Old Man No Fi Grudge Young Boy

Unknown-1Two 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.

CKAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

It no right fi old man a grudge young boy. Some a dem old man must be figet seh dem did young one time. A no like seh dem born old. Dem did get fi dem chance fi live young-boy life. An pick an choose dem woman-friend. An mek fi dem owna mistake. So wa mek dem no stop diss di young boy dem? Dem no have nutten good fi seh bout dem.

Chruu nuff a dem old man a look young gyal, dem can’t believe seh young boy coulda want big woman. A must someting di young boy dem a look. Money, car, house, land. A coulda never di so-so woman sweet dem. No matter if she a healthy-body woman; an she know how fi treat man; an she just nice-nice. She no have nutten weh di old man want. So ascorden to him, no young boy can’t want her fi nutten good.

The-Power-of-Ambition-Part-7Wat some a dem old man no know, a no all young boy a look big woman fi mind dem. Some a di young boy dem a mek good-good money. Legal. Dem no ha fi a beg woman nutten. Dem deh youth have ambition. An dem no prejudice gainst big woman. Dem two yeye wide open. Dem see one big uman an dem skin ketch fire. Dem just love how she flex. An dem put argument to her.

If it sweet her, she mighta tek on di youth. A no like seh dem a plan fi seh “I do”. Dem just a seh, “See me ya”. Ya so. Fi now. An if dem lucky, it sweet-sweet. A it dat. An it mighta last one night, one week, one month, one year. It coulda gwaan long-long. An wen it done, it done! An nobody no ha fi bex wid nobody. A so it go.

NO BODDER TALK BOUT VIAGRA

Then some a di old man dem love fi gi advice to big woman. A warn dem seh di young boy dis a use dem. Fi wa? Money? Sex? Deh so a di problem. A dat mek di old man dem so bad-mind an grudgeful. Di ting weh young boy have over old man a stamina! An dat a one a di ting weh big woman a look fa. Di old man dem no got it. No matter how dem chat. An no bodder talk bout Viagra. A no di same ting. Any stand weh last fi more than four hour can’t good. Dat a kill dead sinting.

But mek mi tell unu someting. A no ongle old man a diss young boy. Some a di said same big woman dem weh tek up wid young boy a diss dem. One youth tell mi seh im did deh wid a big woman. An any time im go a her yard all she waan do a sex im. Like im a human vibrator. An im seh it hurt im. Sometime im just waan fi talk. Seet deh! Man an woman story no easy.

Di big woman dem ha fi treat di young boy dem better. Dem can’t gwaan Iike seh di yute a machine an dem waan wear out im battery. Still for all, if young boy an big woman waan fi try a ting, mek dem dweet. Nobody can’t tell dem which combination nah go work. A no padlock. A life! Some a dem outa order old man better mind dem owna business an stop tell people how fi live dem life.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN It no rait fi uol man a groj yong bwai. Som a dem uol man mosi figet se dem did yong wan taim. A no laik se dem baahn uol. Dem did get fi dem chaans fi liv yong-bwai laif. An pik an chuuz dem uman-fren. An mek fi dem uona mistiek. So wa mek dem no tap dis di yong bwai dem? Dem no av notn gud fi se bout dem.

Chruu nof a dem uol man a luk yong gyal, dem kyaahn biliiv se yong bwai kuda waahn big uman. A mos somting di yong bwai dem a luk. Moni, kyaar, ous, lan. A kuda neva di suo-so uman swiit dem. No mata if shi a elti-badi uman; an shi nuo ou fi chriit man; an shi jos nais-nais. Shi no av notn we di uol man waahnt. So azkaadn tu im, nuo yong bwai kyaahn waahnt ar fi notn gud.

Wat som a dem uol man no nuo, a no aal yong bwai a luk big uman fi main dem. Som a di yong bwai dem a mek gud-gud moni. Liigal. Dem no a fi a beg uman notn. Dem de yuut av ambishan. An dem no prejudis gens big uman. Dem tuu yai waid uopn. Dem si wan big uman an dem skin kech faiya. Dem jos lov ou shi fleks. An dem put aagyument tu ar.

If it swiit ar, shi maita tek aan di yuut. A no laik se dem a plan fi se “I do”. Dem jos a se, “Si mi ya”. Ya so. Fi nou. An if dem loki, it swiit-swiit. A it dat. An it maita laas wan nait, wan wiik, wan mont, wan ier. It kuda gwaahn lang-lang. An wen it don, it don! An nobadi no a fi beks wid nobadi. A so it go.

NO BADA TAAK BOUT VIAGRA

images-1Den som a di uol man dem lov fi gi advais tu big uman. A waan dem se di yong bwai dis a yuuz dem. Fi wa? Moni? Seks? De so a di prablem. A dat mek di uol man dem so bad-main an grojful. Di ting we yong bwai av uova uol man a stamina! An dat a wan a di ting we big uman a luk fa. Di uol man dem no gat it. No mata ou dem chat. An no bada taak bout Viagra. A no di siem ting. Eni stan we laas fi muor dan fuor ouwa kyaahn gud. Dat a kil ded sinting.

Bot mek mi tel unu somting. A no ongl uol man a dis yong bwai. Som a di sed siem big uman dem we tek op wid yong bwai a dis dem. Wan yuut tel mi se im did de wid a big uman. An eni taim im go a ar yaad, aal shi waahn du a seks im. Laik im a yuuman vaibrieta. An im se it ort im. Somtaim im jos waahn fi talk. Siit de! Man an uman tuori no iizi.

