Jamaican Terminology – Read Between the Lines
When it comes to Jamaican music, no one said it better than Bob Marley. “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul. Wisdom is better than silver or gold.” And even today, as the face of Jamaican music changes, so do you. You need wisdom to truly understand Jamaican. With that in mind, having a Jamaican dictionary or glossary will help you.
If you want to learn to speak Jamaican, having a Jamaican glossary can be a great asset as a reference point (especially if you are outside of Jamaica). You should also know that there are a number of Jamaican patois terms used in everyday communication. In fact, most people in Jamaica are familiar with patois and use it in all social forums such even in office settings. For example, if you are familiar with Jamaican patois, you most likely will recognize the term “a go.” If you hear someone speaking Jamaican, chances are that this term will pop up.
“A go” means that you’re going to go do something. For example, someone might say, “Mi a go aks di ooman dem.” In plain English, this means that you are going to go ask the women. If you’re translating from plain English, remember that the subject of your sentence would be different than that of a straightforward statement in English.
If you’re using the “a go” phrase, you would replace I with mi(me), if you are referring to yourself. If you’re talking about a man, you may say something like, “Di man a go chat with di yuth.”
For example, many people today use the term “aks.” It is another term for ask, which has its roots in Jamaican slang, but is also an Africanism. In fact, this is popularly used term amongst Afro-descendants in certain parts of America just like in Jamaica.
If you are talking about a corrupt organization, you may use the term, “Babylon.” The term could apply to a corrupt policeman or just the police, Jamaican slang experts say.
Jamaican Patwa (Jamaican Patois) is a creole language that is a mix between the English and African languages. In order to understand how Jamaican Patois works, it is important to know the basics of the language or dialects. Some Jamaican slang or patois terms are do not always have a clear origin. Take bald-head, for example. In plain English, this word refers to a man who has no hair. In Jamaican terms, it refers to someone who is straight and does not have dreadlocks. A bald-head may also be a part of corrupt organizations, such as the police.
It is important to know that almost all Jamaicans speak English, but surprisingly some people in Jamaica only speak patois. People in the countryside of Jamaica have different terms, pronunciations and accents then the people in cities like Kingston or Negril. Just remember that many Jamaican Patois and Jamaican Slang words are based in Standard English, but the grammar structure is different. The spelling is can also be different.
If you want to learn how to speak Jamaican, you need to understand this. Some Jamaican words are phonetically similar Jamaican slang is similar to regular English. Here are a few examples of Jamaican patois terms:
“Mawning”, in simple terms, means good morning.
Wha’ gwaan?” is used to say, “How are you?” or “What’s happening/going on?”
Some Jamaican sayings are more complex than others. Take “me naa tief yuh man.” This translates to “I’m not overcharging (cheating) you, man.
Another term to remember is, “Boonoonoonous.” The meaning of this word is wonderful.
If you want to learn how to speak Jamaican, you must have a basis in English. If you’re having trouble catching on to this unique language, relax and just get out there and try.