Never Mind Yaw, Novelette!

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

No teck it personal, mi dear! Di man dem no ready. Dem no waan no woman commissioner. Dem no have di balls fi dat. It look like seh dem fraid woman a go put dem out a commission. Dem done know seh nuff time, di best ‘man’ fi di job a one woman. An it stick inna dem craw. Dem cyaan tek it. Wi gweh ha fi go wait one long long time fi one woman turn commissioner a police inna disya country.

Novlette-But yu set di pace an wi proud a yu. A no fi yu fault mek yu no get di work. Yu do everyting yu suppose fi do. Yu go a university. Yu study hard. Yu pass all a yu exam dem. Yu join police force becau yu know eena yu heart a heart seh yu can do di work. Yu understand di system. From top to bottom!

Ongle ting, yu never born wid no baton. Sake a dat, yu can form like seh yu a commissioner. Yu can act good-good. But dem nah gi yu di real-real commissioner work. Wat a piece a liberty! An plenty a di man dem weh born wid baton, dem cyaan do di work good like yu!

Dem tek woman fi eedyat! Dem tink seh dem can fool wi up. An wi no know wa a gwaan. Di lickle acting work nah hold wi. Wi done know how dat go. A consolation prize. A con dem a try con wi. Dem gi yu consolation before dem tek weh di big prize. Dat a after dem done build yu up, mek yu feel seh yu well qualify fi di work. If it fly go a yu head, yu all figet seh yu no got no nightstick. Yu start tink seh yu have a chance.

‘BET ON NOVELETTE’

All Gleaner get ketch! Pon February 19, dem publish one front-page story wid disya big-big headline, ‘Bet on Novelette – Acting police commissioner poised to be appointed to lead the force full-time’. A no Caymanas Park wi deh! Dis a no horse race. Dis a police work. Wi no ha fi a bet! Yu well qualify fi di job an yu suppose fi get it. Anyhow, hear wa smaddy tell Gleaner wid dem goat mouth:

“‘Ms Grant was appointed to act in the post but it appears that it was a test run and she has passed with flying colours,” one source told our news team.

“‘She has always enjoyed the respect of her colleagues, but in the time she has been acting she has convinced most persons that she has the mojo for the job.'”

mojo-header-logo-080310-dr

Well, Ms Novelette, yu mighta got ‘mojo’. Dat a one African word fi obeah. But still for all, yu no got no baton. An di way di ting set, fi yu obeah cyaan beat di man dem inna disya time. Dem got big stick over yu.

Mi glad fi si seh di woman organisation dem big yu up eena one letter weh Gleaner publish last week Tuesday: ‘Women laud Novelette Grant’. Dem seh, “As a woman who is one of the highest-ranking officers in a traditional male-dominated organisation, the JCF, yours is without a doubt a monumental achievement, and we hold you in the highest regard.”

A no ongle woman ‘laud’ yu, Ms Grant. Nuff man wid conscience know seh yu well deserve di commissioner work. Yu coulda more dan manage it. Never mind, yaw! Time longer dan rope.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

No tek it porsnal, mi dier! Di man dem no redi. Dem no waahn no uman komishana. Dem no av di baalz fi dat. It luk laik se dem fried uman a go put dem out a komishan. Dem don nuo se nof taim, di bes ‘man’ fi di jab a wan uman. An it stik ina dem kraa. Dem kyaahn tek it. Wi gwehn a fi go wiet wan lang-lang taim fi wan uman tun komishana a poliis ina disya konchri.

Bot yu set di pies an wi proud a yu. A no fi yu faalt mek yu no get di wok. Yu du evriting yu sopuoz fi du. Yu go a yuunivorsiti. Yu stodi aad. Yu paas aal a yu egzam dem. Yu jain poliis fuors bikaa yu nuo iina yu aat a aat se yu kyahn du di wok. Yu andastan di sistim. Fram tap tu batam!

Ongl ting, yu neva baahn wid no batan. Siek a dat, yu kyahn faam laik se yu a komishana. Yu kyahn ak gud-gud. Bot dem naa gi yu di riil-riil komishana wok. Wat a piis a libati! An plenti a di man dem we baahn wid batan, dem kyaahn du di wok gud laik yu!

