Proverbs & Wise Sayings from Cameroon

We thought it would be interesting to collect wise sayings and proverbs from around the world. Our good friend Nyango from Cameroon was kind enough to get us started with some Cameroonian sayings…

Here are some Cameroonian wise sayings expressed in Pidgin English:

1) “Tiko drink, Kumba drunk.” Another way to put it is, Tiko drinks but Kumba gets drunk. Tiko and Kumba are two towns in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. The saying simply means someone is more concerned or happier than the person who is directly affected.

A similar saying from neighbouring Nigeria states: “Stop taking Panadol for my headache”. Panadol is a common headache/pain reliever.

2) “Ting weh e happen for cocoa, na e go happen for kaka.” In other words, whatever happens to cocoa (fresh cocoa beans) is what will happen to cacao (dried cocoa beans). Which means the process of drying and grinding the beans to produce the breakfast drinks, chocolate etc. will happen to the fresh beans as well. In short, it means what comes around goes around.

3) “Na condition bend njanga e back.” I.e. It is the force of circumstances that caused the crawfish’s back to bend. 

4) “Wetin rat get for do with bottle?” I.e., what business has a rat/mouse got with a bottle? In other words, none of my beeswax.

5) “Khaki no be leather.” Though khaki and leather are tough fabric, khaki is not equal to leather.

6) “Order pass power.” – A command is superior to physical strength; Authority is greater than strength.

7) “Every Hausa man with e kettle.” – Everyone has his own burden.

Every Hausa man with e kettle implies: everybody with their own worries. It suggests something you cannot see easily or discern. (Hausas in Cameroon, being of the Muslim faith, go about carrying a kettle of water with them all the time because they have to be ready to do ablutions for their daily prayers wherever they are. So, it is something they cannot drop off or leave for an extended period.)

It might have a little similarity to “having an albatross around your neck” but not such “an annoying burden” as albatross implies, just a burden. So let’s make it: Everyone has his own burden.

8) “Na sweet potatoe leavam they di chop ei raw. Try mami coco.”

It is the sweet potato that allows itself to be eaten raw; try that with the cocoyam (taro). The cocoyam when raw itches like heck! So it implies that if you’re being taken advantage of, it is because you permitted it.
9) “Small, Small, monkey catch banana.” “Small small” is how we express “little by little” in pidgin. Just imagine a monkey up a banana tree trying to pluck a banana from a swinging bunch. After many tries, it eventually succeeds.
10) “Tori sweet sotay tifman laugh for under bed.” – The story was so funny that the thief hiding under the bed laughed out loud. Meaning you inadvertently expose yourself by indulging too much.
11) “Na when koki don sour na yin dey dee give orphan pickin.” – When good food goes bad, that’s when the orphan is offered a generous portion. In other words, some people will only offer you a good thing with a catch; a poisoned gift. Often used in reference to Cameroon where the choice positions go to the French speaking majority and when it is thoroughly messed up and probably heading for bankruptcy, an Anglophone will suddenly get the position.
Some Sayings in English:

1) “Selling after the market.”Doing something after the deadline. Selling after the market examples – arriving at the exam hall when the exam has ended. Getting to a party at 4pm when that is when it ended. It’s a very popular one.

Another one with the same meaning: Closing the stable door after the horse has been stolen = Selling after the market. This makes more sense if you know our markets: people bring their wares in the morning, buyers come and buy. When it’s done, sellers pack up their wares and return home and buyers all leave. So imagine someone trying to come sell after that.

2) Imitation leads to danger.

3) What an old person see sitting down, a young person cannot see standing up.

Many thanks to Nyango M. Nambangi for sharing these sayings with us!

If you would like to share any wise sayings and proverbs from your country, please comment below.


-Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Friday, January 18th, 2019 at 7:34 pm and is filed under Cameroon, Cameroonian Pidgin English, Countries & Cultures, English, Languages, Mama Lisa, Nigeria, Proverbs, Sayings, Wise Sayings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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