Obama Done Know Wa A Gwaan

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

JAMAICA-US-DIPLOMACY-OBAMA-TOWN HALLSo Obama go a youth forum an im greet di massive inna fi wi language. An im big up UWI. An im aks, “Wa a gwaan, Jamaica”? An it sweet nuff a wi. Yeah, man! Obama talk up di ting.   But unu see seh im never talk dat deh talk wen im go a Jamaica House an wen im go meet di govament head dem. Im know wa a gwaan. Fi wi heart language no good enough fi dem deh high-up meeting.

Then chruu mi difend fi wi language, people a run joke wid mi, a aks mi if a mi did teach Obama fi talk Jamaican. Mi? Poor mi, poor gyal! Mi never get fi meet Obama, much less fi a gi im extra lesson. An mi never young enough fi go a di youth forum. By di way, mi wuda love fi know a who pick some a dem deh ‘youth’. Wen mi a watch di forum pon TV, mi see some hard-back, old, old smaddy a try pass fi youth. Mi seh to miself, “Dem must have big links fi get bogus age-paper”! Anyhow, a Jamaica dis. A bandooloo run tings.

Still for all, mi no know how dem deh unconscionable old smaddy no shame fi a tek weh young people seat. Fi dem shame-tree dead, dead, dead. An mi know seh di down-grow ‘youth’ dem a go seh a nutten but bad-mind an grudgeful mek mi a bad-talk dem, chruu mi never have no contact. Mi have conscience. Mi go outa road go watch motorcade pass wen Obama lef UWI fi go a Heroes Circle. Wat a piece a excitement! Fi wi outrider dem inna dem boasy uniform; an di whole heap a secret service guardy dem; an di two Beast dem!

‘WAZ OP WI DAT’?

mothers-tongue_0One a di ting Obama well know a dis: wen yu talk tu people inna fi dem heart language, yu get nuff forward. Mi fren, Prof. Hubert Devonish, send mi dis ya email: “In the whole Obama Jamaica language hoopla, the thing never mentioned is that he is himself a native or near native speaker of Hawaiian Creole (HC)! Check this video in which his ‘deviation’ into HC bears some interesting comparisons with his ‘Wa a gwaan, Jamieka?’ bit.”

Prof. Devonish a one linguist an im a di head a di Jamaica Language Unit a UWI. So im know weh im a talk bout.   Pon di video, President Obama dida gi one speech inna 2012. Im dida talk inna Washington, DC to di Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.   Same time Obama seh im born a Hawai’i, some a di Hawai’an people dem bawl out, “Chee huu”! Im stop braps. An im start laugh. Cau im know weh dem a seh. Dem well glad fi know seh im an dem come from di same place. Dem talk di same language. So hear Obama im, “These Hawaiians here! Waz op wi dat”?

Then music a one next language weh reach people, all wen dem no ketch di lyrics. Look how reggae music gone all over di world! An mi glad fi see seh Obama did go a Bob Marley Museum. Mi ongle sorry seh wen im did go a Heroes Circle im never dis go down a Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey. An mi know seh some people a seh dem no want Merica pardon Garvey becau im never do nutten wrong. Mi no gree wid dem. Merika fi stop tell lie pon Garvey seh im a jinnal an gi wi national hero di honour an rispek im deserve. Dat’s wa up wi dat.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

OBAMA_6So Obama go a yuut fuorom an im griit di masiv ina fi wi langgwij. An im big op UWI. An im aks, “Wa a gwaan, Jamieka”? An it swiit nof a wi. Ye, man! Obama taak op di ting.   Bot unu si se im neva taak dat de taak wen im go a Jamaica House an wen im go miit di govament ed dem. Im nuo wa a gwaan. Fi wi aat langgwij no gud inof fi dem de ai-op miitn.

Den chruu mi difen fi wi langgwij, piipl a ron juok wid mi, a aks mi if a mi did tiich Obama fi taak Jamiekan. Mi? Puor mi, puor gyal! Mi neva get fi miit Obama, moch les fi a gi im ekstra lesn. An mi neva yong inof fi go a di yuut fuorom. Bai di wie, mi wuda lov fi nuo a uu pik som a dem de ‘yuut’. Wen mi a wach di fuorom pan TV, mi si som aad-bak, uol, uol smadi a chrai paas fi yuut. Mi se tu miself, “Dem mos av big lingks fi get buogos iej-piepa”! Eniou, a Jamieka dis. A banduulu ron tingz.

