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Weird and Popular Sayings in Papiamentu Translated Into English (Language of the Islands Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao)

Updated on July 26, 2019
Kimberly Martis profile image

Kimberly Martis is a Dutch Caribbean freelance writer. She writes about culture, beauty, tv-shows, music, movies, odd jobs and fiction.

The flag of Curaçao.
The flag of Curaçao. | Source

Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Three islands that are forever connected to each other. The islands used to be called the ABC islands. This was when they were Dutch colonies. Eventually, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao went their separate ways and have a different relationship now with the Netherlands. But these islands are way more than the history that they share with the Dutch.

One of the things that makes these islands so special is their language. It’s a mixture of different languages and it shows. A lot of the locals speak fluently Spanish, English, and Dutch. Which makes it easy to communicate when you’re visiting the islands. But what makes the language more special are the sayings. Some of them make sense others don’t unless you know the meaning.

First, you will read the sentence in Papiamentu and then you will find it literally translated in English. Therefore, if it sounds weird in Papiamentu it will sound weird in English.

Sidenote: there is a difference in the spelling of words on the islands. For example: on Aruba, they spell a lot of words with a C whereas on Curaçao they spell most of those same words with a K. The spelling in this article is based on the spelling of Curaçao.

Papiamentu

Bo ta bomba awa di renbak.

English

You’re spoiling the water in the water reservoir.

Do you ever get lost in the music performing a mini Beyoncé concert in your living room? Or are you more of a secret singer that performs in the bathroom when showering? Or do you think you can hit those high notes like Mariah Carey? Are you wondering what any of this has to do with the saying? Well, head on over to the meaning.

Meaning

It means that you’re singing out of tune. Yes, your singing is so bad that you spoiled the water.

Papiamentu

Den dos man funchi no por sali papa.

English

In two hands funchi (a local dish) can’t come out mushy.

If you ever visit the island of Curaçao you should definitely try some funchi. It’s a local dish often eaten with fish. It’s not hard to make but it requires a special touch to get it just right. As it can’t be too mushy or too hard.

Meaning

Teamwork makes the dream work! Yes, it has absolutely nothing to do with food but you still need to try funchi when you get the chance!

Papiamentu

Bo no por kome karni, nenga wesu.

English

You can’t eat the meat and decline the bone.

If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan this saying is still for you as it’s not really about meat. But you probably already figured that out.

Meaning

You can’t enjoy all the fun elements of a situation without taking responsibility for all of the other things that come with it.

Papiamentu

Esun ku kana lo kontra.

English

The one who walks will find it.

Find what you may ask. Well, anything and everything. It all depends on the roads you take and how far you keep walking. Although the meaning is more symbolic than literal so you don’t have to start walking right away.

Meaning

If you do what needs to be done you will get where you want to be in life.

Papiamentu

Galiña ta laba ku e awa ku e tin.

English

Chicken washes with the water that it has.

You may wonder if chickens wash themselves. To be honest I don’t know. All I know is that you can find a lot of chickens on the islands. And the beautiful thing about that is that they aren’t all locked up in small cages.

Meaning

You will have to survive with the means that you have.

Papiamentu

Un konsenshi limpi ta e mihó kusinchi.

English

A clean conscious is the best pillow.

I can’t really say anything about your conscious as that’s between you and your conscious so let’s move on to the meaning.

Meaning

This one is pretty straight forward. It just means that you will need to do good and be a good person.

Papiamentu

Sali fo’i panchi kai den kandela.

English

Getting out of the frying pan and falling into the fire.

Before you start to think that we are cannibals I would like to state that we're not. Yes, food is a very big part of our culture but this is where we draw the line. So, what is somebody doing in a frying pan you may ask. And where would you get a frying pan big enough to fit a human? And how did they fall into the fire? Was it when they were escaping? All questions that I can’t answer. Probably, questions that didn’t even pop in your mind so let’s just get to the meaning.

Meaning

Getting out of a bad situation and ending up in an even worse situation. It kind of makes sense now right?

Papiamentu

Pushi ku hanskun no por kohe raton.

English

A cat that wears gloves can't catch any mice.

A lot of people dress up their dogs but cats are more difficult to dress up. For obvious reasons. But if you would dress up your cat would you give it gloves to wear?

Meaning

If you are too shy, too timid or too cautious you will not get out of life what you want. I know it has absolutely nothing to do with cats, crazy right?

Papiamentu

Pa un bon hamber no tin pan duru.

