Jacket . . . Or Full Suit? Paternity Testing From a Jamaican Perspective

Mrs. Sonia King, retired Head of the Paternity Testing Unit at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, has written a wicked little book in which she reveals some of the truly entertaining cases she worked on for more than three decades.  This is edutainment at its best!

In Jamaica, the term ‘jacket’ is used to describe a child whose alleged father is not, in fact, the biological father.  Surprisingly, given the extent of false paternity in the society, the Dictionary of Jamaican English does not have an entry on this colourful term.

I’m not sure of the origin of the image of the ‘jacket.’  But it does suggest the straitjacket that many a man is forced to wear when a woman fingers him as the father of her child.  ‘Jacket’ also suggests the formal dress code of British ‘respectability’ that the man is required to submit to.

Of course, in some instances, men who consistently ‘fire blank’ are quite proud to claim children they could not possibly have fathered. So, in this instance, the jacket allows the man to ‘brandish’ sexual potency. There are jackets and jackets.

In the very first chapter, “Whose Jacket?,” Mrs King tells the sad, but also very funny, story of how she got the title of the book.  It came from a man who had done a paternity test to prove to his doubting wife that his ‘outside’ child was really his.  She had had a child before they had married but her husband had not been able to impregnate her.  So she had long wondered about his fertility.  They lived in  England and she couldn’t understand how he suddenly became fertile after a holiday in Jamaica.

Mrs. King relates the story of giving the man and his wife the test results:  “I explained that each child inherited exactly 50% of his or her genetic material from each parent.  So although we did not test the mother (because she refused), our test system was still reliable in determining paternity.  The biological father must give a match at each genetic point examined.  The mother would have provided the other marker observed at each point.  A man who did not match at even one point would be excluded as the father, even if all other genetic points showed a match.  There must be a match at every single point.

“I then proceeded to point out the different genetic points on my worksheet and there were many ‘no match’ areas.  All of a sudden I became aware that the silence had become deafening.  Before this stage there had been a lot of animated chatter.  Needless to say, this man was devastated, as he had spent quite a lot of money over the years caring for ‘his’ child.  The child had attended prep school (not primary) and all his financial needs had been taken care of.  As I turned to look at the couple, the husband remarked, ‘Miss King, dat a no jacket! Dat a full suit!!!’”

Jacket . . . Or Full Suit?  Paternity Testing From a Jamaican Perspective will be launched this Tuesday, December 7, at 6:30 p.m.  at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.  The venue is the Undercroft of the Senate Building.  The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

Jamiekan Vorzhan: Jakit . . . Ar Ful Suut?

Mrs. Sonia King, shi did hed op di Paternity Testing Unit a UC.  Shi ritaiya nou.  An shi rait wan wikid likl buk bout som a di ded-wid-laaf kies dem shi wok pan fi uova torti ier.   Dis a miks op an blenda fi chruu:  edikieshan pan tap a plenti bos-beli juok.

Ina Jamieka, ‘jakit’ a wan pikni huufa riel-riel faada niem no kaal.  A wan neks man get di pikni.  Wi ha so moch jakit ina disya konchri, mi soprais fi si se Dictionary of Jamaican English no ha notn fi se bout dis ya bouns-aal-roun wod.

Mi no nuo a huu kom op wid di jakit pikcha.  It soun laik di striet-jakit wid di lang sliev, we dem tai bak a mad piipl fi huoI dem doun.  A so di uman dem tai doun di man dem wen dem paint finga pan dem, se a fi dem pikni.

Pan tap a dat, jakit soun laik jres op kluoz – jakit an tai.  Yu nuo ou di Ingglish piipl dem lov fi wier jakit an tai – aal ina son hat – chruu dem fiil se di jakit mek dem luk laka smadi.

Stil far aal, som a di man dem we a faiya blank, dem wel an glad fi kliemz di pikni dem.  Di man kyan gu a striit go brandish im jakit.  Mek piipl nuo se im a lik shat.  So a no aal jakit no fit dem uona.

Ina di fos-fos chapta, “Huufa Jakit?,” Mrs King tel wan sad stuori – bot i foni tu – bout ou shi get di taikl fi di buk.  A wan man we du wan patorniti tes fi pruov tu im waif se a im a di faada a im ‘outsaid’ pikni.  Di waif neva biliiv se a fi im pikni. Shii did av wan pikni bifuor dem did marid.  An aal di taim dem marid, shi no get pregnant. So a lang taim shi a wonda bout di man.  Dem did liv iina Ingglan a shi kudn andastan ou im go get pikni aal af a sodn aafta im kom a Jamieka im wan pon halidie.