Stil far aal, mi no nuo ou dem de ankanshanebl uol smadi no shiem fi a tek we yong piipl siit. Fi dem shiem-chrii ded, ded, ded. An mi nuo se di dong-gruo ‘yuut’ dem a go se a notn bot bad-main an grojful mek mi a bad-taak dem, chruu mi neva av no kantak. Mi av kanshens. Mi go outa ruod go wach muotakied a paas wen Obama lef UWI fi go a Heroes Circle. Wat a piis a eksaitment! Fi wi outraida dem ina dem buosi yuunifaam; an di uol iip a siikrit sorvis gyaadi dem; an di tuu Biis dem!

‘WAZ OP WI DAT’?

Wan a di ting Obama wel nuo a dis: wen yu taak tu piipl ina fi dem aat langgwij, yu get nof faawad. Mi fren, Prof. Hubert Devonish, sen mi dis ya iimiel: “In the whole Obama Jamaica language hoopla, the thing never mentioned is that he is himself a native or near native speaker of Hawaiian Creole (HC)! Check this video in which his ‘deviation’ into HC bears some interesting comparisons with his ‘Wa a gwaan, Jamieka?’ bit”.

Prof. Devonish a wan linggwis an im a di ed a di Jamieka Langgwij Yuunit a UWI. So im nuo we im a taak bout.   Pan di vidiyo, President Obama dida gi wan spiich ina 2012. Im dida taak ina Washington, DC tu di Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.   Siem taim Obama se im baan a Hawai’i, som a di Hawai’an piipl dem baal out, “Chee huu”! Im stap braps. An im staat laaf. Kaa im nuo we dem a se. Dem wel glad fi nuo se im an dem kom fram di siem plies. Dem taak di siem langwij. So ier Obama im, “These Hawaiians here! Waz op wi dat”?

Den myuuzik a wan neks langgwij we riich piipl, aal wen dem no kech di liriks. Luk ou rege myuuzik gaan aal uova di worl! An mi glad fi si se Obama did go a Bob Marley Museum. Mi ongl sari se wen im did go a Heroes Circle im neva dis go dong a Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey. An mi nuo se som piipl a se dem no waahn Merika paadn Garvey bikaa im neva du notn rang. Mi no grii wid dem. Merika fi tap tel lai pan Garvey se im a jinal an gi wi nashinal iiro di ana an rispek im disorv. Dat’s wa op wi dat.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  OBAMA KNOWS WHAT’S UP

Barack Obama,So Obama went to the youth forum and greeted the massive in our language. And he said, “Big up, UWI”! And he asked, “What’s up, Jamaica”? And lots of us were tickled. Yeah, man! Obama got the language right. But you must have noticed that he didn’t use that language when he went to Jamaica House nor when he went to meet the heads of government. He knows what’s up. Our heart language isn’t good enough for those official meetings.

Then because I defend our language, some people had a little fun at my expense, asking if it was me who taught Obama to talk Jamaican. Me? Hardly likely! I didn’t get to meet Obama, much less to give him a tutorial. And I wasn’t young enough to go to the youth forum. By the way, I would love to know who selected some of those ‘youth’. When I watched the forum on TV, I saw  some rather tough-looking old people trying to pass themselves off as youth. I said to myself, “They must be very well connected to get fake birth certificates”! Anyhow, this is Jamaica. Trickery is the name of the game.

All the same, I don’t know how those unconscionable old people didn’t feel any shame at taking the place of young people. Their conscience is dead, dead, dead. And I know that these over-age ‘youth’ are going to say I’m criticising them out of malice.  It’s just because I didn’t have any contacts.  I have a conscience. I went on the road to watch the motorcade pass when Obama left UWI to go to Heroes Circle. What an excitement! Our outriders in their stylish uniforms; and all of the secret service security guards; and the two Beasts!

