Thinking about taking that vacation to the English-speaking Caribbean?
Perhaps a Winter getaway [since most travel to the islands during the colder months opposed to the Summer]?
Few pointers about idioms, dialect and colloquialisms of the Caribbean which will come in mighty handy.
Regular followers of this blog would’ve known that I’m based in the Caribbean islands during 3/4′s of the year. And that I’m actually from the islands [by birth], however immigrated with parents to the U.S. [NYC] at the age of 8.
While here on island though, I actually do some part-time work with the Foreign Affairs department, so I’m constantly interacting with tourists, transients, travelers and newly immigrated families.
Last week while running some day-game pickup, I was invited to have a beer with some Canadian fellas who just arrived that day.
One of them said to me:
“Hey Kenny, I went to the supermarket and asked for a certain item and I was given funny stares by the girls at the registers and the ones stacking the shelves. All I asked for was water man”!
I LOL’d then broke it down to him as to the (negative) connotations.
Thinking about it now, this article is definitely timely as I’ve been getting such inquiries over the past years whenever I’m back here on island.
Here are some terms which will aid you potential travelers in getting by a lot smoother than if you hadn’t known them.
Fore-note: The following terms are applicable in almost the entire English-speaking Caribbean: Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguila, Grenada, The Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent, St. Lucia [English-speaking part], English speaking part of Belize [although in Central America], Dominica, Montserrat, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana [although in South America, Guyana is heavily influenced by Caribbean culture and lingo].
The islands which are somewhat exempt from this list are: Bahamas (Nassau), Bermuda, Barbados, Tortola, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and St, Johns. However, with the influence of Reggae music from Jamaica over the decades, these terms are becoming commonplace even in those islands.
Bear in mind also: almost all of the following terms and words are apparently English, however they possess and connote totally different meanings as they would in Canada, The U.S. And the UK.
Let’s start off with something pretty benign and seemingly appropriate:
Water: It has a strong-sexual connotation and it references semen (sperm), or female ejaculate.
If a guy were to say to another guy, “I want some water”, he will immediately be chastised as a fag (presuming they’re heterosexual), or punched in the face!
Just as if you enter a grocery store and ask the female cashier if she has any water, she will give you a shocked and annoyed grimace as you’re essentially asking her if she has cum.
Damage-control solution: complete the sentence by asking, “You have any BOTTLE of water”. The simple addition of “bottle”, will negate the sexual connotation completely.
Wife: As innocent and common as this word may seem, it actually means or refers to PUSSY (Vagina).
The words Pussy and vagina are rarely ever used in the English-Caribbean (unless calling someone a pussy as in coward). Wife is the standard way of referring to vagina.
Example, a guy would say, “She gave me the wife last night”, opposed to pussy or vagina.
Likewise, if walking around as a tourist and you loudly talk about “Wife”, the locals will immediately translate that to mean pussy, thus you’ll be looked at as a vulgar bastard!
Solution: Use spouse or partner instead, or perhaps, “This is the girl I’d married”, opposed to saying, “This is a picture of my wife”.
Also, as a man, to say that you have a wife would mean that you have a vagina which would mean you’re a fucking pussy or tranny.
Bud/ Buddy: Typically, a bud would mean a rose bud of some sort, while Buddy would be a pal. However, in the English-speaking Caribbean it means COCK as in Penis:
Dick is totally not used in the Caribbean. You’d hear cock sparingly, but cock generally refers to a rooster more often than to a dick.
You will hear: “Suck my bud”! But never “suck my dick”!
Want to say, “I have a nice dick”, in the islands, they’d say: “I have a nice buddy” or “nice bud”.
Seed: Balls, cojones, testicles.
Seed is a very vulgar word and term as it means testicles (balls).
If you are in need or seeds, make sure that you explicitly make it clear which kind of seeds you’re looking for: sunflower seeds, etc. But to blankly say seed or ask for seed will be misinterpreted as balls (testicles).
Partner: This is the word used for friend or buddy (pal).
The word Friend is used 20% of the times (to refer to a friend). However; “Partner” is more standard and used.
Quart: Quarter, 25 cents.
A quarter or 25 cents in reference to money is never used. Quart or a quart or 4 quartz [a dollar] are used instead.
Drinking or Beverage: Drinks, juices, etc.
Drink or drinks is rarely used to mean something to drink.
Drinking or Beverage are exclusively used and more common. Sodas, bottled juices and even beers would be referred to as “Drinking” or “Beverage”.
Example, “Do you have any Drinking”, instead of “Do you have any drinks”?
Yam or Nyam: Don’t ask me the origin of this word, but legends have it that it’s an African-tribal word which was passed down: meaning “to Eat”.
Eat is used often also, but half of the times, you’d hear people say “Yam” or “Nyam”.
Example: “I’m hungry. I want something to yam right about now”.
Bubbie: Tits or breasts.
Reminds me of boobs and boobies.
Anyway, this word is almost exclusively used in day to day convo, while breast is politically correct and used with elderly folks [just as the word Usted in Spanish instead of tu].
Just as in America you’d never hear a young person say breasts.
In this part of the Caribbean, you’d never hear a young person say breasts neither, but “Bubbie” [unless addressing an elderly person].
Mama and Papa: These do not refer to parents; mother and father, but to grandparents.
Parents are mommy and daddy, but grandparents are strictly mama and papa.
So as a tourist, if you were to say, “I’m his papa”, it’d be interpreted as grandfather instead of dad.