Hier ou Mrs. King tel di stuori bout wapn wen shi gi di man an im waif di tes risolt:  “Mi eksplien tu dem dat pikni get haaf a dem strokcha fram dem muma an di neks haaf fram dem pupa.  Wi neva tes di muma  (caa shi se shi naa dwiit).  Stil far aal, di tes a go tel di chruut.  Di riil-riil faada ha fi mach pan evri wan a di paint dem pon di tes.  Di mada uda mach pan di res a di paint dem.  If di man no mach pan wan dege-dege paint – no mata omoch ada paint im mach pan – a no im a di pupa.

“Mi staat fi paint out aal a di paint dem pon di piepa, an nof a dem no match. Aal af a sodn, di plies kwaiyat, kwaiyat.  Nobadi naa chat, chat.  Di puor man haat sink.  Aafta im spen so moch moni a luk aafta di pikni so lang, a no fi im.  Di pikni go a prep skuul – no praimeri skuul.  Evriting di pikni niid, di ‘pupa’ gi im.  Wen mi tun an luk pan di man an di uman, di man dis gi out se, ‘Miss King, dat a no jakit! Dat a ful suut!!!’”

Jacket . . . Or Full Suit?  Paternity Testing From a Jamaican Perspective a go laanch disya Chuusde, Disemba 7, a 6:30 p.m.  op a Yuunivorsiti a di Wes Indiiz, Muona, Jamieka.  Di venyu a di Aandakraaft a di Senit Bildin.  Di huol a unu fi kom.   An unu no ha fi pie notn fi kom iin.

15 thoughts on “Jacket . . . Or Full Suit? Paternity Testing From a Jamaican Perspective

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  1. ki ki No gi mi juok yaa! Yu eva wach “The Maury Show” yet? Dem tu patorniti tes pan di shuo regila, an a wan piis a jraama yu si! Mi eva se wahn shuo laik dat uda du gud a Jomieka, bot yuuda afi pie piipl nof nof moni fi dem kom pan tv wid dem sitn de.

    Mi memba wen mi wehn de a praimeri skuul an mi tel piipl se mi av chrii breda an sista, dem yuus tu aaks, “wan mada wan faada?” Puo mi nehn nuo dem taim de se nof piipl wehn av aaf breda ahn sista. Nou, wid di sosaiyati we wi liv ina, we sumoch man a waak bout an a lego siid, jakit mos a put aan lef rait an senta. An yu sii chuu wi av dis abit fi luk pahn pikni fi si a uufa dem pupa, wi get chrik somtaim wen di pikni dem likl… a afta dem gruo big nou evribadi se uu dem luk laik. An no aaks ef piipl no chat!

    Never a dull moment in Jamaica 🙂

  2. Just guessing… a jacket is an optional garment. A man can be fully dressed without a jacket. A jacket thrown on over trousers and a shirt and tie may or may not match the rest of the ensemble. A matched jacket makes a suit, a mismatched jacket does not.

  3. Thanks for the post. It’s very annoying how few Caribbean books are available across the region. At the very least is a regional UWI tour planned, so we could get the book in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago?

    1. Hi ‘red for gender’
      I launched my book at the UWI Open Campus in Antigua in March this year. At the moment ‘The Best of Books ‘ bookstore has supplies at their branches including the Antigua airport branch .Unfortunately it has not been possible to to a launch in any other territory,but if you’re travelling through the region,please pick up a copy at the airport in Antigua.Please read and enjoy it makes a good ‘in-flight’ read
      All the best Sonia King

  4. Hmmm
    Reminds me of an incident some time ago…
    Met an acquaintance during a long haul Houston to Hanoi.
    Anyone who knows this route, will appreciate that is 24hrs of flying time.
    So there was time, nuff nuff time..
    Questions about children went back and forth , you know, boys and girls..!!
    I was the God father of his first three of his children and am still in touch with about five of them, who would write to me and share things – we were close.

    Well about 2008 or sometime thereabouts I realised that none of my mails were responded to and seems telephone numbers had changed..

    This father is also the godfather of my son and so, on one day I ask my son if he was in contact with his god father and any of the children.

    His response indicated that he too lost contact with all just about the same time I did.
    Seems they had all fallen of the edge of the world somewhere and since I traverse the edges, I figured one day, we may meet again.

    This was the day.
    On this long haul, I met my friend the father.
    When it got to the matter of children, I stated that I had not heard from any of the children since when!!!

    Well, I seemmed to have said something wrong, because my friend of so many years and secrets and gwaning-ons just shut up, braps!!!
    He never spoke again and he changed seats.
    And I was never so dumfounded as to what could have been wrong about asking about his children and and my god children!!
    You see, from primary school we said we would be the god father of each of our children, if we had any.
    Well we did and he had lots, and gave me three officially and when I asked what about the others, he had said that it was not fair, because I only had one!!!

