How We Speak

A Rainbow of Expressions

DSC00231So earlier this week, I’m heading home in a public taxi. In the back seat to my left are two hefty mamas, who could easily have tipped the scale at 300 pounds each. To my right is a skinny chick, who breeze coulda blow weh. I’m feeling like a slither of corned beef between two mighty loaves of hard-dough bread.

The cabby, seeing my discomfort (and amusement) from his rear-view mirror, enquires in his best British accent, “Not used to taking taxis? Are you from England?”

I shake my head.

He asks in his best American accent, “Are you from the US?”

I shake my head. “No, I’m from right here.”

For a mere moment, he empathizes with me, a fairly newcomer to public taxi taking.

This brief dialogue has me musing over our people’s vibrant approach to self-expression. So, upon reaching home, I jot down a few nuggets I heard my St. Elizabeth grandma and her neighbours utter from time to time. Below are just 10 of these. Now, I’m no linguistics expert (not even by a long shot); so, the spelling is based purely on guesswork. Hopefully, you’ll get the gist. But feel free to request clarification.

Patois Expression                            Angie’s Best English Translation
“Mekase, nuh man!”                             “Make haste!” (i.e. “Hurry up!”)

“’im ben gudung deh.”                          “He had gone down there.”

“Yes, bra!”                                             “Yes, brother!” (i.e. “You better believe it, brother!”)

“Galang bout yuh business!”                “Go along about your business!” (i.e. “Go away!”)
(Usually said when someone’s being a pest and you want them to leave. It’s sometimes said in jest too, if the person is joking around too much.)

“No, missis ma!”                                    “No way, miss!”

“No, maasah!”                                       “No way, master/mister!”

“Ai.”                                                       “I agree.”

“Eh eh!”                                                 “I’m astonished”
(Similar in meaning to “Coo yah!”)

“Oi deh!”                                               “Hey there!”
(Said when trying to get someone’s attention from afar)

“What a piece a crosses!”                     “What calamity/trouble/bad luck!”

Any other interesting and decent expressions come to mind? Share them with us. But before you start typing away, please remember this blog is rated “G”, which means it’s suitable for children of all ages and adults. So don’t send anything you can’t stand up in court and say to the judge without getting a slap on the wrist.

Love and peace.


(Revised – 23rd May, 2016)

9 thoughts on “A Rainbow of Expressions”

  1. I went to prep school up in Connecticut with a kid from Jamaica. he was a year older than me and in the class ahead of me. we were not friends as I was definitely not cool enough to be friends with him lol (he was in the in crowd) I loved his accent so much and I used to hang on his every word. everytime he spoke I would drop everything I was doing and just listen lol 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. Funny! My ears are used to the Jamaican accent (of course, because I’m Jamaican). But, believe it or not, the accents from the other Caribbean islands still fascinate me. They have a kind of ‘rhythm’ to them that’s fun to listen to. I guess that’s how ours sound too.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hopefully he never noticed because if he did i probably looked creepy hanging on his every word lmao…but i just really adored his accent, especially when he’d get excited or agitated over something, like yelling at a sports game on tv. His voice just made my day lol

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think many Jamaicans know there’s a lot of love out there for our accent (and patois), especially those who interact a lot with people of other nationalities. I think we kind of get a kick out of it. Hopefully, he thought you were amusing:)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the patois-english translations! I do believe “Make haste” became “Mek ‘aste” and eventually “Mek aase”; sometimes embellish to “Mek likkle aase”. Word origins are so interesting. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks Doc. I believe you’re right. It’s a great example of how we shorten some of our phrases to the point where they sound like another language altogether. Thanks for following my blog too.

      Liked by 1 person

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