You’ve heard me talk about Mama, my St. Elizabeth grandma (here’s a reminder). Well, there are Jamaicans who believe St. Elizabeth (a.k.a. St. Bess) has the worst patois of all 14 parishes.
I not so sure bout dat.
To the untrained ear, deep-rural folks may sometimes sound like they speak a totally foreign language or can cram more words in per minute of dialogue than anyone else on the island.
Even so, understanding the dialect is nothing a little extra focus, keen observation and asking nuff “Whey yuh seh?” won’t overcome.
As children, my mother, being from St. Bess herself, insisted we speak the Queen’s English–only. The Queen of England, that is. For this, I’m grateful. Being fluent in a global language is always a plus for national and international communication.
Despite our household rule, we weren’t excused from learning the local lingo. After all, we are Jamaicans.
So, thanks to Mama, her neighbours and others, who didn’t get the memo about the no-patois-talkin’ ting, my siblings and I were baptized in a generous pool of Jamaican patois. Every holiday on the Christian and school calendars found us unda Mama roof. So we grew up bilingual . . .
Okay, okay, maybe it’s a stretch to say ‘bilingual’. But since I can’t remember most of my high-school Spanish, can I at least add Jamaican patois to my language credits? Yes? No? Yes? Maybe? Jury still out on that?
Anyway, today, I’ll pass on more of the patois expressions I heard while growing up and which many of us across Jamaica and the diaspora still use.
Like the last post on this subject, I’ll give you my best spelling, translation and usage based on personal experience.
“But yuh si mi dyin trial?” — “But do you see my dying trial?”
(often a response to actions or words that are found to be offensive or upsetting)
“Yuh ah go live lang!” — “You are going to live long!”
(said to someone who turns up shortly after you think or speak of them)
“Nuh mus!” — “Of course!”
“What a prekeh!” — “What a crisis/calamity/mix-up!”
(usually said in response to shocking news or gossip)
“Mine macka juk yuh.” — “Be careful of thorns or prickles.”
(said if walking through bushes or plants with prickles)
“Look how di sumptin chaw-up chaw-up.” — “The thing is looking chewed up.”
(often said if something is cut roughly or is ragged in appearance)
“It fenke-fenke.” — “It’s weak or lacking vitality.”
“It chaka-chaka” — “It’s messy or untidy.”
“Gi mi a chups.” — “Give me a kiss on the cheek.”
“A lang wata dis!” — “This tastes fresh!”
(said if a drink lacks sugar or has too much water, so as to dilute the flavour)
“Him deh ah woi-woi.” — “He is a long distance away.”
Any variations or additions, my friends? Feel free to ask questions or add your tuppance (a.k.a tuppence, twopence) in the comments section below or drop me an email from the Contact Me page.
Catch yuh next time!
Peace and love.
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