Mate or Maty: This term derived from “Mate” of course, however Mate or Maty means a chick you’re fucking on the side.
So if you were to say to a local, “This is my mate”, you’re essentially saying, “This’ the girl I’m cheating with or having an affair with on the side”.
Brits visiting the islands should avoid using this word totally to avoid gross misinterpretation.
Love instead of Like
The word LIKE is never used (in the sense of the verb). It’s always substituted with LOVE.
However, the comparative preposition “Like” is used: “She looks like her mother”.
You cannot say to a girl, “I like you”. She’ll be offended. I learned this the hard way when I told a girl I like her LOL!
Even if you only like the girl because you just met her yesterday, you cannot use LIKE to express that liking. You must use LOVE. Love is also used in every scenario where you’d use Like [except as a preposition comparative].
Bottom or Batty: Pronounced bat-tee. Meaning ass, butt, buttox.
“Batty” is more used than “Bottom”. Butt however is absolutely NEVER used.
For example: “she got a nice batty” instead of saying “she got a nice butt”.
Ass is used about 20% of the time.
Cook Shop: Restaurant.
Both words are used, but “Cook Shop” is more common.
Store is never used. Shop is always used instead, as in: “He went to the “Shop”.
Supermarkets, grocery stores, etc. are called “Shops”.
Bull: Anal sex.
Bull is a very very vulgar word. It’s used as a verb (to bull) and noun (anal sex).
Asking a guy if he bulls is basically asking him if he engages in anal sex (giving or receiving).
So if you’re thinking about riding a bull or buying a redbull, make sure that you be as specific and enunciated as possible.
You don’t want your male taxi-driver on island to get it misconstrued.
Pump: This definitely doesn’t mean a gas pump but to masturbate.
Masturbate, fap, jerking off, wacking off are never used.
Pump is used instead exclusively.
In order to avoid ambiguity or misinterpretation: complete your sentences!
Instead of blankly asking for a pump, it’d be more appropriate to construct a full sentence like, “Do you have a pump so I can put some air in my bike tires”?
Hard-up: Horny and sexually excited.
In spite of the word “Hard”, which usually relates to a man’s cock, the adjective “Hard-up”, also refers to a girl who’s sexually aroused.
Horny isn’t used at all but it’s definitely intelligible and understood.
Pants is used also, but you’ll hear trousers more frequently.
The word machete is never used, and it might not even be understood since it is absolutely never used.
The under 30 crowd may not know what a machete is. Just as a young Canadian or American wouldn’t know what a “Cutlass” is.
Poop: In American lingo, this usually means defecating, to take a shit, etc.
However, in the Caribbean it strictly means to fart (pass gas).
So if you were to say to a local at a resort or anywhere on island, “my son wants to poop”, it’d be interpreted to mean “my son wants to fart”.
To communicate “poo, poop or to take a shit”, use “Poopoo”.
Poopoo is exclusively used to mean defecating or taking a shit, while “Poop” is exclusively used to mean farting or passing gas.
Pickney: Baby (as in infant).
The word baby is used a lot also. It’s a 50-50 split between baby and Pickney when it comes to usage, but it’s very common to hear Pickney used instead of baby…especially in songs [Reggae, Calypso, Dancehall]
Safe: As in out of harm’s way, however it’s used to mean “Good”, nice or OK.
If someone asks you, “How was your night”? Nine out of 10 times, the response will be “Safe” instead of good or ok.
Lyrics: In other English-speaking countries, this would mean song lyrics. In the Caribbean, it means “Sweet-talking” or “Compliments” or chatting up someone.
So a girl would say to a guy, “You’re full of lyrics”. Basically, “you’re full of sweet-talk”.
Tall!: This is used as an interjection opposed to someone’s height. Its equivalent is “Hell No”!
If someone asks you if you like to eat fish, and you’re totally allergic to it, you can say “Tall” instead of hell no!
Hell no isn’t used, but it is understood.
The thing that’s interesting about dialects and colloquialisms is that the same word can mean something totally different in other regions where the same language is spoken. Or words which aren’t used here but used there.
Like in England, they use bloke, mate, bubbly, whilst, all words which aren’t used in America.
Just as in the Caribbean, the following words are used often, although they aren’t used (much) in Canada and America:
Obstinate, nincompoop, hardened (for stubborn), verandah (porch), gallery (porch), latrine (toilet), front-room (living room), meager, belch (burp), numbskull, ,constable (cop), pupil instead of students, just to name a few.
Another interesting point about the spoken-English dialect in the English-speaking Caribbean: pluralization is never used.
Everything is singular!
Pluralization is only implied.
So you’d never hear someone say cars, bottles, houses, schools, men, women, knives, hats…
The s’ and eses are totally dropped.
What they do do instead, is add the objective-personal pronoun “Them”.
For example, cars would be “the car and them”.
Girls would become “girl and them”, etc.
Pluralization with s and es is totally not used [they're dropped] except in writing.
Just as in any other English-speaking country, written English is always standard and correctly written and taught. However spoken English isn’t spoken as we write: for instance slang terms aren’t written but spoken.
English dialect of the Caribbean is the same: written and taught in a standard manner, but spoken differently with different connotations and insinuations.
So on your next cruise to the islands, you won’t feel completely like a fish out of water once you get abreast with some of the terms I cited in this article.
By the way, some terms and words may vary depended on the island.
Antigua and Barbuda: sweet black pussy haven for tourists by Socialkenny.
“Conquering the language barrier; around the world in 80 girls” by Neil Skywalker.