Jehovah Witness Big Up Fi Wi Language

JLUTwo 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.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

watchtower_2010454aAnytime mi go Papine Market pon Saturday morning, mi see bout four Jehovah Witness a gi out tract. Dem tush, yu see! Dem sit off pon chair eena shady an dem have one stand weh dem put out di tract dem pon. One morning mi go faas wid dem. Mi aks dem a wa kind a easy-life witnessing dem a do. Wa mek dem nah walk up an down eena sun-hot like dem odder one? Di whole a wi start laugh.

Anyhow, one Saturday, one a di woman dem tell mi seh dem a go keep big meeting an dem waan mi fi come. A one special meeting cau di speaker a go chat pure Patwa. Unu see mi dying trial! Any Patwa bell ring mi suppose fi di deh. Mi promise her seh mi wi try come. Mi never write down di date an it fly outa mi head.

Den mi go pictures a Sovereign an mi meet one next set a Witness from August Town Kingdom Hall. Dem tell mi seh pon February 26, di preacher a go chat Patwa so mi fi come. Dem mek sure dem send email fi remind mi. Mi no ha no excuse.

Di meeting a di said same day a di opening a di Biennial a National Gallery. So mi run downtown fi ketch piece a dat, den mi go a August Town fi ketch piece a di preaching. An mi go back downtown fi ketch piece a di Grounation weh di Jamaica Music Museum put on fi Reggae Month. A pure piece a dis an piece a dat fi di whole day. Dat night, mi lucky fi ketch di whole a di Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) award show.

TO DI WORLD!

Di Jehovah Witness preacher did gwaan good-good. Lickle English did mix up wid di Patwa. It no so easy fi some a wi chat so-so Patwa eena certain situation. Den mi get one next email from di Witness dem a tell mi bout di Patwa talk dem weh deh pon dem website, jw.org. Yu click pan ‘Publications’. Den yu go a ‘Books and Brochures’. Den yu pick ‘Jamaican Creole’. An a wi dat.

Unu fi go listen. A 9 talk di deh. See di topic dem ya. An dem all write eena prapa-prapa spelling. Mi change it over to chaka-chaka: Yu tink pain an suffering a go done one day? Wa yu tink a go happen inna di future? Wa a di main ting fi mek yu fambili happy? Di kingdom a God – a wa? Who really a control dis ya world ya? Wa yu tink bout di Bible? Weh wi can find answer fi di question dem weh worry wi di most eena life? Yu tink seh dead people can come back alive? Listen to God an yu wi live fi ever!

change-the-world_0.jpgDi Jehovah Witness dem know seh yu ha fi preach to people eena fi dem heart language if yu waan fi reach dem heart. An some a fi wi heart well hard. It tek whole heap a preaching fi mek it soft. A long time now nuff preacher eena Jamaica know how fi use fi wi heart language fi touch people. If yu go certain church eena disya country, a pure Patwa yu a go hear.

A more an 750 language Jehovah Witness a use fi spread fi dem message. Dem know seh English a one worl language. But a no di ongle language eena di whole world. A nuff a dem. An Massa God know di whole a dem. Mi glad fi see Jehovah Witness a help carry fi wi God-bless language to di world!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Enitaim mi go Papine Market pan Satde maanin, mi si bout 4 Jehovah Witness a gi out chrak. Dem tush, yu si! Dem sit aaf pan chier iina shiedi an dem av wan stan we dem put out di chrak dem pan. Wan maanin mi go faas wid dem. Mi aks dem a wa kain a iizi-laif witnisin dem a du. Wa mek dem naa waak op an dong iina son-at laik dem ada wan? Di uol a wi staat laaf.

Eniou, wan Satde, wan a di uman dem tel mi se dem a go kip big miitn an dem waahn mi fi kom. A wan speshal miitn kaa di spiika a go chat pyur Patwa. Unu si mi daiyin chraiyal! Eni Patwa bel ring mi sopuoz fi di de. Mi pramis ar se mi wi chrai kom. Mi neva rait dong di diet an it flai outa mi ed.

