bucket a-go a well [Jamaican creole]

< Previous | Next >

andreax_x

Member
Perú - Spanish
i can't figure out the meaning of part of the song of bob marley "i shot the sheriff"

Every day the bucket a-go a well
One day the bottom a-go drop out

Any ideas?
 
  • Doppelrahmstufe

    Senior Member
    Austria, German
    I found the lyric here:

    Every day the bucket goes to the well,
    But one day the bottom will drop out,

    I think it means somethink like:
    The straw that breaks the camel's back.

    He could not tolerate it any longer, so he had to shoot the sheriff ...
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I'd guess that Bob Marley is using what I would call Jamaican English. It's a distinct dialect (although I don't know if that's the correct name for it.)

    Much of what Bob Marley sings has to be "translated" for me. :)
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I think "a-go" generally expresses the future (will or "is going to"); it precedes the bare infinitive. Perhaps this also applies to habitual actions, where we might say "every day the bucket goes to the well".

    Yes, it's called Jamaican creole or creole (in context). I had to engage a Jamaican creole interpreter at work once, to assist a client. It really is quite different to English.
     

    KingPin86

    New Member
    England; English
    The dialect would be patois (pronounced 'patwa') - a Jamaican/Caribbean slang or vernacular language.

    I think Doppelrahmstufe's understanding of the lyric is a good one - basically 'enough is enough'.

    Likewise, the lyric he provides is from Eric Clapton's cover of the song, which obviously is rendered in much more of a received pronunciation and 'Anglicizes' (for what of a better word) the original patois lyrics...
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Is it used elsewhere rather than Jamaica or Caribbean?
    According to the Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World by Keith Brown and Sarah Ogilvie, Gullah has a similar usage (page 471):

    "the auxiliary [go], as well as auxiliary [ə], expresses future meaning as in I go go or I ə go cf. 'I will/would go.'"

    Wikipedia explains that "Gullah (also called Sea Island Creole English and Geechee) is a creole language spoken by the Gullah people (also called "Geechees"), an African American population living on the Sea Islands and the coastal region of the U.S. states of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida."
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    In country areas in England it is still common for people to say "I'm a-going" e.g my Yorkhsire aunts say "I'm a-going shopping"
    I think two different phenomena are involved, however. the a- in a-going (which also occurs in the US in Appalachian English) derives from the preposition on. (See page 2 of The Century Dictionary for the various uses to which this a- is put.) The function of a as a tense marker in Jamaican Patois seems to be borrowed from how tense is marked in some African languages, according to this Wikipedia article


    "[M]any Jamaican words have their origin in various African languages and the language syntax is mostly derived from the various African languages..... [V]erb tense is specified using prepended tense indicators—mi swim, mi a go swim, mi beh~ swim, mi a fi swim, etc."
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    May I use other verb rather than "go" in this kind of construction?
    Do you mean a- as used in the original question, which was about the following lyrics?

    Every day the bucket a-go a well
    One day the bottom a-go drop out

    In that case, a-go as used in the second verse is a marker of the future tense in Jamaican Creole, and thus no substitution can be made for go.

    A-go in the "Every day the bucket a-go a well" appears to be an example of a- used to mark a habitual action. According to section 2.2 of Jamaican Creole morphology and syntax by Peter L. Patrick, "It is still possible to mark habitual [aspect] with a+Verb...." So in that usage, it appears that you could substitute for go with another verb.
     

    kevt68

    New Member
    english
    right people, it means every day you take the bucket to the well and one day the bottom of the bucket will drop out and you will get no water. in other words, don't take things for granted because you never know when they will run out :)
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Right people, it means every day you take the bucket to the well and one day the bottom of the bucket will drop out and you will get no water. In other words, don't take things for granted because you never know when they will run out. :)
    Welcome to the forum, Kev. I think you've got it.

    The full lyric I found by Googling reflected the questioner's quotation, which didn't include the line preceding the quote: What is to be must be. Follow that with Kev's explanation above, and it all makes sense.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    Jamaican Creole is used anywhere Jamaicans settled. Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, San Andres y Providencia. It is similar enough to Belizian Kriol and has influenced Sierra Leone Krio.
    Bob Marley used mostly Jamaican English with a few Acrolectal Jamaican Creole forms. Basilectal Jamaican Creole is virtually incomprehensible to most English speakers and even some speakers of Acrolect Jamaican Creole.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    Does this style facilitate "a-" construction to be used with other verbs other than "go'?
    yes it can. But in those contexts it has nothing to do with the future. a-run means running. a-swim means swimming. If you know Hindi, it is like adding rahna to a verb stem: kar raha hai, bhaag raha hai, khaa raha hai.
    In other words, present continuous.

    This present continuous form can also be used to denote habitual actions as in the example, but it is not absolutely necessary.
    I can say "Everyday I go to the well" or "Everyday day I am going to the well".
    In Jamaican Creole there is no strict difference either. The difference between this two sentences is slight.
    The a-verb form when used to denote habitual actions to me simply emphasises the repetitiveness of the action.

