All De Tell Me Deh Tell Miss Mattie Say

This Jamaican folk song shares the tale of a woman, who rejected the various warnings given to her to do the exact opposite, and how she reaped the consequences for not listening to sound advice*.

Verse 1
All de tell me deh tell Miss Mattie say,
Nuh fi tek no J.O.S. bus.
Miss Mattie, pass mi yard
And guh pon J.O.S. bus.
She lose har wuk, she and har husband in a fuss.
She lose har wuk, she and har husband in a fuss.

Translation: All the time I’ve been warning Miss Mattie not to travel on the J.O.S. bus; but after she passed my yard, she went ahead and took the bus. Now she has lost her job, and she and her husband are fussing. (Nb. The J.O.S. [Jamaica Omnibus Service] buses or “Jolly” buses were known to be unreliable back in the 1960’s and 70’s).
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picture by Paul Townsend

Verse 2
All de tell me deh tell Miss Mattie say,
Nuh fi wear no platform boot.
Miss Mattie, pass mi yard
And put on the platform boot.
She tumble dung, she ‘kin right over,
She bruk har foot.
She tumble dung, she ‘kin right over,
She bruk har foot.

Translation: All the time I’ve been warning Miss Mattie not to wear platform boots, she passed my yard (so that I won’t see her) and still go put on the platform boots. When she wore them, she stumbled, fell right over [backwards], and broke her foot.
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picture by black.stilettos1

Verse 3
All de tell me deh tell Miss Mattie say,
Nuh fi guh a brother Ben yard.
Miss Mattie, pass mi yard
And guh a brother Ben yard.
Black spider bite har pan har wire finga,
She tink a bees sting ‘im.
Black spider bite har pan har wire finga,
She tink a bees sting ‘im.

Translation: All the time I’ve been warning Miss Mattie not to go to brother Ben’s yard, Miss Mattie passed by my yard and still visited brother Ben’s yard. While she was there, a black spider bit her wiry finger, and she thinks it was a bee that stung her.
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* “Who cyah hear must feel”.
Translation: whoever does not listen [to advice or warnings] will certainly feel the consequences.
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