Den mi go pikchaz a Sovereign an mi miit wan neks set a Witnis fram August Town Kingdom Hall. Dem tel mi se pan Febieri 26 di priicha a go chat Patwa so mi fi kom. Dem mek shuor dem sen iimiel fi rimain mi. Mi no a no ekskyuuz.

Di miitin a di sed siem die a di opnin a di Biennial a National Gallery. So mi ron dountoun fi kech piis a dat, den mi go a August Town fi ketch piis a di priichin. An mi go bak dountoun fi kech piis a di Grounation we di Jamaica Music Museum put aan fi Reggae Month. A pyur piis a dis an piis a dat fi di uol die. Dat nait, mi loki fi kech di uol a di Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) awaad shuo.

TU DI WORL

il_340x270.683382019_i7g3Di Jehovah Witness priicha did gwaan gud-gud. Likl Ingglish did miks op wid di Patwa. It no so iizi fi som a wi chat suoso Patwa iina sortn sitiyieshan. Den mi get wan neks iimail fram di Witness dem a tel mi bout di Patwa taak dem we de pan dem websait, jw.org. Yu klik pan ‘Publications’. Den yu go a ‘Books and Brochures’. Den yu pik ‘Jamaican Creole’. An a wi dat.

Unu fi go lisn. A 9 taak di de. Si di tapik dem ya. An dem aal rait iina prapa-prapa spelin: Yu tingk pien an sofarin a-go don wan die? Wa yu tingk a-go apm iina di fyuucha? Wa a di mien ting fi mek yu fambili api? Di Kindom a Gad – a wa? Uu riili a kanchuol dis ya worl ya? Wa yu tingk bout di Baibl? We wi kyan fain ansa fi di kwestiyan dem we wori wi di muos iina laif? Yu tingk se ded piipl kyan kom bak alaiv? Lisn tu Gad an yu wi liv fi eva!

Di Jehovah Witness dem nuo se yu a fi priich tu piipl iina fi dem aat langgwij if yu waahn fi riich dem aat. An som a fi wi aat wel aad. It tek uol iip a priichin fi mek it saaf. A lang taim nou nof priicha iina Jamieka nuo ou fi yuuz fi wi aat langgwij fi toch piipl. If yu go sortn choch iina disya konchri a pyur Patwa yu a go ier.

A muor an 750 langgwij Jehovah Witness a yuuz fi spred fi dem mechiz. Dem nuo se Ingglish a one worl langgwij. Bot a no di ongl langgwij iina di uol worl. A nof a dem. An Maasa Gad nuo di uol a dem. Mi glad fi si Jehovah Witness a elp kyari fi wi Gad-bles langgwij tu di worl!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES CHAMPION OUR LANGUAGE

Anytime I go to Papine Market on  a Saturday morning, I see about four Jehovah’s  Witnesses  giving out tracts. They are so sophisticated! They’re seated on chairs in the shade and they put out the tracts on a stand.  One morning, I nosily asked them how come they were taking it so easy with their witnessing. Why weren’t they walking up and down in the sun like other Witnesses?  We all started to laugh.

Anyhow, one Saturday, one the woman told me that there was going to be a big meeting that she wanted me to attend.  It was quite special meeting because  the speaker was going to talk in only  Patwa. You see my troubles! Anytime there’s a  Patwa issue, I’m supposed to be involved.  I promised her I would try to attend.  I didn’t make a note of the date and it completely escaped me.

Then I went to the movies at Sovereign and met some other Witnesses from the August Town Kingdom Hall. They told me that on February 26, the preacher was going to be speaking in Patwa so I should come. They made sure to send an email to remind me. I had no excuse.

The meeting was the very same day of  the opening of the  Biennial at the National Gallery. So I hurried downtown to get a bit of a that, then I went to  August Town for a bit of the  preaching. And I went back downtown to catch a bit of the the Grounation put on by the Jamaica Music Museum in Reggae Month. It was only bits and pieces for the entire day. That evening, I was lucky to catch all of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) award show.

ReggaeMonth

TO THE WORLD!

