For the past three days, I’ve been listening to Michael Jackson. Yes, the king of pop. No, he wasn’t secretly Jamaican. But Jamaicans love him (and, by the way, he did visit the island as a teen in 1975. Them days, I neva know a ting ’bout Jackson 5. Mi did too young).
Anyway, I’ve been stuck on a few songs, and there’s one I can’t get enough of: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, released on the Thriller album when I just started high school. At the ending of this song, Michael sings about mama this, mama that, mama . . . hee hee hee!
I don’t know if those words are a special language, dialect or did jus’ mek up while he was in di studio, but that part of the song makes me want to buss out into some African folk-dance moves and get the blood pumping, the hips shaking and the feet moonwalking.
What do Michael Jackson songs have to do with Jamaican living? Not an earthly thing.
But it’s a fun way to moonwalk (get it?) into some funny-sounding words (as in LOL) in our Jamaican vocabulary. I’ve been hearing most of these since my eyes were at my knees. If you have different spellings and meanings, drop me a line, please. I would love your input.
So, as rain pours outside and the crows “run” to the ackee tree for cover, I present to you: fenneh, lay-lay, please puss, sopsy, chimmey, grannies, jing bang, karochies, bag an’ pan, muss-muss and pop.
meaning: to reel or faint from physical pain or discomfort.
example sentence: Mi sey, mi almost fenneh een ya yessideh di way mi eye toot’ a hat mi.
sentence translation: I say, I almost fainted in here yesterday because my eye tooth was hurting me.
meaning: to delay action, procrastinate
example sentence: Children, stop lay-lay an’ go a oonu yaad before night ketch yuh a road.
sentence translation: Children, stop procrastinating and go to your yards before night catches you on the road.
meaning: someone who is obviously pleased
example sentence: Coo Chadwick a step up fi colleck him lottery winnings an’ a grin off him face like please puss.
sentence translation: Look at Chadwick stepping up to collect his lottery winnings and grinning off his face, as pleased as ever.
Sopsy (noun: sops)
meaning: someone or something that is weak, easily overcome or defeated
example sentence: Da exam did so sopsy, mi coulda lef half hour early an’ go eat a box lunch.
sentence translation: That exam was so easy, I could have left half hour early and gone to eat a boxed lunch.
Chimmey -short for chamber pot, a bowl-like vessel kept by the bed at nighttime for use as a toilet.
Grannies – very short, coarse, tightly rolled hairs along the hairline, especially at the back of the neck.
Jing bang /karochies/bag an’ pan – an excessive or useless amount of baggage.
Muss-muss – short for mouse.
Pop – short for cornmeal porridge.
This is the fifth patois tutorial! So if you’ve missed out on any, click on “How We Speak” in the “Blog” menu option above and catch up!
Catch yuh next time!
Peace and love,