Dem tek uman fi iidyat! Dem tingk se dem kyahn fuul wi op. An wi no nuo wa a gwaahn. Di likl aktin wok naa uol wi. Wi don nuo ou dat go. A kansolieshan praiz. A kan dem a chrai kan wi. Dem gi yu kansolieshan bifuor dem tek we di big praiz. Dat a aafta dem don bil yu op, mek yu fiil se yu wel kwalifai fi di wok. If it flai go a yu ed, yu aal figet se yu no gat no naitstik. Yu staat tingk se yu av a chaans.

‘BET ON NOVELETTE’

laughing-goat

Aal Gleaner get kech! Pan Febieri 19, dem poblish wan front-piej stuori wid disya big-big edlain, ‘Bet on Novelette – Acting police commissioner poised to be appointed to lead the force full time’. A no Caymanas Park wi de! Dis a no aas ries. Dis a polis wok. Wi no a fi a bet! Yu wel kwalifai fi di jab an yu supuoz fi get it. Eniou, ier wa smadi tel Gleaner wid dem guot mout:

“‘Ms Grant was appointed to act in the post but it appears that it was a test run and she has passed with flying colours,’ one source told our news team.

“‘She has always enjoyed the respect of her colleagues, but in the time she has been acting she has convinced most persons that she has the mojo for the job.'”

mojo+2Wel, Ms Novelette, yu maita gat ‘mojo’. Dat a wan Afrikan wod fi uobia. Bot stil far aal, yu no got no batan. An di wie di ting set, fi yu uobia kyaahn biit di man dem ina dis ya taim. Dem gat big stik uova yu.

Mi glad fi si se di uman aaganazieshan dem big yu op iiina wan leta we Gleaner poblish laas wiik Chuuzde: ‘Women laud Novelette Grant’.

Dem se, “As a woman who is one of the highest-ranking officers in a traditional male-dominated organisation, the JCF, yours is without a doubt a monumental achievement, and we hold you in the highest regard.”

A no ongl uman ‘laud’ yu, Ms Grant. Nof man wid kanshens nuo se yu wel disorv di komishana wok. Yu kuda muor dan manij it. Neva main, yaa! Taim langa dan ruop.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

NEVER MIND, YOU HEAR, NOVELETTE!

Don’t take it personally, my dear! The men are just not ready. They don’t want a female commissioner. They don’t have the balls for it. It seems as if they’re afraid women are going to put them out of commission. They do know that lots of times, the best ‘man’ for the job is woman. And they can’t get over it. They just can’t deal with it. We’re going to have to wait a very long time for a woman to become the commissioner of police in this country.

But you set the pace and we’re proud of you. It’s not your fault you didn’t get the job. You did everything you were supposed to. You went to university. You studied hard. You passed all your exams. You joined the police force because you knew deep down that you were qualified to do the job. You understand the system. From top to bottom!

thThe only issue is you weren’t born with a baton. So you can pretend as if you’re a commissioner. You can act very well. But they’re not going to appoint you as commissioner. That’s just outrageous! And lots of the men who were born with a baton can’t do the job as well as you!

They think women are idiots! They think they can trick and we won’t know be any the wiser.  The acting job won’t cut it. We know what that’s about. It’s a consolation prize. They’re trying to con us. They gave you consolation before you lost the main prize. That’s after they sang your praises and made you think you were very well qualified for the job. If you made it go to your head, you would even forget that you don’t have a nightstick. You would start to think that you really stood a chance.

‘BET ON NOVELETTE’

Even the Gleaner was caught out! On February 19, they published a front-page story with this huge headline, ‘Bet on Novelette – Acting police commissioner poised to be appointed to lead the force full-time’. We’re not at Caymanas Park! This isn’t a horse race. It’s police work. We don’t have to be betting! You are well qualified for the job and and you’re supposed to get it. Anyhow, here’s what a source told the Gleaner, putting a jinx on you:

10-flying-colours-logo.jpg“‘Ms Grant was appointed to act in the post but it appears that it was a test run and she has passed with flying colours,” one source told our news team.