English

When really hungry there isn’t stale bread.

Do you also suffer from hangryness? If you don’t know what that means let me fill you in. When you’re hangry your hunger turned into anger. Which makes you hangry. I must admit that I often suffer from this. Fortunately, I never have to turn to stale bread. Talking about bread on the islands the make the best bread. Some call it Pan Sera others call it Pan di Fornu. Whatever you call it doesn’t matter. It’s the best bread in the whole wide world. Yes, I will vouch for that! And just like funchi you have to try this bread when visiting the islands.

Meaning

When you’re really hungry everything tastes good.

Papiamentu

Hopi skuma, poko chukulati.

English

A lot of foam and a little chocolate.

This saying may sound delicious as we all love chocolate but you wouldn’t want someone to say this about you.

Meaning

You talk and brag a lot but you don’t follow through on anything or accomplish anything.

Papiamentu

No laga pa mañan loke bo por hasi awe.

English

Don’t leave anything that you can do today for tomorrow.

This saying is one of the Papiamentu speaking parents' favorite sayings. They will constantly repeat this to their children. Very annoying but they mean well. And yes, I’ve heard it many times growing up and my mother still uses it almost every day. And yes, I'm an adult but I guess that doesn't matter.

Meaning

Don’t procrastinate. It’s as simple as that.

Papiamentu

Kara di angel kurason di diabel.

English

The face of an angel and the heart of the devil.

You’ve probably met many people with the face of an angel. Mostly children as they still have that sweet innocent look. This saying also reminds me of the fact that the devil used to be an angel. Which now makes me wonder if it’s based on that but I guess we’ll never know.

Meaning

Someone who looks innocent (or pretends to be) but is the complete opposite.

Papiamentu

Sòpi purá ta sali salu.

English

A quickly made soup will turn out salty.

Did you notice that a lot of the sayings involve food? That’s because we're real food lovers. If you go to Aruba, Bonaire or Curaçao you’ll get great and delicious food. It’s guaranteed that you will go home with a few extra pounds.

Meaning

If you do something in a hurry it will always turn out wrong.

Papiamentu

No por planta ku su awa.

English

You can’t plant with his water.

If you love nature than the islands would be a great place to visit. You can go hiking, swimming or diving in the clear blue seas and much more.

Meaning

You can’t depend on this person.

Papiamentu

Muchu amèn ta daña misa.

English

Too much amen damages the church.

Meaning

Too much of a good thing is never okay.

Papiamentu

Bai gaña baka.

English

Go lie to a cow.

Do you talk to animals? Probably to (your) dogs, cats and maybe even horses. It’s not very often that people talk to cows though. Besides that, you may not see cows on a daily basis. But if you have to lie to an animal a cow is a great animal to choose.

Meaning

I don’t believe you or the story that you’re telling. Sometimes it’s more of a surprise reaction and then you just shout it in a jokingly way. Or when you really don’t believe any word of it then you can also use it in a more serious way.

Papiamentu

Tempu di guera no tin misa.

English

During the war, there aren’t any churches.

Make love not war! That's all I got to say about that.

Meaning

When it is necessary you have to do what needs to be done.

Papiamentu

Kanadó no sa yora kaminda.

English

Walkers don’t cry on the road.

If you walk in a walkathon you may actually cry when you’re on the road. As all of the blisters and ankles that get twisted on the way come with blood, sweat, and tears.

Meaning

You have to finish what you started. Which sometimes also comes with blood, sweat, and tears. But in the end, it will be worth it. (See this as a sign to finish what you started. You got this!)

Papiamentu

Resa bo mes rosario.

English

Read your own rosary.

The locals on all three of the islands are mostly religious in some way or form. And the most beautiful thing about it is that all of the different religions live peacefully next to each other on the islands.

Meaning

Mind your own business. Probably not what you expected being that the saying has a religious tone, but this is exactly what it means.

Papiamentu

Esun ku kima su susana mester sinta riba blar.

English

Whoever burns his booty needs to sit on the blisters.

The funny thing about this saying is that it is exactly the same as a Dutch saying including the meaning. Probably because of the Dutch influence on the islands. But it’s still remarkable.

Meaning

If you do something (bad) you have to deal with the consequences. It’s as simple as that!

Did you enjoy the weird and popular sayings in Papiamentu? If you did and you're curious to learn more you may enjoy my article about weird and popular Dutch sayings. Different sayings, different meanings but just as weird!

© 2019 Kimberly Martis

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