Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pitcherie Inna Hawk Back

That's the best I could do with the spelling of pitcherie. I'm told that it's called the kingfisher in other places. It's a small bird that looks almost exactly like the mocking bird (which I'm told is the same as the nightingale) except it has a longer beak and a devilish look (I swear) about the eye, and some spiky feathers on the back of his head that makes him look like a gangster. We have plenty of both up here, much to my neighbour's displeasure. My neighbour is not a bird hater, but he's a bee-keeper. And bee-keepers and pitcheries are natural enemies because pitcheries eat the bees you see. Nightingales on the other hand only sing their hearts out for you. It's a true thing I'm telling you, Harper Lee didn't make it up. They echo the melody of other birds with their own little embellishments; it's the sweetest sound to wake up to. We mostly hear them in the spring time here.

But I'm telling you about the pitcherie. That is a tallawah bird, boy. I've seen them attack hawks. There will be this huge commotion in the azure world and when you come out to see what's going on, lo and behold this pitcherie will be wreaking havoc on a hawk, a bird two or three times its own size. A bird that country people hide their chickens from, for hawks enjoy a good chicken meal as you might well know. It is such an awe-inspiring thing to see the pitcherie out manuevering the hawk and sinking his formidable beak into the back of shrieking, tormented bird that someone made a proverb out of it.

Whenever a smaller, seemingly weaker person dominates another, or whenever someone pesters another person to distraction, in Jamaica we say to that person, "you come in (you're like) a pitcherie inna hawk back".


Tallawah: "sturdy, strong, not to be underestimated; tough, stubborn." Dictionary of Jamaican English; second edition edited by F. G. Cassidy and R. B. LePage; Cambridge University Press 1967, 1980; page 436.

6 comments:

Stephen Bess said...

*Smiling* This is a nice story. This is why I love Caribbean lit so much. It's wonderful to read. Plus, writers like you make it all come alive in living color. Keep it up and thanks for the education.

Ruthibelle said...

oh... you know, this is very edyukayshunal, because I've heard that proverb too many times, and while I assumed that it meant generally, that someone was being annoying -you can guess who :), I never fully grasped the whole context/latent meaning of the saying till just now.

So now I can edyukate people that it means you're strong, courageous, relentless... tallawah. I like that. I like that very much.

Thanks for this Lady Jackie.

Stunner said...

Yes they are some fierce birds! I see them attack gaulins and hawks. The persistently dip from great heights into the back of their "victim's" head and neck, those are some serious birds. These attacked birds seem so annoyed that the fly off and keep flying. That Jamaican saying is a very good apology!

shoreacres said...

This is so funny - I went over to google images as I often do, to try and see the pitcherie. I searched and searched, page after page....

Finally, on page 5, the first related image came up. It was YOUR photo! I suppose it's because you wrote about the pitcherie. On the other hand... strong? courageous? relentless? There could be a connection here!

So good to have your posts to read!

Jacqueline Smith said...

Linda, a search for 'kingfisher' would give you a better idea of what the pitcherie looks like. The belted kingfisher is the one that looks closest to the pitcherie I'm talking about. I did the search myself and noticed that pitcherie is the name of a flower in some places.

Daisy Soap Girl said...

This brings back so many memories of visiting Jamaica. When I come again I must vist the beekeepers and stay away from the pitcherie.