    I rubbished it and said I plan for ten, so what is he trying to do, sneak out of nine of mine!!!

    Well I lost this friend for the whole flight.
    I got off in Singapore and was riding to the Terminal when I heard our boyhood whistle call, I knew it could only be him.
    I looked around and saw him…
    Tears is his eyes, none streamming down his face, just a whole lot of water in his eyes, as if waiting for a cued word to do something, anything, quivering lips, and crestfallen looks…

    Then he said it…
    They were not mine..none of them..
    I said what?
    I looked in his hands, he had what seemed to be luggage, I said then whose, he said not mine.
    Then I said, you better notify the airline, come I can help you..
    But he stood still.
    I said come, we have a connecting in 3 hours…
    He said, the children!

    I said what????
    What children?
    He said their names….
    I said what about them…?
    What do you mean?

    He said the children, your god children, were not mine…
    I said what!!!!
    How did you know…?

    He said he did DNA test and only one was his!!!
    He sent them all to high school and Americn universities, the last one is now at FIU

    And all I could say was Marcie!!!!
    Yes just Marcie…
    You see Marcie was a mutual friend, also from primary school…
    And now I always wondered how she had them so quick…
    And I remember, in our escapades, he was the only one who never walked good and no makka never juk him…
    So it was strange how he had 5 in such rapid succession…

    We seemed to have stood there for ages….
    I gave them so many gifts, shared so many stories, my God, they were like my children too…all five.

    So many thoughts….
    I finally said…
    And Marcie how, which is really an Asian way of phrasing a question…
    He said, his voice trailing off as he said good bye…
    Marcie died of Aids…

    I just sat down…on my bags.
    And I stood there for three hours…
    Did my friend have Aids as well…

    I have not seen him since.
    I have heard nothing from his children…
    I have heard nothing from my son (yes my son – I did the checks after that, and he wanted to know why)
    And I am sure I will not hear from Marcie

  5. Dr. Cooper:
    This actually has nothing to do with your post, but please read on anyway. I was moved to make contact with you as quickly as possible after I came across your October 17, 2010 contribution to the Sunday Gleaner’s opinion pages on the Gleaner’s website. It was not so much what you wrote-which was entertaining as usual-that struck me, but rather the comments your piece had attracted. I for one don’t take the cynical view that you’re trying to carve a piece of history for yourself through advocacy of Jamaican Creole. I give you the whole story of how your insightful opinions, in tandem with CAPE Communication Studies (which I did not appreciate nearly enough at the time), changed my views on language; but let me just say I’m your fervent supporter.
    Why do your attempts to raise Jamaica’s respect of its own evoke such appalling hostility, even among its daily users? It’s sad your ideas have not gained the respect they deserve. Meanwhile, our education system continues to churn out a majority of underqualified graduates; our English and Math passes continue to be abysmal; far too many of our people are marginalized and nobody seems to think it’s time for a fresh approach… What’s the word for us? Neophobia? Intransigence? In light of our desperate situation, I’d have to say it’s something closer to ‘stupidity’.
    I salute you, Dr. Cooper, for challenging an attitude to our language that has become pathologically entrenched. I’m sure there’s been research on this issue. Perhaps it would help if you highlighted such works in your column. Maybe you need to directly challenge the endless plans and
    initiatives the MoE keeps forwarding as innovative. Whatever you do, though, Dr. Cooper, please don’t give up the good fight, and feel free to pat yourself on the back for being one of Jamaica’s foremost intellectuals, in this man’s book at least.

  6. Chru Wud…
    There is a saying…
    When there is nothing to say the best thing is nothing….
    ” nothing ”

    Big Respeck Doc and Nuff nuuf Luv
    Nuff a wi support you silently
    Yuh mus find a way to make us do more

  7. Hi Carolyn,
    Just seeing this and I’m bowled over..really enjoyed reading all the comments .So you know your work must continue..gwaan my girl..LOVE SONIA

  8. Good Morning I would like to get a copy of your book I heard you on the raido last week when i was in Jamaica . Sound like it is a great book.
    Peace & Love

  9. If anyone has information about low cost paternity DNA testing in Jamaica specifically in St. Elizabeth, do let me know so I can assist a friend who has questioned for sometime his fatherhood to a child now seven years old. His mother has recently doubted this as well so he is searching for a resource to do assist in this matter. Private doctors can be expensive (3-400 USD?)so if any of the readers know of contacts, please pass along so it can be provided to my bewildered friend. While in Jamaicas this past winter, I heard a radio public service announcement but was unable to get the contact phone number. Perhaps there is gov’t grant to help with the fees of paternity testing (?)

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