‘WAZ OP WI DAT’?

images-1One of the things Obama knows all too well is this: when you talk to people in their heart language, you get lots of positive vibes. My friend, Prof Hubert Devonish, sent me this email: “In the whole Obama Jamaica language hoopla, the thing never mentioned is that he is himself a native or near native speaker of Hawaiian Creole (HC)! Check this video in which his ‘deviation’ into HC bears some interesting comparisons with his ‘Wa a gwaan, Jamieka?’ bit.”

Prof Devonish is a  linguist and he’s the head of the Jamaican Language Unit at UWI. So he knows what he’s talking about. The video shows President Obama giving a speech in 2012 in Washington, DC to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. As soon as Obama said he was born in Hawai’i, some of the Hawai’ians shouted out, “Chee huu”! He stopped in his tracks.  And he started to laugh. Because he knew what they were saying. They were excited because they were all from the same place. They spoke the same language. And here’s how Obama responded, “These Hawai’ians here! Waz op wi dat”?

Then music is another language that touches people, even when they don’t catch the lyrics. Just think about how reggae music has gone all over the world! And I’m glad Obama visited the Bob Marley Museum. I’m just sorry that when he went to Heroes Circle he didn’t go down to Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey. And I know that some people are saying they don’t want the US to pardon Garvey because he committed no crime. I don’t agree with them. The US needs to stop perpetuating the lie that Garvey was a con artist and give our national hero the honour and respect he deserve. That’s what’s  up with that.

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.

University Fi Stone Dog – Seet Deh!

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
hydel_univWhat a way time fly! Mi did write one column, ‘University fi stone dog’, weh Gleaner publish pon September 13, 2009. An nuff smaddy did bex wid mi, seh mi a tek liberty wid Hydel University College an di whole heap a odder ‘university’ dem all bout di place weh a gi out degree. See piece a weh mi did seh ya:

“So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Story come to bump! See Gleaner big-big headline last week Wednesday: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. Seet deh now! It look like seh mi turn warner woman. But a no me a talk out di tings now. A Gleaner. An truth a truth.

See one next ting mi did seh: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

DRAW BAD CARD

From what mi get fi understand, a ‘university’ put spokes inna Hydel wheel. It look like seh if dem tek out ‘university’ an lef so-so ‘college’, dem gone clear. Mi no know wa mek dem so hard-ears an nah tek telling. Old-time people seh, ‘High seat kill Miss Thomas puss.’ An it look like seh high name might-a kill Miss Bennett ‘University College’.

Ambition-Picture-3All a wi want fi step up inna life. So mi do understand wa mek Miss Bennett set up university. Hydel got nursery, preschool, prep school, pre-first form, junior high, senior high, six form, special education centre, ketch-up reading centre, study centre an evening college. ‘University college’ a di next step. But Miss Bennett ha fi dweet right. Yu ha fi creep before yu walk

A di student dem mi sorry fa. How dem fi know seh big-big Hydel deh pon di low? When dem come a Ferry, an see how Hydel sprawl off, how dem coulda even tink seh di ‘university college’ no deh pan UCJ list? After dem pay school fee, dem cerfiticket naa no value? It can’t carry dem nowhere? Dat no right. Dem draw bad card. Mi no know how dem an Miss Bennett a go work it out.

An a no Hydel one. Said same problem a Mico. Me want know wa UCJ a seh. Dem can’t run couple ad, laka FSC, fi warn people bout di bogus degree dem weh no register? If a no UCJ, a who response fi sort out di ‘university’ lotto scam?

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN
Unknown-2Wat a wie taim flai! Mi did rait wan kalom, ‘University fi stone dog’, we Gleaner poblish pan Septemba 13, 2009. An nof smadi did beks wid mi, se mi a tek libati wid Hydel University College an di uol iip a ada ‘yuunivorsiti’ dem aal bout di plies we a gi out digrii.

Si piis a we mi did se ya:  “So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Tuori kom tu bomp! Si Gleaner big-big edlain laas wiik Wenzde: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. Siit de nou! It luk laik se mi ton waana uman. Bot a no mi a taak out di tingz nou. A Gleaner. An chruut a chruut.