The Jehovah’s Witness preacher did very well. A little bit of  English got mixed up with the Patwa. It’s not so easy for some of us to speak only Patwa in certain situations. Then I got another  email from the Witnesses telling mi about the Patwa recordings on their website, jw.org. You click on ‘Publications’. Then you go to ‘Books and Brochures’. Then yu select ‘Jamaican Creole’. And that’s us.

You should check it out.There are  9 recordings there. Here are the topics. And they are all written in the official writing system for Jamaican. I’ve translated them into English: Do you think  pain and suffering will end one of these days? What do you think the future will bring? What’s the main thing to make your family happy? Di kingdom a God – what’s that? Who really controls this world? What do you think about the Bible? Where can we find answers to the questions that  worry us the most in life? Do you think dead people can come back to life? Listen to God and you will live for ever!

The Jehovah’s Witnesses know that you have to preach to people in their  heart language if you want to reach their heart. And some of our hearts are quite hard. It takes a  whole lot of  preaching to make it soft. Many preachers in  Jamaica have long known how to use our heart language to touch people. If you go to certain churches in this country, all you’re going to hear is nothing but Patwa.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses  are spreading  their message in more than 750 languages. They know that English is a world language. But it’s not the only language in the whole world. There are many of them. And God recognises all of them. I’m glad to see that Jehovah’s Witnesses are helping to take our God-blessed language to the world!

Who’s Stuck in Dr Semaj’s Boxes?

unimaginative_by_xrniborI got so many amusing responses to my column, “Mi No Want No Woman Look Mi”, published on March 22. It’s amazing how a hot headline can motivate people to read Jamaican. If I’d even used only the ‘prapa-prapa’ writing system, that wouldn’t have stopped too many readers from trying to figure out what the column was about.

One of the first emails came from an unimaginative man: “Can you please define ageable genkleman (age group)? I fit all other criteria as stipulated in your article. Your response to my question will let me know if I have a chance:=)”. He was not too happy with my answer: “Remember, age is just a number. But you also need a recommendation from your last woman”.

That’s not an original line. It’s from a vintage calypso:

“She tell me to bring a letter from mi last woman

With she signature stating why we done

Bring two passport picture of the woman to

Ah want to know how much children weh she have for you”.

It wasn’t the letter of recommendation that bothered my would-be suitor.   It was my imprecision about ‘ageable’: “You contradict yourself by saying that age is just a number. Your article clearly spoke about an ‘age-able man’”. Yu see mi dying trial! The man picking quarrel with mi already an mi an im no deh. That was the end of that.

‘DI RIGHT SMADDY’

A rather clever man made his “application fi hart occupancy” in Jamaican. And he had no difficulty understanding ‘ageable’. After giving some lovely compliments, he proceeded “to di meat a di matta”, as he put it: “mi a di right smaddy fi look yu. Self praise really anuh good recommendation but mi tink mi a one ‘nice, ageable genkleman’. Mi anuh young bwoy nar old man cau mi a jus fifty-four even dou mi easily look thirty-four.

“Mi did marry one time but mi fine out seh di ooman a Delilah genaration an mi ave fi tek weh miself fast, fast. Mi bun fish-tail wicked so yuh woan ave nuh concern deh so.

images“Mi feel mi can read an write well cau a intallect dem call mi. A one teacha gi mi di name wen mi did deh a primary school because she seh me always a read wen all the odder pickney dem a play. All a mi teeth dem inna mi mout an none a dem nuh ratten. Mi feel mi well qualify fi de position. Please shortlist me an sen mi a email”.

I had to laugh though I wasn’t so happy about the fish-tail burning. A ‘real’ man doesn’t have to call down hellfire on gay men to prove he’s not one of them. But this man did give a good account of himself so I shortlisted him and sent an email. Incidentally, the condition of one’s teeth is a good indicator of overall health. And literacy is a sign of access to a world of books.

SEX FANTASIES

The most elaborate response to my column came from a psychologist, Dr. Leahcim Semaj. He was definitely not putting in an application for my hand or any other body part. In fact, he was casting me into outer darkness – a lonely place of total manlessness. In a guest column published last Sunday, Dr. Semaj prophesied that I would have “a long wait” for a suitable man. Bright!

