because it can be dangerous. If you grab a snarling cur by the ears, he will snap at you and bite you. You’ve got your hands full and can’t do anything else. If you turn him loose, then you may be in even more danger, because he can probably run faster than you can. And it wasn’t even your dog to start with! Neither was it your quarrel at the first.

Paul’s word concerning a tendency among young widows has a universal application, for it is good for all of us. “At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention” (I Timothy 5:13). Too often we get caught in other people’s quarrels, then we take sides, then the matter blows up, and we are harmed. Paul told the Thessalonians “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you” (I Thessalonians 4:11).

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