In formal settings, the official language of Barbados is British English, in more casual settings locals speak a dialect referred to as ‘Bajan.’
Essentially, Bajan is a combination of both English and African expressions which has produced a unique vocabulary and speech pattern – difficult to understand at times, especially for visitors to the island.
The language of Barbados doesn’t just contain its own unique words and accent, but also many island-specific and often comical phrases and folk beliefs.
Please enjoy the variety of common Bajan beliefs, folklore and proverbs we’ve listed below.
Bajan Folk Beliefs and Proverbs
— “Fisherman neva say dat ‘e fish stink.”
People never give bad reports about themselves.
— “De tongue dat does buy yuh, does sell yuh.”
The same person who sweet talks you will be the same person to betray you later.
— “Every bush is a man.”
Be careful how you speak; you never know who is listening.
— “As yuh land, yuh come ashore.”
When you wear something as soon as you buy it.
— “An eyeful ‘en a bellyful.”
Seeing is one thing: having it in your possession is another thing.
— “Bucket gone up and down in well evah day, de bottom boun’ tuh drop out.”
Sustained pressure will eventually lead to a breakdown.
— “Yuh can’t stan’ in de road an’ sih de leak in somebody else house.”
It’s impossible to know the full extent of another man’s domestic problems from afar.
— “De higher de monkey climb, de more ‘e show ‘e tail!”
The more one shows off; the more one’s faults are brought out into the open.
— “Donkey got long ear, but ‘e don’ like to hear ‘e own story.”
People are reluctant to hear or acknowledge their faults.
— “Wha’ en pass yuh, en miss yuh.”
Having escaped a particular misfortune doesn’t mean you are immune from it.
— “Don’t tek a six for a nine.”
Don’t misunderstand a person’s real intentions.
Quirky Bajan Beliefs
— A spider found inside the house should not be killed as it may result in the breakage of at least some of the crockery in the house.
— When a noisy cricket enters the house it indicates that money is coming to the house. Therefore, you must not kill, or evict, the insect – let it be and good fortune will come to you and your home.
— A pregnant woman should not sit with her legs crossed. It is said this will cause delivery problems for her.
— A generous amount of green pigeon peas in a child’s diet is a good way of ensuring that the child learns to talk early in life.
— When a child loses a tooth they must throw it on the roof and say “rat, rat gih me another teet!” to ensure the new tooth grows.
— When a group of people assemble to ‘fire one’ (have a drink), a small quantity of rum is thrown into the corner for the spirits of departed friends, to show them that although they are dead, they are not forgotten.
— It is good luck to have a mongoose scurry across the road in front of you.
— A green lizard in the house is a sign that someone in that house, or a close relative, is pregnant, or that a male in the house has made someone pregnant.
Got more to add?
We at Totally Barbados love hearing your feedback. If you’ve got any extra folk beliefs and proverbs that aren’t on our list, please let us know.
By: Brett Callaghan