Di big uman dem a fi chriit di yong bwai dem beta. Dem kyaahn gwaan Iaik se di yuut a mashiin an dem waahn wier out im bachri. Stil far aal, if yong bwai an big uman waahn fi chrai a ting, mek dem dwiit. Nobadi kyaahn tel dem wich kombinieshan naa go work. A no padlak. A laif! Som a dem outa aada uol man beta main dem uona bizniz an stap tel piipl ou fi liv dem laif.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Old men shouldn’t envy young men. It’s just not fair. Some of these old men don’t seem to remember there was a time when they were young. It’s not as if they were born old. They had their chance to enjoy their youth. They could pick and choose their female friends. And make their own mistakes. So why won’t they stop dissing young men? They have nothing good to say about them.

imagesBecause a lot of those older men are trying to hook up with young women, they can’t believe any young man would want an older woman. The young man must have an agenda. He wants the woman’s money, car, house or land. It couldn’t possibly be just the woman herself that he finds desirable. It doesn’t matter if she’s physically attractive; and she knows how to treat men; and she’s just very sweet. She has nothing that an old man would want. So, as far as he’s concerned, no young man could want her for any good reason.

What some a these old men don’t know is that not all young men are looking for an older woman to look after them. Some of these young men are making good money. Legally. They don’t have to ask women for money. These young men are ambitious. And they’re not prejudiced against older women. Their eyes are wide open. They see an older woman who excites them. They just love her vibe. And they chat her up.

If she likes what he says, she just might fall for him. It’s not as if they’re planning to say, “I do”. They’re just saying, “You can have me”. Right here. For now. And if they’re lucky, it’s very good. And that’s it. And it might last one night, one week, one month, one year. It could go on for a very long time. And when it’s done, it’s done! And they don’t have to get angry with each other. That’s just how it is.

DON’T EVEN TALK ABOUT VIAGRA

viagra3_aotwThen some of these old men love to give advice to old women, warning them that young men are just using them. For what? Money? Sex? That’s the real problem. That’s what’s making those old men so malicious and envious. The advantage young men have over older men is stamina! And that’s one of the things mature women are looking for. And old men just don’t have it. No matter what they say. And don’t even talk about Viagra. It’s not the same. Any erection that lasts for more than four hours can’t be good. That’s a death sentence.

But, by the way, it’s not only old men who diss young men. Some of those same older women who get involved with young men diss them as well. A young man told me he used to be with an older woman. And when he visited her, all she wanted to do was have sex. As is he was a human vibrator. And he said it hurt him. Sometimes, all he wanted to do was talk. You see! Male/female dynamics can be quite complex.

Older women have to treat young men better. They can’t get on as if the young man is a machine and they want to wear out his battery. All the same, if a young man and an older woman want to have an affair, let them go right ahead. No one can tell them which combination can and can’t work. It’s not a padlock. It’s life! Some of those officious old men should mind their own business and stop telling other people how to live and love.

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Big Tingz A Gwaan Pon NewsTalk93FM

images-2

Frederic Cassidy

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.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING
UWI radio station a broadcast news big an broad inna ‘patwa’! Mi rather call fi wi language ‘Jamaican’. Same like how di English people dem talk English, a same so wi talk Jamaican. Mind yu, wi talk English, too. Dem force it on pon wi. An wi tek it fix-fix it up fi suit wi.

Dem old-time African weh di English people dem tek weh an bring ya, dem mix up di English language wid fi dem owna African language dem. An a so dem mek up one next language: Jamaican. An dem pass it down from generation to generation. It a wi heart language. A it wi talk wen trouble tek wi. An wen sinting sweet wi.

HEARD-EVERYWHERE-550x250A disya month NewsTalk93FM start broadcast news inna Jamaican. Monday to Friday inna di afternoon, 12:15 an 5:20. It a gwaan good-good. Nuff smaddy a listen an dem love it kyaahn done. An a no joke sinting. A real-real news. Serious ting.

A di Jamaican Language Unit a UWI response fi di news inna Jamaican. Professor Hubert Devonish a di head a di unit. Im study language an im write book bout it. A some a im student dem a work pon di news: Honica Brown, Peterkim Pusey, Tyane Robinson an Rexandrew Wright.

One a di big problem dem have fi write news inna Jamaican a fi find di rightful word fi di English. Tek for instance, ‘flexitime’. How yu a go seh dat inna Jamaican? ‘Work fi suit di boss?’ Same like how English capture nuff word from Latin an Greek, dem can dis tek over di word dem from English!

DI WAT LEF

Mi tink it plenty better fi try find sinting inna Jamaican fi carry over weh yu waan fi seh from English. Long time now, mi did change over one a di Budget speech from English to Jamaican. Mi seh six out a 10 dollar a fi pay back money weh govament owe. An education get di biggest cut a di ‘wat lef’.

images-1Wen mi go a JIS fi record di programme, dem never like ‘wat lef’. Dem seh mi nah gi di news straight. A talk mi a talk mi mind. Mi a call down judgement pon govament. Dem rather mi seh ‘balance’. But ‘wat lef’ an ‘balance’ boil down same way. Nutten much no lef fi run di country!

Di Jamaican Language Unit have one next programme pon NewsTalk93FM: ‘Big Tingz A Gwaan’. An dem aks Tyane Robinson an mi fi run di show. Inna Jamaican. Wi talk wi mind bout news. An wi bring on guest. Wi do three programme already. It come on Thursday afternoon, 4:30.

Mek mi gi oonu lickle joke. Some a di uptown guest dem can’t chat Jamaican pon radio! A dem yard language. It kyaahn broadcast. Wat a sinting! Marcus Garvey done tell wi: A wi ha fi free wiself from mental slavery. Nobody kyaahn dweet fi wi. Wi head an wi heart ha fi start talk di said same language.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

UWI riedyo stieshan a braadkyaas nyuuz big an braad iina ‘patwa’! Mi raada kaal fi wi langwij ‘Jamiekan’. Siem laik ou di Inglish piipl dem taak Inglish, a siem so wi taak Jamiekan. Main yu, wi taak Inglish tu. Dem fuors it aan pan wi. An wi tek it fiks-fiks it op fi suut wi.