By the way, I hadn’t said in my column that I was looking man. I was simply stating the desirable qualities of any man who might want to look me. There’s a difference. Mi no want no young boy fi work out mi soul case. An no old man fi go dead pon mi. Dr. Semaj concluded that my desire for an ‘ageable’ man was a sexual fantasy that wasn’t likely to be fulfilled.

The headline of his column was intriguing: “Ageing And Lovesick? Don’t Chase Sex Fantasies”. But what is sex without fantasies? Especially if you’re stuck with a boring partner who is trying to box you in! To be fair to Dr. Semaj, that was not his headline. It was the editor’s. But it did capture the essence of his argument.

imagesThe goodly psychologist constructed some neat little boxes in which he tried to trap young, middle-aged and old people. I was amused to see that, with typical male vanity, Dr. Semaj proposed that women age faster than men. So young boy ends at 35 years of age; but young woman ends at 30. The ‘ageable’ man ranges from 35+ to 50. The female equivalent starts at 30+ and pops down at 45. The old man starts at 50+ and, presumably, keeps going. It’s all over for the old woman at 45.

Dr. Semaj clearly does not take into account the sex appeal of the ‘nice big-woman’. That’s how I was greeted last week by a young-boy ‘ductor leaning out of a Coaster bus. And Dr. Semaj doesn’t distinguish between biological age and chronological age. People age at different rates depending on how well they take care of their teeth.

Dr. Semaj insists that people must ‘stay in dem lane’. Young with young; middle-aged with middle-aged; old with old. Nothing no go so. Sexual desire is unruly. It makes people veer out of lanes.   It’s only Dr. Semaj who’s stuck in his little box.

Phillips Sweetens “Bitter Medicine”

imagesIn a hopeful Budget speech that insistently focused on facts, Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips demolished the false claims of both Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, about the state of the Jamaican economy. Ironically quoting both Shaw and former Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, Phillips underscored the urgent need to place the national interest above political opportunism.

On the contentious matter of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Phillips emphasised the failure of the JLP to “undertake the necessary structural reforms in order to achieve a sustainable balance of payments”.  Instead of administering the “bitter medicine” that Holness had prescribed in 2011, the former JLP government simply “took the money and ran,” according to Phillips. Now, the JLP insists that the passing of IMF tests is “contrived”.

asl-alphabetIn a witty aside, Phillips asserted, in reference to Audley Shaw, “him want the horse but not the bridle”. I wished there had been more of that kind of vivid language in Phillips’ rather technical speech. I kept on wondering just how many listeners really understood the ins and outs of Phillips’ arguments. I got lost at times. It struck me that the deaf were much better served than the majority of Jamaicans. They had access to sign language. For most of us, the minister’s technical words fell on deaf ears.

I believe that for important national matters like the Budget debates, translators should be employed to turn technical English into accessible Jamaican Creole. All our talk of democracy is pointless if we continue to exclude the majority of Jamaicans from public discourse. As one woman said to me, “From dem start wid dem ‘per cent’, mi stop listen. Because mi no know weh dem a seh”.

korting_TUINederlandWhat is so sad is that “per cent” is such an easy concept to translate: “out of every 100”.   But those of us who know English don’t think it’s essential to include in our national debates those Jamaicans who don’t know the language. We claim that they understand when they don’t. And it doesn’t seem to matter to us that so many Jamaicans stop listening when we start to talk to ourselves.

I am convinced that many more Jamaicans would buy into the government’s Budget if they fully understood our options. We would come to accept the fact that the price of hope is sacrifice.   Eucalyptus oil is, indeed, bitter medicine. But it really is therapeutic. That’s the message Peter Phillips needs to communicate in a language that everybody can understand. Including Mr. Shaw and Mr. Holness!

Kaci Versus Rapunzel

In the Miss Universe contest between Kaci and all those Rapunzel lookalikes, our girl didn’t stand a chance. In his review of the show which is on YouTube, the comedian Dutty Berry makes a pretty good guess about why Kaci didn’t win: “I don’t know if is because her hair short an a whole heap a hair company a sponsor di show an dem love di Rapunzel look.”

