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)