Date of Performance/Collection: 04/19/20
Primary Language: French
Other Language(s): English
The Virgin Islands are a nest for proverbial sayings. Each one bears a specific lesson that is passed down from generation to generation. A very common saying in the nature island of Dominica is “Slow water runs deep”. This is usually a phrase spoken by elders in a Caribbean community.
H: My mother used to say “slow water runs deep”
The original language and script is in Latin: altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi.
The transliterated proverb (word by word translation): depth each rivers minimum sound
The fully translated proverb: the deepest rivers flow with the least sound
The informant learned it from her grandmother when she was very young in Dominica. She remembers it because it taught her a lot about how to choose her friends wisely when she was in her formative years. From the informant’s perspective, she feels this is very telling of how our environment can deceive us. Her interpretation is to “never expect good from something that is stagnant” (H). It is normally thought that quiet people are less interesting but on the contrary, they are the ones who listen and observe. While some people may be quick to say what they’re thinking or reveal information about their life, others may feel more inclined to stay reserved. These tend to be individuals with the deepest stories to tell. When breaking down the mechanics of the proverb, we can begin to understand the analogy. Water that runs quickly would be like rivers and streams. Still or “slow” water is like lakes. The slower the current, the more shallow the waters. When we’re in streams or rivers, we can see what’s below the water (rocks, fish, etc…) but when we’re in a lake there’s no telling what we might find. There’s far more mystery in still waters.