Si wan neks ting mi did se: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

JRAA BAD KYAAD

Unknown-5

Mrs. Hyacinth Bennett

Fram wat mi get fi andastan, a ‘university’ put spuoks ina Hydel wiil. It luk laik se if dem tek out ‘university’ an lef suo-so ‘college’, dem gaan klier. Mi no nuo wa mek dem so aad-iez an naa tek telin. Uol-taim piipl se, ‘Ai siit kil Mis Tamas pus.’ An it luk laik se ai niem maita kil Mis Bennett ‘university college’.

Aal a wi waahn fi step op ina laif. So mi duu andastan wa mek Miss Bennett set op yuunivorsiti. Hydel gat norsri, prii-skuul, prep skuul, prii-fos faam, juunya ai, siinya ai, siks faam, speshal edikieshan senta, kech-up riidn senta, stodi senta an iivnin kalij. ‘University College’ a di neks step. Bot Mis Bennett a fi dwiit rait. Yu ha fi kriip bifuor yu waak.

A di styuudent dem mi sari fa. Ou dem fi nuo se big-big Hydel de pan di luo? Wen dem kom a Ferry, an si ou Hydel spraal aaf, ou dem kuda iivn tingk se di ‘university college’ no de pan UCJ lis? Aafta dem pie skuul fii, dem sorfitikit naa no valyu? It kyaahn kyari dem no-we? Dat no rait. Dem jraa bad kyaad. Mi no nuo ou dem an Mis Bennett a go work it out.

An a no Hydel wan. Sed siem prablem a Mico. Mii waan nuo wa UCJ a se. Dem kyaa ron kopl ad, laka FSC, fi waan piipl bout di buogos digrii dem we no rigista? If a no UCJ, a uu rispans fi saat out di ‘yuunivorsiti’ lato skyam?

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Unknown-3Time certainly flies! I wrote a column, ‘University fi stone dog’, which was published in The Gleaner on September 13, 2009.  Lots of people were upset with me because they thought I was taking liberties with Hydel University College and all of those other ‘universities’ all over the place that are handing out degrees. Here’s a bit from that column:

“So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Things have come to a head! Here’s last Wednesday’s alarming Gleaner headline: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. There you have it! It seems as if I’m  a warner woman. But I’m not the one raising the alarm now.  It’s the Gleaner. And you just have to face the truth.

Here’s what I also said: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

imagesA  BAD HAND

From what I understand, it’s the name ‘university’ that has put a spoke in Hydel’s wheel. It seems as if all they need to do is take out ‘university’ and keep  ‘college’.  And they’ll be able to get registered.  I don’t know why they’re being so stubborn and not taking advice.  Proverbial wisdom warns,  ‘high-climbing killed Miss Thomas’ cat’.  And it looks as if over-reaching might kill Miss Bennett’s ‘University College’.

All of us want to step up our game.  So I do understand why Miss Bennett has set up a university. Hydel has a  nursery, preschool, prep school, pre-first form, junior high, senior high, sixth form, special education centre, remedial reading centre, study centre and evening college. ‘University college’ is the next step. But Miss Bennett has to do it right. You have to creep before you walk.

It’s the students I feel sorry for. How could they know that all is not well at Hydel? When they come to Ferry, and see how prosperous Hydel looks, why would it even occur to them that the ‘university college’ is not registered with the UCJ ? After paying fees, they find out that their certificate has no value? It can’t take them anywhere? That’s not right. They’ve been dealt a very bad hand. And I just don’t know how Miss Bennett is going to compensate them.

UCJAnd  Hydel isn’t the only ‘university’ in trouble. Mico University College has the very same problem. I want to know what the UCJ has to say. Can’t the Council run ads, like the  FSC does, to warn prospective students about unregistered degree programmes?  And if it’s not UCJ, who’s responsible for policing the ‘university’ lotto scam?

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.

Exploiting Brand Jamaica

“So wat we a get outa it?” That’s the question I was asked by a rather sceptical Rastaman, Raymond, who sells in Papine Market.  He seemed to think that VW of America, Inc. owed Jamaicans something for the viral super bowl ad which has gotten two million more hits since play day.  Well over twelve million in all!  “How yu mean?”, I asked.  “We can’t stop people from trying to talk like us!”  The man just kiss im teeth.  Obviously, I was a big eedyat.