Unknown-1Dem uol-taim Afrikan we di Inglish piipl dem tek we an bring ya, dem miks op di Inglish langwij wid fi dem uona Afrikan langwij dem. An a so dem mek op wan neks langwij: Jamiekan. An dem paas it dong fram jinarieshan tu jinarieshan. It a wi aat langwij. A it wi taak wen chrobl tek wi. An wen sinting swiit wi.

A disya mont NyuuzTaak93FM staat braadkyaas nyuuz iina Jamiekan. Monde tu Fraide iina di aaftanuun, 12:15 an 5:20. It a gwaan gud-gud. Nof smadi a lisn an dem lov it kyaahn don. An a no juok sinting. A riil-riil nyuuz. Siiryos ting.

A di Jamiekan Langwij Yuunit a UWI rispans fi di nyuuz iina Jamiekan. Profesa Hubert Devonish a di Ed a di Yuunit. Im stodi langwij an im rait buk bout it. A som a im stuuydent dem a wok pan di nyuuz: Honica Brown, Peterkim Pusey, Tyane Robinson an Rexandrew Wright.

Wan a di big prablem dem av fi rait nyuuz iina Jamiekan a fi fain di raitful wod fi di Inglish. Tek far instans, ‘flexitime’. Ou yu a go se dat iina Jamiekan? ‘Wok fi suut di baas?’ Siem laik ou Inglish kyapcha nof wod fram Latin an Griik, dem kyan dis tek uova di wod dem fram Inglish!

DI WAT LEF

Mi tink it plenti beta fi chrai fain sinting ina Jamiekan fi kyari uova we yu waan fi se fram Inglish. Lang taim nou, mi did chienj uova wan a di Bojit Spiich fram Inglish tu Jamiekan. Mi se siks out a ten dala a fi pie bak moni we govament uo. An edikieshan get di bigis kot a di ‘wat lef’.

Wen mi go a JIS fi rikaad di pruogram, dem neva laik ‘wat lef’. Dem se mi naa gi di nyuuz striet. A taak mi a taak mi main. Mi a kaal dong jojment pan govament. Dem raada mi se ‘balance’. Bot ‘wat lef’ an ‘balance’ bwail dong siem wie. Notn moch no lef fi ron di konchri!

Di Jamiekan Langgwij Yuunit av wan neks pruogram pan NyuuzTaak93FM: ‘Big Tingz A Gwaan’. An dem aks Tyane Robinson an mi fi ron di shuo. Iina Jamiekan. Wi taak wi main bout nyuuz. An wi bring aan ges. Wi du chrii pruogram aredi. It kom aan Torsde aaftanuun, 4:30.

Mek mi gi unu likl juok. Som a di optoun ges dem kyaahn chat Jamiekan pan riedyo! A dem yaad langwij. It kyaahn braadkyaas. Wat a sinting! Marcus Garvey don tel wi: A wi ha fi frii wiself fram mental slievri. Nobadi kyaahn dwiit fi wi. Wi ed an wi aat a fi staat taak di sed siem langwij.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION
The UWI radio station is boldly broadcasting news in ‘patwa’! I prefer ‘Jamaican’ as the name of our language. Just as the English speak English, we speak Jamaican. Mind you, we speak English, too. They forced it down our throat. An we took it and adapted it to suit our tongue.

Our African ancestors, who were taken away by the English and  brought here,  cut and mixed the English language with their own African languages. And that’s how they created a brand new language: Jamaican. And they passed it down from generation to generation. It’s our heart language. That’s what we use when we’re in trouble.  And when we’re happy.

NewsTalk93FM started broadcast news in Jamaican this month. Monday to Friday in the afternoon at 12:15 and 5:20. It’s a huge success.  Lots of people are listening and they’re really enjoying it.  And it’s not a joke. It’s proper news. For real.

images-3It’s the Jamaican Language Unit at UWI that responsible for producing the news in Jamaican. Professor Hubert Devonish is the head of the unit. He’s a linguist who had written books on the subject.  It’s some of his students who are work on the news programme: Honica Brown, Peterkim Pusey, Tyane Robinson and Rexandrew Wright.

One the big problems they have with writing news in Jamaican is finding the exact translation for the English words. For instance, ‘flexitime’. What’s the Jamaican equivalent? ‘Work fi suit di boss?’ I suppose the translators could simply take over English words in exactly the same way that the English language captured lots of words from Latin an Greek!

DI WAT LEF

I think it’s much better to try to find a Jamaican equivalent for the English expression. Quite some time ago, I translated one of the Budget speeches from English to Jamaican. I said that 60% of the budget is for debt repayment.  And education gets the highest percentage of the ‘wat lef’.

When I went to JIS to record di programme, they didn’t like ‘wat lef’. They said I was editorialising. I was giving my own opinion.  And I was passing judgement on the Government. They preferred me to say ‘balance’. But ‘wat lef’ and ‘balance’ boil down to the same thing. Nothing much is left to run the country!

53-Ways-to-Market-Your-Google-Plus-Hangout-on-AirThe Jamaican Language Unit has another programme on NewsTalk93FM: ‘Big Tingz A Gwaan’. And they asked Tyane Robinson and me to host the show. In Jamaican. We speak our mind about the news. And we have guests on the show. We’ve done three programmes already. It comes on Thursday afternoon at 4:30.

