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.
Seet deh now! Language a one powerful sinting. Unu memba dem ya liriks wi did larn a primary school? ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me.’ Pure lie! Nutten no go so. Throw-word a one big stick. An it lik hot. Wen yu a pikni, an dem odder one a throw word pon yu, yu ha fi a gwaan like seh it no bodder yu. Cau yu cyaan do better.
But wen yu grow big, yu naa tek it. Yu ha fi defend yuself. So mi understand wa mek di Labourite dem bex an a carry on bad bout wa Peter Bunting seh: “Some in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leadership have been behaving like a set of John Crows, like vultures, gleefully reacting to every loss of life as an opportunity to gain political mileage.”
A di ‘John Crow’ bex dem. If Bunting did lef out di ‘John Crows’ an kip so-so ‘vultures’, di lik wuda never feel so hot. Trust mi! ‘Vulture’ no pretty. But inna fi wi culture, ‘John Crow’ worserer. All wen yu gi it di rightful sound inna fi wi language! Jangkro! No sah! It sound bad-bad.
So wa mek jangkro worserer than vulture? One a English an one a Jamaican. Vulture come outa book an jangkro down a dungle heap. Wi know vulture inna wi head; an wi feel jangkro inna wi heart. Fi wi language carry feelings. An a dat di language specialist dem mean wen dem seh Jamaican a fi wi heart language. It mek wi tek tings hard.
COCK MOUT KILL COCK
Still for all, if me was Andrew Holness, mi wudn waste no time pon ‘jangkro’. Dat bad an no so bad. A ‘political mileage’ mi wuda kick up gainst! Dat a one serious charge Bunting a mek. One big-big lik. Fi tink seh di JLP politician dem no cyah bout di whole heap a people weh a dead off? Murder top a murder! An a ongle vote dem a look, mek dem a bawl out? Dat bad – if a true. An mi no hear none a di Labourite dem a talk bout dat. All dem a stick pon a di jangkro throw word.
All eena Parliament, Desmond McKenzie im seh, “Once a John Crow, always a John Crow.” Wa dat good fa? A Bunting im a throw word pon? Dat a no how some a di PNP member dem tek it. Ascorden to Gleaner, dem laugh an seh, “Yuh seh so! Yuh seh so!” Dem a tek McKenzie mek poppy show. Dem a tell im seh cock mout kill cock. Mi no know if Bunting sorry fi true fi weh im seh. But it look like dem odder one inna fi im party no sorry to dat. Or dem wudn bodder seh nutten to McKenzie fi blaze up more fire.
Anyhow, mi tink seh Andrew Holness shuda condemn Bunting fi di ‘political mileage’ big lik. Opposition party supposen fi bawl out gainst govament wen tings naa run right. An if PNP did deh inna Opposition, dem wuda do di said same ting. Dem naa no argument. An if mi a jangkro, mi wuda well bex fi see how di politician dem a mix mi up inna fi dem nasty business.
Siit de nou! Langwij a wan powaful sinting. Unu memba dem ya liriks wi did laan a praimeri skuul? ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me.’ Pyuur lai! Notn no go so. Chruo-wod a wan big stik. An it lik at. Wen yu a pikni, an dem ada wan a chruo wod pan yu, yu a fi a gwaahn laik se it no bada yu. Kaa yu kyaahn du beta.
Bot wen yu gruo big, yu naa tek it. Yu a fi difen yuself. So mi andastan wa mek di Liebarait dem beks an a kyari aan bad bout wa Peter Bunting se: “Some in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leadership have been behaving like a set of John Crows, like vultures, gleefully reacting to every loss of life as an opportunity to gain political mileage.”
A di ‘John Crow’ beks dem. If Bunting did lef out di ‘John Crows’ an kip suoso ‘vultures’, di lik wuda neva fiil so at. Chros mi! ‘Vulture’ no priti. Bot ina fi wi kolcha, ‘John Crow’ wosara. Aal wen yu gi it di raitful soun ina fi wi langwij! Jangkro! Nuo sa! It soun bad-bad.
So wa mek jangkro wosa dan vulture? Wan a Inglish an wan a Jamiekan. Vulture kom outa buk an jangkro dong a dongl iip. Wi nuo vulture ina wi ed; an wi fiil jangkro ina wi aat. Fi wi langwij kyari fiilinz. An a dat di langwij speshalis dem miin wen dem se Jamiekan a fi wi aat langwij. It mek wi tek tingz aad.
