Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below.  The first, which I call  ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling.  The second,  ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.


ImageMi no know wa wi a go do bout di whole heap a driver dem weh no know nutten bout di rule dem weh supposen fi control traffic. Dem never hear bout road code. One a di worse problem a right-of-way. Who fi go first. Plenty people no know wa dat mean. An even if dem do know, dem nah bodder wid dat. Dem dis do as dem please.

One time, mi a go down di road an dis man im a come up. An im mek up im mind fi turn right, front a mi. An when mi never stop mek im turn, hear weh di man tell mi wid im bright self, “Chruu yu av di right-of-way mek yu a fi a gwaan so?” Mi dis kiss mi teeth. Mi lucky im did know seh a mi av di right-of-way. An mussi chruu mi a woman, mi fi gi up mi rights. Man fi dis tek i.

One next time, mi deh pon di main road, an one man a come outa di side road. An im a come down pon mi. An when mi never mek im force een, hear weh di wutliss man bawl out, ‘battyman!’ Chruu mi hair short, im mussi did tink seh mi a man. So a diss im a diss di ‘man’ fi no gi up im right-a-way. Wat a sinting! If yu a man, a yu no mek a next man bore een pon yu, yu a battyman? Wa kind a eedyat argument dat?


ImageOne nodder time, wen mi tell one next man seh a mi av di right-of-way, hear im wid im fool-fool self, ‘Everybody av di right-of-way!’ Mi nearly dead wid laugh. Im mussi think seh ‘right-of-way’ mean di right fi deh pon di road. An even then. If yu nah no license, yu no av no business fi a drive. Yu no av no right fi a get eena people way.

Then mi come fi find out seh all police no understand right-of-way! Mi know seh roundabout an four-way stop a special problem. Everybody a runjostle. But mi couldn’t believe it wen one policeman tell mi seh nobody no av di right-of-way at di roundabout. Yu just ha fi look out an fit een. Mi tell im seh nutten no go so an im fi go find out. Couple day later, mi see im again an im tell mi seh im check an im right. Nobody no av di right-of-way.

Dat a weh wi reach in a disya country. Everybody av di right-of-way; nobody no av di right-of-way. An who know how right-of-way go dis tek it from yu. Right away! An mi know seh some a oonoo nah go agree wid mi now. But mi know seh wi better put out di road code pon DVD an talk out di rule dem in a fi wi Jamaican language.

illiteracyMi no know if oonoo know seh nuff driver out deh cyaan read an write. Oonoo tan deh! Dem cyaan read di sign dem pon di road. An dem nah aks nobody wat dem mean. Memba seh everybody got di right-of-way. All who cyaan read. All who no av no licence. Wen yu see some a di ting weh dem do – turn left from right-hand lane – yu done know a pure ignorance dat.

So it suit wi fi mek sure seh all a di driver dem understand wa mek wi got code fi control di road. An mi rather dem know di code inna ‘Patwa’ dan dem no know di code at all at all. Better di whole a wi drive inna ‘Patwa’ dan crash inna English.


Mi no nuo wa wi a go du bout di uol iip a jraiva dem we no nuo notn bout di ruul dem we sopuozn fi kanchroul chrafik. Dem neva ier bout ruod kuod. Wan a diwos prablem a rait-a-wie. Uu fi go fos. Plenti piipl no nuo wa dat miin. An iivn if dem du nuo, dem naa bada wid di ruul dem. Dem dis du az dem pliiz.

Wan taim, mi a go doun di ruod an dis man im a kom op. An im mek op im main fi ton rait, front a mi. An wen mi neva stap mek im ton, ier we di man tel mi wid im brait self, “Chruu yu av di rait-a-wie mek yu a fi a gwaan so?” Mi dis kis mi tiit. Mi loki im did nuo se a mi av di rait-a-wie. An mosi chruu mi a uman, mi fi gi op mi raits. Man fi dis tek i.

Wan neks taim, mi de pan di mien ruod, an wan man a kom outa di said ruod. An im a kom doun pan mi. An wen mi neva mek im fuors iin, ier we di wotlis man baal out, ‘Batiman!’ Chruu mi ier shaat, im mosi did tingk se mi a man. So a dis im a dis di ‘man’ fi no gi op im rait-a-wie. Wat a sinting! If yu a man, a yu no mek a neks man buor iin pan yu, yu a batiman? Wa kain a iidyat aagyument dat?


Wan neda taim, wen mi tel wan neks man se a mi av di rait-a-wie, ier im wid im fuul-fuul self, ‘Evribadi av di rait-a-wie!’ Mi nierli ded wid laaf. Im mosi tingk se ‘rait-a-wie’ miin di rait fi de pan di ruod. An iivn den. If yu naa no laisn, yu no avno bizniz a jraiv. Yu no av no rait fi a get iina piipl wie.