    Ebry day bucket go a well (Every day the bucket goes to the well)
    Ebry day bucket a go a well. - (Every day the bucket is going to the well) to me this seems slightly more repetitive in nature.


    In the second form, "ago" as a unit is the future marker for all actions.
    a-go walk, a-go swim, a-go fly, a-go wink. This is future tense.
     
    Last edited:

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    Can you please explain more of those:
    a-go walk, a-go swim, a-go fly, a-go wink?
    "a-go waak" means "going to walk" or "will walk." "di man a-go waak dung a i maakit" means "The man is going to walk to the market" or "The man will walk to the market".
    "a-go swim" means "will swim" or "going to swim". "di fish a-go swim wel faas" means "The fish will swim very fast" or "The fish is going to swim very fast."

    An alternative to "a-go" is certain areas is "a-o". "a-o waak". "a-o flie", "a-o wink".
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    Jamaican creole and its related creoles are used by pretty much all English speaking black people in the Americas, outside of the USA and Canada. Everywhere from Belize to Trinidad to Guyana as well as the Carribbean. It has also heavily influenced the 'London yout' creole, spoken by black and asian young people in London, and increasingly by inner city whites too.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    Jamaican creole and its related creoles are used by pretty much all English speaking black people in the Americas.
    This is misleading. Much more than Black people speak a form of English Creole. Most of the middle-class and poor of the Caribbean speak some form of English Creole. It is usually class based and not race based.
    Trinidad is 1/2 Indian. Guyana is 40% Indian and 10% Amerindian. Jamaica is 4% Indian, 1% Chinese, 3% White and all of these ethnic groups have a significant number of Creole speakers as well.
    There are also a significant number of middle-class or rich blacks that don't speak Creole.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    The poster simply asked where these creoles were spoken, not the demographics. It is not misleading to say that most black people in the New World outside Canada and the USA speak a language located somewhere on the continuum of Carribean creoles, it is the truth. They are all majority black countries, and the immigrants largely spoke their own languages until recently. I didn't say the non-blacks didn't speak Creole, I just said the black people largely did.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    the immigrants largely spoke their own languages until recently.
    Another misleading statement. If you consider 1830s recent then more power to you! Various forms of creole are the colloquial tongues of these islands. Indians and Chinese came to Jamaica in the 1840s. Germans came in the 1830s.
    So if you come there or are born there, you will be familiar with Creole. Even the children of slave masters would have known Creole.

    Secondly, lest we not forget, black people are immigrants too! They were carried there on slave ships by the Spanish and the British. So immigrant Africans largely spoke African languages like Twi, Ibo, and Ewe until recently as well,
    late 1600s-1700s that is. The "natives" of Jamaica were killed off largely by the Spaniards, as well as the Spaniards' old world diseases. Those natives spoke Arawakan languages.

    I already explained to you that both Trinidad and Guyana are not majority black countries. So that statement too is wrong.

    Finally, the largest Black population outside of America is not located in the Caribbean and neither do they speak an English Creole because they are located in Colombia.

    Even further, if we want to be accurate, the poster asked where "Jamaican Creole" is spoken, not just any kind of English Creole. I have already posted where Jamaican Creole is spoken. It is incorrect to confuse Jamaican Creole with the Creoles of other islands because they are not the same.
     
    Last edited:

    Nicosito

    Senior Member
    French /UK English - bilingual
    I don't know if it is originally French, but that line in the song is definitely a French expression: "<<English only.>>" (that's the line about the bucket, practically verbatim).

    I was trying to find an English-language equivalent, but the closest I've seen is Bob Marley's verse. May be French linguistic influence in Jamaica (?)

    Here's a bunch of people trying to figure out the French expression and put it in English -and not getting very far! http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=53536&page=2&p=12137136#post12137136
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    If we substitute 'going' for 'a-go' in the original and tidy it a bit, we have:

    'Every day the bucket going to the well,
    One day the bottom going to drop out.'

    This seems to me to be a conditional, meaning 'If the bucket goes to the well every day, one day the bottom will drop out'.
    This type of conditional without 'if' is common in colloquial English, as in the bumper sticker:
    'Insured with Mafia Mutual. You hit-a us, we hit-a you.'
     

    Señor inCork

    New Member
    Spanish
    i can't figure out the meaning of part of the song of bob marley "i shot the sheriff"

    Every day the bucket a-go a well
    One day the bottom a-go drop out

    Any ideas?

    This reference explains a breaking point. How something that takes a beating every day will end up breaking eventually.

    "a-go" comes from Jamaican English or "Jamaican Patois".

    "a-go" translates as "goes to", or "is going to", or "will".

    Every day the bucket goes to the well, One day the bottom will drop out.

    Different versions of the song, have Bob Marley using both.
     

    Seahorse70

    New Member
    English - England
    I think it is more about the inevitability of over stressing something and the feeling of oppression. If you use the bucket and go to the well everyday, one day the bottom will drop out. Likewise, if the sheriff keeps picking and pushing, then one day it is inevitable that he will get what the trouble he is looking for - hence he gets shot.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top