Let me give you a little joke. Some of the uptown guests can’t speak in Jamaican on radio!  It’s their yard language. It can’t go out on air. What a thing! Marcus Garvey has warned us:  We have to free ourselves from mental slavery. Nobody can do it for us.  Our head and our heart must start talking the same language.

Chávez Duppy Dream Sista P

Frederic Cassidy

Frederic Cassidy

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

Prapa-Prapa Spelin

imagesChávez dopi bierli riich evn an im disaid fi lef kom luk fi Sista P.  Im a no wan a dem man we lov logzyuri.  Im naa go waahn liv no ai laif op a evn, a waak pan ruod mek outa guol, an a sing an daans an plie aap, an a jrink milk an oni, an im wel nuo se nof piipl pan ort naa notn fi hiit an jrink. An no bada taak bout patuol!  Aal inna Jamieka.  No, sa! Chávez a wan a di wan-an-fyuu palitishan wid kanshens.  A it mek im dopi disaid fi flai doun kom taak tu Sista P.  Ier we im tel ar se.

Portia Simpson Miller

Portia Simpson Miller

Querida Portia, mi glad fi si yu kom a mi fineral.  Rispek dyuu!  Bai di wie, yu fi taak tu di Prezident a yu Senet.  Im no redi.  Mi no laik ou im dis di Jostis Minista.  Bot dat a wan neks tuori.  Yu don nuo mi lov Jamieka.  Luk ou mi gi unu wan gud-gud diil pan di ail.  So yu wuda a fi kom a mi fineral fi sen mi aaf inna stail.  Bot so moch a unu?  Wa mek yu antaraaj so big an braad, Sista P? Yu a gwaan laik se yu a wan a dem bran niem DJ.  A we unu get di moni fi di uol a unu kom magl a mi fineral?  Mi ongl uop a no Ouzn Chos.

Life and Debt

Peter Phillips

Peter Phillips

Beg yu tel Peter Phillips fi tek im an outa puor piipl pakit! Ouzn Chos moni a fi bil ous fi puor piipl.  A no fi bil op bojit.  If di bojit pap doun, Peter a fi go fain wan neks wie fi kach it op.  Mi a waan unu.  Wa staat bad a maanin kyaahn kom gud a iivnin.  Fram unu staat nyam out Ouzn Chos moni, tingz a go go fram bad tu wos tu wosara.  Wa a go apm wen it don?

Mi nuo se IMF a kwiiz unu nek.  Bot a fi unu faalt.  Wa mek unu gaan go rap op bak wid dem? Luk ou lang Michael Manley shuo wi se wi ha fi lef dem out!  Sista P, yu neva wach Stephanie Black flim, Life and Debt?  Lisn mi!  Wen yu ier wat Michael Manley se inna dat de flim, yu wuda nuo se Jamieka supuoz fi waak faar fram IMF.

http://www.lifeanddebt.org/

Yu nuo di big prablem wid Jamieka?  Unu ches tuu ai; an unu yai tuu big.  Unu a gwaan laik se unu a wash doun wid ail laka Venezuela an Trinidad an Tobago.  An iivn den.  Wa mek so moch farin fuud inna suupamaakit?  Wa rang wid Jamieka fuud?

math symbols_2Unu mout gluobal; an unu moni luokal.  An it kyaahn wok, Sista P. Unu a fi wiil an kom agen.  Mi naa se unu fi gu bak tu di aad life inna di sevntiz. Bot unu mos kyahn fain a wie fi liv pan di likl moni unu a mek.  Yu don nuo, mi an di American dem no plaahn no gungo a lain.  Bot mi a fi agrii wid Bill Clinton: “It’s arithmetic”.  A no suo-so palitiks.

Chaka-Chaka Spelling

Chávez duppy barely reach heaven an im decide fi lef come look fi Sista P.  Im a no one a dem man weh love luxury.  Im naa go waan live no high life up a heaven, a walk pon road mek outa gold, an a sing an dance an play harp, an a drink milk an honey, an im well know seh nuff people pon earth naa notn fi eat an drink. An no bodder talk bout pothole!  All inna Jamaica.  No, sah! Chávez a one a di one-an-few politician wid conscience.  A it mek im duppy decide fi fly down come talk to Sista P.  Hear weh im tell har seh.

Rev Stanley Redwood,President, Jamaican Senate

Rev Stanley Redwood,
President, Jamaican Senate

Querida Portia, mi glad fi see yu come a mi finaral.  Rispek due!  By di way, yu fi talk to di President a yu Senate.  Im no ready.  Mi no like how im diss di Justice Minister.  But dat a one next story.  Yu done know mi love Jamaica.  Look how mi gi unu one good-good deal pon di oil.  So yu woulda ha fi come a mi fineral fi send mi off inna style.  But so much a unu?  Weh mek yu entourage so big an broad, Sista P? Yu a gwaan like seh yu a one a dem brand name DJ.  A weh unu get di money fi di whole a unu come moggle a mi finaral?  Mi ongle hope a no Housing Trust.

Life and Debt

images-5Beg yu tell Peter Phillips fi tek im hand outa poor people pocket!  Housing Trust money a fi build house fi poor people.  A no fi build up budget.  If di budget pop down, Peter ha fi go find one next way fi cotch it up.  Mi a warn unu.  Wa start bad a mornin kyaan come good a evening.  From unu start nyam out Housing Trust money, tings a go go from bad to worse to worserer. Wa a go happen wen it done?

Stephanie Black

Stephanie Black

Mi know seh IMF a squeeze unu neck.  But a fi unu fault.  Weh mek unu gone go wrap up back wid dem? Look how long Michael Manley show wi seh wi ha fi lef dem out!  Sista P, yu never watch Stephanie Black flim, Life and Debt?  Listen mi!  When yu hear wat Michael Manley seh inna dat deh flim, yu woulda know seh Jamaica suppose fi walk far from IMF.

