I admit that I am unfamiliar with Bob Marley’s not-too-great hit “No Woman, No Cry;” in fact, the only lyrics I know are the three that appear in the title. Still, I thought I had the song figured out until (somehow) I ended up chatting about it at work today. It turns out, there are at least two ways to make sense of Marley’s lyrics.
I thought “no woman, no cry” is a direct address, imperative sentence: “No, Woman. No cry.” In standard English, Marley would say, “No, Woman, don’t cry.”
However, my coworkers had a completely different take. They thought “no woman, no cry” is an “if, then” statement, i.e. ” If: no woman, then :no cry.” In translation: “If you have no woman, you will not cry.”
Then I found this helpful Wikipedia article which said: “A more accurate rendering of the title in Jamaican patois would be ‘No, woman, nuh cry.’ The ‘nuh,’ which makes a shorter vowel sound for ‘no,’ is the equivalent of the contraction ‘don’t.'” I was right!
It is fascinating how similar yet different Marley’s language is from the American English I’m accustomed to. Which interpretation did you have, or did you have another one?