The more I thought about the vendor’s penetrating question I realised that it wasn’t limited to the specific case of the VW ad.  He was actually raising the much broader issue of whether or not Jamaicans can, in fact, benefit from the global appeal of our culture.  Who defines ‘Brand Jamaica’?  Who ‘owns’ the brand?  And how can this brand be best exploited in the interest of the masses of the Jamaican people?

92983.gifThere’s a big difference between brand identity and brand image. Identity is who we really are; image is how others see us.  So they attempt to construct an alternative image that suits their own needs.

On the other hand, the very people who embody ‘Brand Jamaica’, like that market vendor, are usually left out of the process of defining and marketing the brand. They are not entitled to interrogate the ‘experts’. All the same, Jamaica’s distinctive identity is not ‘uptown’; it’s ‘downtown’.  And, at the risk of offending our minority racial groups who do not wish to be seen as ‘minority’, it’s obvious that ‘Brand Jamaica’ is the black majority.

“Proper-proper Language”

Even though some of us consistently refuse to see ourselves as we actually are, non-Jamaicans find it relatively easy to immediately recognise some of the key components of our identity: for example, our distinctive language.  And some of them make a big effort to try to learn it.  They want to be in the know.

GlobalReggaeCoverI recently telephoned a European embassy about the launch of the Global Reggae book I edited, which takes place today at 6:00 at PULS8.  The diplomat I spoke to said he’d been planning to contact me.  Several of his colleagues want to take a course in ‘patwa’.  I couldn’t resist saying ‘Jamaican’.  And I put him in touch with Professor Hubert Devonish who heads the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies.

How do we see Jamaican?  It’s not even a language.  It’s nothing but a ‘corrupt’, ‘broken’ version of English, with absolutely no social status.  After all, “is black people mek it up”.  You can bet your last devalued dollar that if Europeans had created ‘patwa’ it would now be accepted as a ‘proper-proper’ language.

Counterfeit Jamaicans

bolt_to_di_world_jamaican_flag_hat-p148359947895250901en80o_216I think it’s a great idea for everybody in the whole world to learn Jamaican.  It’s a global language of athletic prowess, musical genius, dutty winery, business acumen and innovation in so many other fields.  The real problem is the counterfeiting of Jamaican products in global markets; and the exploitation of the name ‘Jamaica’.

The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) has been valiantly negotiating for the recognition of “nation branding as a development tool”.  In a major report to the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), a very strong case was made for protecting Brand Jamaica.  The report documents “the extent of use of Jamaica’s country name in trade marks that are registered by persons or entities which have no association with Jamaica in relation to good and services which do not originate in Jamaica”.

4000304_f260A classic example is the “Jamaica energy drink” which was actually made in Croatia.  Turning Jamaica’s superlative Olympic performance into a marketable commodity, Croatians just decided to ‘try a ting’.  And talking of ‘ting’, remember how hard it was for the Ting soft drink to enter the US market.  It was argued that ‘Ting’ was too similar to ‘Tang’, the U.S. fruit-flavoured drink.  I can’t recall all the details of the case but I do remember being asked to write a statement confirming that ‘ting’ was a Jamaican word.

Thanks to the expertise of JIPO, the bogus “Jamaica energy drink” was yanked from the shelves.  We haven’t been so lucky with the “all natural Jamaican style ginger ale” which has not a shred of Jamaican ginger in its ingredients.  Well, the label does say “style”.  It doesn’t claim to be the real thing.  So the product is still on the market.

Paying to get happy

imagesI was quite disappointed to find out that, in a not-so-surprising twist, Sandals has had to pull their ‘Germaican’ spoof of the VW ad.  Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International, told me that the Partridge Family, copyright holders of “Come On Get Happy”, were insisting on payment of a “sizeable sum” for its use.

I suppose if Adam had anticipated that his version of the ad would have become so visible, he wouldn’t have used the copyrighted song.  He would have taken a leaf out the uncopyrightable proverbial book of Dr. Michael Abrahams, who uses a basic riddim as the sound track for his own wicked version of the ad, “Miserable Jamaican”.

We’re a ‘brand name’ nation.  But if we really intend to get anything out of the high visibility of our culture, we will have to consolidate our efforts.  JIPO, the JTB, JAMPRO and all of us in Papine and other markets and sectors, just have to come on and get really serious about it.

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.