Yu know di big problem wid Jamaica?  Unu chest too high; an unu yai too big.  Unu a gwaan like seh unu a wash down wid oil laka Venezuela an Trindad an Tobago.  An even den.  Wa mek so much farin food inna supermarket?  Wa wrong wid Jamaica food?

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Unu mouth global; an unu money local.  An it kyaahn work, Sista P. Unu ha fi wheel an come again.  Mi naa seh unu fi go back to di hard life inna di seventies. But unu must kyah find a way fi live pon di lickle money unu a mek.  Yu done know, me an di American dem no plant no gungo a line.  But mi ha fi agree wid Bill Clinton: “It’s arithmetic”.  A no so-so politics.

Chávez’s Ghost Visits Sister P

images-7Chávez had only just got to heaven when he decided to leave and visit Sister P.  He’s not one of those men who love luxury.  He wouldn’t want to live on easy street, walking on gold, singing and dancing and playing the harp and drinking milk and honey, knowing full well that there are so many starving people on earth.  And don’t even talk about potholes!  Especially in Jamaica.  Not at all! Chávez is one of the small number of politicians with a conscience.  So that’s why he decided to come back to earth to talk to Sister P.  This is what he told her.

images-8Querida Portia, I was so glad to see you at my funeral. Rispek due!  By the way, you should have a word with the President of your Senate.  He’s not on top of things.  I didn’t like the way he dissed the Justice Minister.  But that’s another story.  You know I really love Jamaica.  That’s why I gave you such a good deal on the oil.  So you would have had to come to my funeral to send me off in style.  But so many of you?  Why was your entourage so huge, Sister P? You’re behaving as if you’re one of those brand name DJs.  Where did you get the money for so many of you to come and profile at my funeral?  I only hope it wasn’t from the Housing Trust.

Life and Debt

wrong-trackPlease tell Peter Phillips to take his hand out of poor people’s pocket!  Housing Trust funds are to be used to build houses for poor people. Not to build up the budget.  If the budget isn’t viable, Peter will have to find another way to prop it up.  I’m warning you:  if you go down the wrong track, it’s hard to get back on course.  Once you start plundering the resources of the Housing Trust, things will go from bad to worse. What will happen when it’s all eaten up?

I know that the IMF has you by the throat.  But it’s your fault.  Why have you gotten mixed up with them again? So long ago Michael Manley showed us that we should avoid them!  Sister P, didn’t you watch Stephanie Black’s film, Life and Debt?  I tell you.  When you listen to what Michael Manley said in that film, you would know that Jamaica should have nothing to do with the IMF.

You know what’s Jamaica’s big problem?  You all are much too vain and greedy.  You’re behaving as if you have huge oil reserves like Venezuela and Trindad and Tobago.  And even so.  Why is there so much imported food in your supermarkets?  What’s wrong with Jamaican food?

3d-silver-math-symbolsYour taste is global; and your currency is local.  And that can’t work, Sister P. You have to go back to the drawing board.  I’m not saying you should return to the hard times of the seventies. But you must be able to find a way to live within your means, however meagre.  You very well know that the Americans and I don’t see eye to eye.  But I have to agree with Bill Clinton: “It’s arithmetic”.  It’s not just politics.

Patwa Step Up Inna Life!

images-7I don’t usually give in to the demands of domineering men.  But I simply couldn’t resist the appeal of Mr. R. Oscar Lofters who responded rather passionately to my column “Out of Many, Fi Wi Langgwij”, published on October 28, 2012:  “I demand that from now on the professor writes her columns totally in Patwa. I refuse to read anymore of her columns written in English. Since Jamaicans all speak, write and understand Patwa, why waste time writing in a mixture of both?”

I suppose Mr. Lofters was being sarcastic.  But the very thought that he might possibly have been sending a serious message to the Gleaner’s Opinion Page Editor sent waves of pleasure rushing through my being.  Here was a man after my own heart who was up for creativity; a man with a lofty vision of what my mother tongue could do.  Mr. Lofters seemed to be celebrating the unlimited potential of the Jamaican language as a tool of communication worthy of the Sunday Gleaner’s editorial page.

images-8However much my brain was stimulated by the thought of submitting to Mr. Lofters’ seductive proposition, I knew it was all anti-climactic.  My hands were tied. Four months ago, Mr. Lofters didn’t stand a chance in hell of having his ‘dream’ come true. I wasn’t allowed to write a whole column in Jamaican. I was restricted to one paragraph per week.

‘You Can’t Do Science In Patwa’

Then along came that VW Super Bowl ad!  And in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, everything changed.  The playing field is almost level. I’ve now been given ‘permission’ to write one column per month in Jamaican.  From one paragraph to a ‘whole-a’ column!  ‘Wat a sinting! Patwa step up inna life’.  It’s an experiment that will run for five months.

If readers approve, I may even be able to write a ‘proper-proper’ bilingual column once again:  one week in English, the other in Jamaican, as I did for the Observer in the 1990s.  It wasn’t easy to get the conservative editors of that juvenile newspaper to agree.  Youthfulness is no guarantee of creativity; and old age is no guarantee of wisdom.

Sarcasm-sarcasm-7520042-350-350With due respect to Mr. Lofters, I really don’t want to use ‘so-so Patwa’ each week, even though I thoroughly enjoy the challenges of writing expository prose in my mother tongue.  It’s a language we’ve been taught to diss:  it’s ‘limited’.  Sceptics keep on making silly claims like, ‘You can’t do science in Patwa.’