Den mi kom fi fain out se aal poliis no andastan rait-a-wie! Mi nuo se rounabout an fuor-wie stap a speshal prablem. Evribadi a ronjosl. Bot mi kudn biliiv it wen wan poliisman tel mi se nobadi no av di rait-a-wie at di rounabout. Yu jos ha fi luk out an fit iin. Mi tel im se notn no go so an im fi go fain out. Kopl die lieta mi si im agen an im tel mi se im chek an im rait. Nobadi no av di rait-a-wie.

Dat a we wi riich in a disya koncrhi. Evribadi av di rait-a-wie; nobadi no av di rait-a-wie. An uu nuo ou rait-a-wie go dis tek it fram yu. Rait awie! An mi nuo se som a unu naa go agrii wid mi nou. Bot mi nuo se wi beta put out di ruod kuod pan DVD an taak out di ruul dem in a fi wi Jamiekan langwij.

Mi no nuo if unu nuo se nof jraiva out de kyaahn riid an rait. Unu tan de! Dem kyaahn riid di sain dem pan di ruod. An dem naa aks nobadi wat dem miin. Memba se evribadi gat di rait-a-wie. Aal uu kyaahn riid. Aal uu no av no laisn. Wen yu si som a di ting we dem du – ton lef fram rait-an lien – yu don nuo a pyuur ignarans dat.

Road-RageSo it suut wi fi mek shuor se aal a di jraiva dem andastan wa mek wi gat kuod fi kanchroul di ruod. An mi raada dem nuo di kuod ina ‘Patwa’ dan dem no nuo di kuod at aal at aal. Beta di uol a wi jraiv iina ‘Patwa’ dan krash iiina Ingglish.


I don’t know what we’re going to do about all those drivers who simply don’t know the rules that regulate traffic.  They’ve never heard of the road code.  One of the worse problems is right-of-way. Who should go first. Lots of people don’t know what that means. And even if they do know, they’re not bothering with that. They just do as they please.

ImageOnce, I was going down the road and this man was coming up. And he’d made up his mind to turn right, ahead of me. And when I didn’t stop to allow him to turn, here’s what the outrageous man said to me, “Because you have the right-of-way that’s why you’re getting on so?” I just kissed my teeth. I’m lucky he did know that I had the right-of-way. And it must be that because I’m a woman, I should give up my rights.  The man should just take it.

Another time, I was on the main road and a man was coming out of the side road. And he was bearing down on me. And when I didn’t allow him to force himself in, hear’s what the worthless man shouted out, ‘Battyman!’ Because my hair is cut short, he must have thought I was a man. So he was dissing the ‘man’ for not giving up his right-a-way. What a thing! If you’re a man, and you don’t allow another man to bore in on you, you’re a battyman? What idiotic ‘logic’!


When I told another man I have the right-of-way, hear’s what the foolish fellow said, ‘Everybody has the right-of-way!’ I had a very good laugh. He seemed to think that ‘right-of-way’ means the right to be on the road. And even so. If you don’t have a license, you have no business driving. You have no right to be in the way.

Then I’ve come to find out that even the police don’t understand right-of-way! I know that roundabouts and four-way stops are special problems.  Drivers are jostling one another. But I couldn’t believe it when a policeman told me that nobody has the right-of-way at a roundabout. You just have to pay attention and fit in. I told him that couldn’t possibly be so and he should go and check it out.  A few days later, I saw him again and he told he’d checked it out and he’s right. Nobody has the right-of-way.

That’s what we’ve come to in this country. Everybody has the right-of-way; nobody has the right-of-way. And those who do know what right-of-way means just take it from you. Right away! And I know some of you won’t agree with me now. But I know we’d better put out the road code on DVD and teach the rules orally in our Jamaican language.

Unknown-3I don’t know if you all know that there are a lot of drivers let loose who can’t read and write.You better believe it! They can’t read the roadsigns. And they’re not asking anybody what they mean. Remember, everybody has the right-of-way. All those who can’t read. All those who have no license. When you see some of the things they do – turning left from the right lane – you know that’s pure ignorance.

So it suits us to make sure all drivers understand why we have acode to control the road. And I would prefer them to know the code in ‘Patwa’ rather than not at all. Better all of us drive in ‘Patwa’ than crash in English.


One thought on “RIGHT-OF-WAY? A WA DAT?

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  1. I am convinced of the level of illiteracy which abounds in our society but the conundrum is how can we get the authorities to address the situation in a systematic and human friendly manner? We the public need to report the persons who are creating mayhem in the public spaces which are overwhelmingly crowded with illiterate drivers from all walks of life. I think the DVD proposal is definitely an invaluable answer to curb the activities of these illiterate drivers. They are given license by persons in authority we saw the need to involved in illicit activities to attain money.These are the true man-slaughterers who are given the privilege to slaughter decent law abiding citizen by corrupt public servants. We have to attack the problem from the root by arresting some of these persons who are issuing these dummy drivers with legal documents.

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