“‘She has always enjoyed the respect of her colleagues, but in the time she has been acting she has convinced most persons that she has the mojo for the job.'”

Well, Ms Novelette, you might have ‘mojo’. That’s an African word for obeah. All the same, you don’t have a baton. And the way things are, your obeah can’t beat the men in these times. They’ve got a big stick over you.

I’m glad that a coalition of women’s organisations honoured in a letter published by the  Gleaner on April 18: ‘Women laud Novelette Grant’.  They said, “As a woman who is one of the highest-ranking officers in a traditional male-dominated organisation, the JCF, yours is without a doubt a monumental achievement, and we hold you in the highest regard.”

It’s not only women who ‘laud’ you, Ms Grant. Many men of conscience know that you truly deserve the job of commissioner. You could have more than managed it. Never mind, you hear! All things in their time.

“Talk Like Miss Lou, Mi No Talk Like Foreigner”

I don’t usually give in to the demands of domineering men.  But two weeks ago, in response to my last Sunday Gleaner column, “Out of Many, Fi Wi Langgwij”, which was also posted here on the blog, R. Oscar Lofters made me an offer I could barely resist: “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 be 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.

Mr. Lofters doesn’t stand a chance in hell of having his ‘dream’ come true.  However much my brain was stimulated by the thought of submitting to Mr. Lofters’ seductive proposition, I knew it was all anti-climactic.  My hands are tied.  I’m not allowed to write a whole column in Jamaican. I’m restricted to one paragraph per week. It’s the Gleaner’s editorial policy from time immemorial, it would appear.  Well, at least from 1834 when the ancient newspaper was established.

‘You can’t do science in Patwa’

      In any case, 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.

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 grand mix-up 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!

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.

Vote of confidence

   Ideally, I’d like to write a bi-lingual column for the Gleaner as I did for the Observer in the 1990’s. Then, I insisted that in our culture English and Jamaican are happily married, with no prospect of divorce.  It wasn’t easy to get the conservative editors of that young newspaper to agree.  Youthfulness is no guarantee of creativity.  And old age is no guarantee of wisdom.

       That newspaper stopped publishing the column because of Motty Perkins.  No, it wasn’t Motty’s fault.  It was a case of collateral damage. But that’s a whole other story.  I’ve almost given up on trying to help the editors of the Gleaner see the value of a bilingual column. Until they ‘sight’ the light, I’m saving my pearls for my blog.

‘Nation Language’

“Talk like Miss Lou, mi no talk like foreigner”.  So Anthony B seh inna fi im song, “Nah Vote Again.”  Im a one conscious DJ weh know seh how im talk reveal im history an im culture.  Im naa put on no twang an a try gwaan like seh im come from foreign.  Im a one heartical yardie.  An a so im a talk.

Professor Kamau Brathwaite, one big-time history man an poet from Barbados, im call fi wi creole language dem ‘nation language’.   Im know seh yu language talk yu nation.  It mek people know weh yu come from, who yu be an wa yu a defend.  A di said same ting Anthony B a seh.

Professor Brathwaite write one lickle book, History of the Voice, weh come out inna 1984. Im talk bout how di ‘system’ never set up fi mek African people over ya so member fi wi owna African language dem.  An wi no fi put no value pon di new language dem weh wi mek up.  Seet ya:

“What our educational system did was to recognize and maintain the language of the conquistador – the language of the planter, the language of the official, the language of the Anglican preacher. . . . And in terms of what we write, our perceptual models, we are more conscious (in terms of sensibility) of the falling snow, for instance . . . than of the force of the hurricanes which take place every year”.

A true.  Christmas a come an plenty a unu a go buy Christmas card wid snow pon Christmas tree.  And unu a go sing Christmas carol bout ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.’  So unu no bodder gwaan like all a di foreign culture no deh ya pon top a wi, a beat wi dong inna di grong. A it mek IMF a tek step wid wi, cau wi love foreign tings so much.   Wi ha fi tek fi wi owna culture an fi wi owna language serious.  No true, Misa Lofters!

Seet deh now!  Gleaner never publish dis ya column sake-a it have een four ‘patwa’ paragraph.