They don’t know that speakers of a language can make it do anything they want.  It’s not the language that’s doing the thinking.  And if you need technical vocabulary for new concepts, you simply make it up or ‘borrow’ from another language, the way speakers of English do all the time.

‘Mix Up and Blenda’     

Still for all, I’m never going to give up writing in English.  I just love the quirkiness of the language.  I think of English as the world’s greatest patois.  Its vocabulary is a tasty stew of basic Anglo-Saxon words and a host of borrowings from other languages such as Greek, Latin, Old Norman, French, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Yoruba, Twi, Maori, Yiddish and, these days, even Jamaican!

images-9    Interestingly, the word ‘cashew’ entered the English language via Jamaica.  The story of this word and lots of others is told by the linguist Frederic Cassidy in his most entertaining and informative book, Jamaica Talk:  Three Hundred Years of the English Language in Jamaica.  Of course, there were other languages in Jamaica over the centuries.  The ‘mix up an blenda’ produced strange new words.

So ‘cashew’ comes from French ‘acajou’, from Portuguese ‘acaju’, from Tupi Indian ‘acajú’.  According to Cassidy, the Oxford English Dictionary “first cites the word from 1703, but it was borrowed at least forty-five years before that time.  In The State of Jamaica (dated post 1660), we find ‘Cashues’ in a list of fruits along with ‘supotillia, advocatas, custard apples’ and others”.

Once you understand the arbitrariness of language, it becomes much easier to accept variation as part of the natural flow of things.  So when a Jamaican speaker pronounces ‘cashew’ as ‘kyáshu’ or ‘kúshu’, this is certainly not ‘bad English’.  Especially since ‘cashew’ isn’t English at all.  Cassidy also notes that the dropping off of the ‘a’ from ‘acajou’ “appears to be a part of the original adoption”.  So Jamaicans are responsible for cashew losing its head.

images-10      Native speakers of English are often not hooked on ‘correctness’ in the way that up-tight, second-language learners often are.  They actually experiment with their mother tongue, making it do all sorts of interesting things.  Words like ‘bling’ and ‘diss’ have found their way into English not just as slang, but as ‘respectable’ new vocabulary, heard on the BBC.

‘Mi Just Kyaan Read Patwa’

The big problem with writing a column in Jamaican is the mindset of many potential readers. I’m always amazed at the way some people say with apparent pride, “Mi just kyaan read Patwa”.  As though this is a sign of congenital superiority.

images-11      But many Jamaicans routinely read and write in our mother tongue.  We just don’t seem to be conscious of what we’re doing.  Or we don’t want to admit it.  We send text messages in ‘Patwa’ all the time.  And think of all those Jamaican jokes that circulate on the Internet.

There’s a standard writing system for the Jamaican language that was developed almost fifty years ago.  But it has not been widely taught in school.  That’s not surprising.  Our school system really doesn’t take seriously the mother tongue of most Jamaicans. Well, better late than never. Starting next week, I’ll be using the official writing system along with a ‘chaka-chaka’ version.  Adventurous readers will get a chance to learn the ‘prapa-prapa sistim’.

‘Corruption of Language is No Cultural Heritage’

Morris Cargill

That headline was classic Morris Cargill.  In his Sunday Gleaner column published on October 29, 1989, Cargill mockingly made his case for banning ‘Patois’:  “The slackness and anarchy of Patois reflects itself [sic] in the slackness and anarchy of our society in general.  We are as we speak and we speak as we are”.

That ‘sic’ is not a bad dog I’m setting on Cargill’s duppy.  It’s a sign of a grammatical slip that could be mistaken for a typing error.  ‘Sic’ is Latin, meaning ‘thus, so’.    In this context, it means, ‘a so Cargill write it’.  The subject of the sentence is plural – ‘slackness and anarchy’ – so the form of the verb should also be plural – ‘reflect’.  And, of course, ‘itself’ should then be ‘themselves’.  The passive voice would have been even better: “The slackness and anarchy of Patois are reflected in  . . .”

I don’t usually draw attention to grammatical errors in public, except in the classroom.  I don’t set out to embarrass speakers who are not competent in English; not even duppies. I don’t idolize English. It’s just a useful tool of communication like every other language across the globe.   But since Morris Cargill used to make such a big point about English ‘correctness,’ I think it’s quite appropriate in this instance to show him up.

Bilingual Education

In that contemptuous column, Cargill attempted to ridicule the lucid arguments made by Dr. Mertel Thompson in support of bilingual education for Jamaican students.  For more than two decades, Dr. Thompson taught English at the University of the West Indies, Mona.  She certainly understood the complexities of language teaching and learning in Jamaica.

Last week, Dr. Thompson was laid to rest.  At her funeral service, her son, Douglas, reminded the congregation of Cargill’s tongue-in-cheek assessment of the value of his mother’s academic work.  And he humorously predicted that Mertel would be giving Morris language lessons in heaven.

On Earth, Cargill paid no attention to the rigorous scholarship of all the linguists who have given clear evidence that Jamaican is, indeed, a language. For example, the Trinidadian linguist Mervyn Alleyne explains in his book Roots of Jamaican Culture how the new language developed:

    “[B]ecause Africans speaking different languages and coming from different parts of West Africa needed to communicate both among themselves and (less so) with Europeans (in this case English people, themselves speaking different dialects and coming from different parts of the United Kingdom), their language changed.  First the vocabulary is discarded, then the morphology, then the syntax, and finally the phonology; within phonology the old intonation pattern apparently lasts longest.”