KAK MOUT KIL KAK
Stil far aal, if mii woz Andrew Holness, mi udn wies no taim pan ‘jangkro’. Dat bad an no so bad. A ‘political mileage’ mi uda kik op gens! Dat a wan siiryos chaaj Bunting a mek. Wan big-big lik. Fi tink se di JLP palitishan dem no kya bout di uol iip a piipl we a ded aaf? Morda tap a morda! An a ongl vuot dem a luk mek dem a bawl out? Dat bad – if a chruu. An mi no ier non a di Liebarait dem a taak bout dat. Aal dem a stik pan a di jangkro chruo wod.
Aal iina Paaliment, Desmond McKenzie im se, “Once a John Crow, always a John Crow.” Wa dat gud fa? A Bunting im a chruo wod pan? Dat a no ou som a di PNP memba dem tek it. Azkaadn tu Gleaner, dem laaf an se, “Yuh seh so! Yuh seh so!” Dem a tek McKenzie mek papishuo. Dem a tel im se kak mout kil kak. Mi no nuo if Bunting sari fi chruu fi we im se. Bot it luk laik dem ada wan ina fi im paati no sari tu dat. Ar dem udn bada se notn tu McKenzie fi bliez op muor faiya.
Eniou, mi tingk se Andrew Holness shuda kandem Bunting fi di ‘political mileage’ big lik. Opozishan paati supuozn fi baal out gens govament wen tingz naa ron rait. An if PNP did de ina Opozishan, dem uda du di sed siem ting. Dem naa no aagyument. An if mii a jangkro, mi uda wel beks fi si ou di palitishan dem a miks mi op iina fi dem naasi bizniz.
There you have it! Language is a powerful thing. Do you remember this proverb we learnt in primary school? ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me.’ A total lie! It’s simply not true. Hurling abuse can be very effective. It hurts a lot. When you’re a child and someone says something hurtful, you have to act like it doesn’t bother you. Because you can’t do better.
But when you’re an adult, you just won’t put up with it. You have to defend yourself. So I understand why Labourites are angry and are carrying on so much about what Peter Bunting said: “Some in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leadership have been behaving like a set of John Crows, like vultures, gleefully reacting to every loss of life as an opportunity to gain political mileage.”
It’s the ‘John Crow’ that’s angered them. If Bunting had left out the ‘John Crows’ and kept only ‘vultures’, it wouldn’t have hit so hard. Believe me! ‘Vulture’ isn’t good. But in our culture, ‘John Crow’ is rather worse. And especially the way it’s pronounced in our language! Jangkro! No, man! It really sounds very bad.
So why is jangkro worse than vulture? One is English and the other is Jamaican. Vulture is very bookish an jangkro is just down at the garbage dump. Vulture is a kind of abstraction and jangkro we know intuitively. Our language evokes feelings. And that’s what the linguists mean when they say Jamaican is our heart language. It makes us take things to heart.
HIS OWN WORDS CONDEMN HIM
All the same, if I were Andrew Holness, I wouldn’t waste any time on ‘jangkro’. That’s bad and not so bad. It’s ‘political mileage’ I would protest against! That’s a very serious charge Bunting is making. A forceful attack. To think that JLP politicians don’t care about all of the people who are dying? So many murders! And it’s only because they are looking for votes why they’re speaking out? That would be disgraceful – if it’s true. And I don’t hear any of the Labourites protesting about that. All they’re stuck on is the jangkro label.Peter
Even in Parliament, Desmond McKenzie said, “Once a John Crow, always a John Crow.” What was that about? Was he trying to get back at Bunting ? That’s not how some of the PNP MPs took it. According to a Gleaner report, they burst out laughing and said, “You say so! You say so!” They were having fun at McKenzie’s expense. They were saying that his own words condemn him. I don’t know if Bunting is really sorry for what he said. But it seems as if his colleagues aren’t all that sorry. Or they wouldn’t bother to answer McKenzie and pour more oil on the fire.
Anyhow, I think Andrew Holness should condemn Bunting for that ‘political mileage’ attack. Opposition parties are supposed to protest against the government when things are not right. And if the PNP were in Opposition, they would do the very same ting. So they have no case. And if I were a john crow, I would be very annoyed at the way in which politicians are dragging me into their nasty affair.