If you don’t remember the fairy tale about Rapunzel, here’s how the story goes. A man and a woman live next door to a wicked witch. Maybe, she was just a lonely old woman. But this is a fairy tale, so she has to be a witch. The ‘normal’ woman gets pregnant and starts to crave rapunzel, a plant that grows in the witch’s garden. It has a beautiful flower and the leaves and root are edible.

The man steals a plant and is caught by the witch. He begs for mercy and she proposes to let him off on condition that the couple give her their child. Yu see how she wicked! Or lonely. The poor man agrees. His wife gives birth to a beautiful girl and the witch claims her prize. She calls the child Rapunzel.

As the little girl grows, so does her hair. She ends up with long, golden hair. This is going to be a big problem. When she turns 12, the witch locks her up in a tower in the middle of the forest. There are no stairs and no door, just one window.

I suppose this fairy tale is a warning about what happens to girls at puberty. They end up trapped by wicked witches who are afraid that the girls will get pregnant – especially if they are beautiful and have ‘tall’ hair. Sometimes, the wicked witch is the girl’s own mother.

BEAUTY A BURDEN

Rapunzel-fairy-tales-and-fables-1004994_375_500Rapunzel’s only visitor is the witch who would give this command: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair so I can climb the golden stair.” What a stress on poor Rapunzel! Her golden hair becomes a ladder. Can you imagine the pull on her scalp! Of course, since this is a fairy tale, one is not supposed to raise these practical questions. But I think this story is quite subversive. It suggests that beauty can be a terrible burden for women.

Anyhow, the story gets better. You know there has to be a prince to rescue the damsel in distress. He comes riding through the forest and hears Rapunzel singing. He falls in love with her voice but can’t figure out how to get up to the tower. Then the wicked witch comes and he learns the magic words. In his case, letting down Rapunzel’s hair is foreplay. Next thing, the prince climbs up and in two twos Rapunzel is pregnant with twins.

Locking up girls isn’t a reliable contraceptive if there’s a prince on the loose. It’s the boys who should be locked up. When the wicked witch finds out that Rapunzel is in the family way she cuts off the golden hair and casts the disgraced young woman out into the wilderness. A familiar fate for pregnant teenagers!

The witch sets a trap for the prince who comes climbing up Rapunzel’s detached hair – now a weave. So many men have been caught by weaves! The witch pitches the prince down to the ground and he falls on thorns and is blinded. I suppose this is his punishment for impregnating Rapunzel.

The prince wanders around the forest for months. He eventually hears Rapunzel singing and is reunited with her and his children. Rapunzel starts to bawl and her tears of joy cure his blindness. And they go off to his palace where they live happily ever after. So what’s the moral of this improbable story?

TRUMPING DONALD

the_real_life_rapunzel_01_dWomen all over the world have been tricked into believing that ‘tall’ hair makes them beautiful. Even when it becomes a rope around their neck! And so many of the Miss Universe contestants seem to have weighed themselves down even more with Rapunzel weaves. Dutty Berry asks Donald Trump a wicked question: “A vex yu did vex because yu tink seh Kaci woulda mek hot gyal stop buy weave?”

On her return to Jamaica, Kaci Fennell did an ‘On Stage’ interview right at the airport. Naturally, she was asked about the short hair affair. Her response was beautifully plain and simple: “This is how I look best. And if this is not what they wanted, then it just wasn’t for me.” I wish more Jamaican women could be sensible enough to realise that ‘tall’ hair can’t make them beautiful. In fact, some weaves are downright ugly.

Beauty contests and language are two issues that continue to cause contention in our society. Dutty Berry deals with both of them. He commends Kaci for her answer to the social media question: “Fen-Fen sit down pon da question deh like hassock.”

Then he continues, “An di old Kardashian reject Colombia, wid di waist-trainer glue inna her waist, tek bout 10 centuries fi give fi her response. You tell me now. Yu see why Jamaica need fi mek Patwa be di official language! So we can buy time too and pause and think after each line.”

Dutty Berry has been nominated for a Youth View award in the category Favourite Breakout Celebrity for 2014. With lyrics like that, he’s a sure winner. Unless he’s trumped, like Kaci.