Pure Jamaican

Louise Bennett

In less technical language, Louise Bennett’s Aunty Roachy gives a much more subversive account of the process.  She doesn’t use those big Latin/Greek words:  ‘vocabulary’ (words); ‘morphology’ (structure); ‘syntax’ (word order) or ‘phonology’ (sound).  It’s pure Jamaican:  “Aunty Roachy seh dat if Jamaican dialect is corruption of de English Language, den it is also a corruption of de African Twi Language to, a oh!

“For Jamaica dialect did start when we English forefahders did start mus-an-boun we African ancestors fi stop talk fi-dem African language altogedder an learn fi talk so-so English, because we English forefahders couldn understan what we African ancestors-dem wasa seh to dem one anodder!

“But we African ancestors-dem pop we English forefahders-dem!  Yes!  Pop dem an disguise up de English Language fi projec fi-dem African language in such a way dat we English forefahders-dem still couldn understan what we African ancestors-dem wasa talk bout when dem wasa talk to dem one anodder!”

Unlike Aunty Roachy and Dr. Thompson, Morris Cargill had no respect for the Jamaican language.  He dismissed those of us who, as he put it,  “would like to see Patois retained as part of our cultural heritage, and believe that it can occupy that honourable place alongside the teaching of standard English”.

‘A lousy heritage’

   Cargill made his own position absolutely clear:  “I, on the other hand, take the view that if it is what is called ‘our cultural heritage,’ it is a lousy heritage redolent of slavery and that if we keep on saying it is a great thing, it merely encourages its continued use until it will finally swamp what remains of standard English in Jamaica.  Of necessity, most people have inherited patois but I see no reason to make a virtue of necessity”.

Frederic Cassidy

Making a virtue of necessity, I knew that it was imperative to respond to Cargill; and in Jamaican.  Too often we defend the Jamaican language in English.  I also decided to use the writing system designed for the language by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy.  My response to Morris Cargill’s column was published in the Sunday Gleaner on November 5, 1989.  This is how I launched my counter-attack:

Wat a nais bakra man Misa Cargill iz, iing!  Luk ou im so sari fi puor ignarant blak piipl!  No waant no huol hiip a bakwod piipl dis a waak-waak bout Jamieka a iikwal op demself, a gwaan laik se dem a taak langgwij jos laik im, a fuul op demself.  Nuo man!  Misa Cargill waant di huol a wi fi nuo wi plies.  Im waant wi fi nuo se wi kom iin laik pus an daag:  wi kyan baak an bait an mek naiz an shuo se wi beks, an kin wi tiit.  Bot langgwij?  Kolcha?  Wa niem so?  Wi no nuo dem de hai wod, maasa.  Dem briid a wod ongl paas out a bakra mout.

These days, the Gleaner would never publish on the editorial page a column written entirely in Jamaican.  Believe me, I have tried. We have flag independence. Yet we continue to suffer from mental slavery.  Claiming the power of the language we have created on this Jamrock would be a big step on the long journey to full freedom.

Two Faces of White Jamaica: Cassidy v Cargill

I don’t have the time right now to translate this post into Jamaican.  Sorry to disappoint those of you who look forward to reading Jamaican.  But I’ll do it for next week when I’ll be under a little less pressure.

Frederic Cassidy and Morris Cargill were white Jamaicans whose responses to the culture of the black majority reveal radically different mindsets.  Morris Cargill suffered from a terrible superiority complex.  He was an opinionated newspaper columnist and lawyer who had absolutely no respect for local intellectual traditions.

Frederic Cassidy was a gentleman-scholar who contributed in great measure to the academic life of the Caribbean and far beyond.  As a professor of Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the 1960s, Cassidy led the research project that resulted in the publication of the multi-volume Dictionary of American Regional English.

Perverse Pleasure

Morris Cargill

For more than forty years, Morris Cargill used his column in the colonialist Gleaner to batter black people.  He couldn’t have gotten away with it in the U.S., Britain or any mature democracy.  But this is Jamaica.  Racism is cute.  Cargill took perverse pleasure in preaching the gospel of the natural inferiority of African people to Europeans.

Cargill, ever provoking, once wrote a newspaper column headlined, “Corruption of Language is no Cultural Heritage.”  He seemed to be claiming that African peoples and our languages are sub-human.  And the Caribbean Creoles that developed out of the many African languages brought over in the heads of our ancestors are nothing but monkey talk.

I was so vexed when I read that column, I had to reply: “Cho, Misa Cargill, Rispek Juu!’” I decided to answer Cargill in Jamaican, the very language he was dissing.  And I used the writing system for the language that had been developed by Professor Cassidy.  A horse of a different colour.

A Labour of Love

Frederic Cassidy celebrated the verbal creativity of the black people among whom he grew up. His book, Jamaica Talk:  Three Hundred Years of the English Language in Jamaica, which was jointly published in 1961 by the Institute of Jamaica and Macmillan in London, is a labour of love.

It is true that the subtitle of the book plays down the African elements in our language.  By the way, I prefer the nationalist label ‘Jamaican,’ rather than the academic ‘Creole’ or the much more popular ‘patwa.’    But whatever name you call it, the language clearly has African features, which Cassidy does acknowledge.

In collaboration with the equally distinguished linguist, Robert LePage, Cassidy produced The Dictionary of Jamaican English Published in 1967, the dictionary is still not widely known here.  The prohibitive cost was a factor.

Thankfully, as a result of my initiative, Cambridge University Press sold the paperback rights to the University of the West Indies Press.  The cost of the dictionary has been greatly reduced. Every single Jamaican school can now afford to put The Dictionary of Jamaican English in its library.

Fulling the Space

The day after my response to Cargill’s wicked column was published, I got a whole heap of complaints from plenty people who hadn’t bothered to read the pronunciation guide to the Cassidy writing system that I’d included.  So they were frustrated.  As Cargill himself put it in his off-the-cuff reply, they ‘couldn’t make head or tale of the maze of phonetics.’

