Unlearning Slavery: The Lingo Matters!

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer.

By Professor Richard A. Byron-Cox

Attending a major calypso show this past Vincy Mas, I heard one of the MCs being more ghetto Jamaican than Jungle itself, for the entire show. This was an insult to Vincentian intelligence, not to mention culture!! The reverse could NEVER happen in Jamaica! NEVER!! Jamaica offers originality to our Caribbean cultural potpourri, so too we must cherish our Vincy heritage. But it’s now common place for some to use Kingston ghettos’ lewdest language in daily discourse, discarding our linguistic patrimony, which from days of yore remains a wisdom-fill, flamboyantly beautiful, “sweeter than sugar” patois.

Older heads rightly deduced that these “follow fashion dogs must catch mange,” so the same guns the one aliased “Little Terror” used against peace, put him in “bone yard.” He and the one who asked (named concealed) for money to buy bullets to commit murder, didn’t know “All bully does meet them breaker!” and,“We hear better cocks than you crow, and them still wine-up in pelau!” Yes, Vincy lingo is often prophetic and wise. Speaking of wisdom, there are two muppets, tweedledee and Tweedledum, i.e., two fools prattling about everything, while understanding nothing. My deceased neighbour Ms. Elene, used to say, “Richie, them dunce like bat, but have too much of what the cat lick ‘e tail with, so them mouth run like river.”

Some claim the government has done nothing in 20 plus years. They “blind as bat! Blind-eye Marcy.” Others have benefited greatly, but “Dawg eat them conscious”! So being “bitter like gall!!”, they practise “ingratitude worse than witchcraft.” But “lemme shut me mouth before Leroy carry me where “fowl have bubbly.” Still, the Poor who benefits so much from this government’s social protection policy must remember, “Cockroach has no business in fowl party.” They can “cut off they nose to spite their face,” but then, “wayward pickney nagger, does drink hot water without sugar! And who can’t hear…..!”

Walking through town three years ago with a 77-year-old uncle, he started staring at a young woman no more than 25. Surprised, I said “Uncle, she a little too…” “Rich” he said, “MasumbayMasumbay! Mas ah know yo’!” It took me a second or two, then I burst out laughing. “Yes,” he said, “St. Vincent now has carnival 13 months a year, with the women section playing moko jumbie everyday.” We were at Heritage Square; and wanting to avoid a cursing from the object of his attraction, I suggested going to my “watering hole.” “Hog say bathe in the first water”, came his response, “We drinking right here so.” Needless to say, wisdom of the aged triumphed over the vanity and cowardice of relative youth.

A diehard NDP supporter in Canada recently listed to me the great things Mitchell purportedly did. I told him I lived in SVG at the time of Mitchell’s reign and worked with him, but I knew nothing of these great things. He said Mitchell said so. Then I remembered, “Fisherman never say he basket stink.” Mitchell was a fisherman! Oh, I remember too the beauty Mitchell saw in the monstrosity he built, calling it “The Poor People Place,” thereby giving credence to the sage Vincy saying, “Everybody monkey pretty.” His, was a government so corrupt, “they could thief milk out of cocoa tea.”

At times, parliamentary sessions force me to I recall much of the great wisdom left by great grandparents who knew little of literacy. Our Madam Speaker is all “prim and proper” demanding that those “rude and outta place, pull their socks.” “Presentations” by Nigel Stevenson conjure up images of “a dumb beast, who aint know his a….. from his elbow.” Carlos James likes “talking in dicks.” Terrance Ollivierre is clearly a “doltish-bright cry-cry baby,” while Ralph “does pepper the Opposition when he ready.” Leacock treats Friday like “ah dog”having clearly determined that “two man rat can’t live in the same whole.” In this scenario Friday will be well advised, “Garlin say trust no shadow.” Montgomery Daniel is sometimes “really kicksie”, even if unintentionally so, while Daniel Cummings “does cuss like a Marie Bunta when yo’ see ‘e moon come round.”. Camillo always “throwing sprat to catch whale”and “stropidy” Brambled always “taking the bate.”

All supa dictum is but a sprinkling of our delightful vintage Vincy vernacular, that some replace with imported foulness, reducing themselves to “monkey see, monkey do.” This is no light matter for language is a key medium through which culture is preserved, enhanced and conveyed for generations. Nobody takes a copy over the original. We must come home to us! Regurgitating Jamaica ghetto illiteracy or any foreign “non-culture” is but evidence of lack of national self-esteem!

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