But what upset them even more was the fact that their children could read the text so easily.  That’s not hard to understand.  The Cassidy writing system is phonetic and all the children did was to apply commonsense to the strange-looking text.  As Mr. Anthony Sewell, the postman in the neighbourhood where I used to live, put it so brilliantly,  ‘it full the space of our real African language.’

Unmasking Ignorance

One of fascinating features of the Dictionary of Jamaican English is its account of the origin of the words it defines.  Or, as Professor Cassidy himself says, “A word is an encyclopaedia.  It tells you about the people who use it, where they come from and what their lives are like.”

Many of our Jamaican words come straight from West Africa.  Asham.  The original word in Twi, one of the languages of Ghana, is ‘o-siam.’  Look it up in the Dictionary if you don’t know the meaning!  Then you might think that the word ‘mirazmi’ is African.  You’ll discover that it’s actually Latin, ‘marasmus.’  And, would you believe it, the word ‘cashew’ entered the English language via Jamaica.

Professor Hubert Devonish (right), Sir Colvile Young, governor general of Belize (left) and Dr. Marta Dijkhoff, former minister of education in the Netherland Antilles. From the Gleaner website, Ian Allen/Photographer

The historic conference on “Language Policy in the Creole-Speaking Caribbean” that was convened last week by Professor Hubert Devonish, Head of the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona, was a huge success.

The conference brought together, from across the region, ministers of government (present and past), representatives of various educational and cultural institutions, civil society activists and linguists, of course, on a mission to spread the word on the power of our local languages.

Blissful ignorance – of the Morris Cargill variety – often masquerades as fact.  Or playful satire.  Genuine scholarship reveals the true face hidden beneath the grinning mask.

Maasa Gad Taak Patwa?

Photo from DARE website

Last week, I was properly chastised on the blog by Aasia who firmly reminded me that I’d promised to start using the specialist writing system for Jamaican:

“As much as I support promoting Jamaican, I don’t like when it is polluted as you do it sometimes. I know reading and understanding true/Cassidy system Jamaican is difficult but we will get used to it eventually if you use it more often. I thought you said you were going to be using this space for that? To my mind, attempting to write Jamaican with English syntax/lexicon etc is bad English and not Jamaican. And, if we continue to write Jamaican mixed with so many English words (although Jamaican is English-based) we would be playing into the hands of the persons who continue to say Jamaican cannot stand on its own as a language.  Please use the Cassidy system Doc.”

Aasia refers here to the writing system for Jamaican that was developed by the Jamaican-born linguist Frederic Cassidy who enjoyed a distinguished career as a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Professor Cassidy was the founder of DARE, the Dictionary of American Regional English.  Visit the DARE website at http://dare.wisc.edu/?q=node/23

The DARE site informs us that “Although the idea of a dictionary of the dialects of American English had been promoted by the American Dialect Society (ADS) as long ago as 1889, the reality of that project did not begin to take shape until 1962, when Frederic Cassidy . . . was appointed Editor.”

Like a typical Jamaican, Cassidy just took over:  “Late in the 1940s, chafing at the inaction of the ADS, Cassidy had decided to do a pilot survey in Wisconsin to test the feasibility of a nationwide field survey. With graduate student Audrey R. Duckert, he combed the relevant publications and devised a lengthy questionnaire asking about as many topics of daily life as they could think of. Carrying out the survey using mailed packets of questions, Cassidy and Duckert determined that, with some modifications of the questionnaire, it would indeed be possible to undertake a country-wide examination of American English.”

Paperback edition published by the University of the West Indies Press

Cassidy had had lots of experience in the field, particularly from working with Robert LePage on the superb Dictionary of Jamaican English. Using the proper technical terms, he laid out the writing system for Jamaican in the dictionary which was first published in 1967.

Here’s my amateur version of the system.  In the first column is the symbol of the sound; in the second column, I use the Cassidy spelling for Jamaican; and in the third column, I illustrate the pronunciation of the words using English spellings of roughly equivalent sounds.

Vowel Symbols Application English version
i it it
ii iit eat
ie rien rain
e pen pen
a hat hat
aa haat heart
ai hait height
o hot hot
u put put
uu yuut youth
ou hous house
uo duor door


Consonants Application English version
b big big
p pig pig
d dig dig
t tin tin
g go go
gy gyal gal
k kop cup
ky kyap cap
m mii me
n net net
ny nyuu new
ng ring ring
v van van
f fan fan
z zuu zoo
s son son
sh fish fish
j juk jook
ch chap chap
l lik lick
w waata water
r rien rain
y yes yes

So mek wi gu ina it:

Ef Maasa Gad no taak patwa, mi sari fi dem uol iip a piipl iina Jamieka an iina farin wa taak tu im ebri die inna patwa an ekspek im fi ansa dem:  Du Maasa Jiizas!  Memba di pikni dem mi a fait op wid.  No mek dem get iina no chrobl!  Yes, Laad.  Yu si di bad briid man mi de wid?  Du, no bada mek notn bad apn tu im.  Bad az tingz bi, mi uda neva laik si im get wat im dizorv.”

“Laad Gad!  Yu si di uman wa yu gi mi fi liv wid?  Maasa Jiizas, wa mek yu bring dong dat de kraasiz pan mi?  A we mi du?  A no likl chrai mi chrai wid di bad-main uman.  Mi memba dat lang taim abak wen mi a put aagyument tu ar.  Di uman gwaan laik se bota kudn melt iina ar mout.  An nou, yu fi ier fi briid a kos shi dis a kos mi.  Laad, tek di kies an lef di pila.”