Generations of Jamaicans have been making up names to explain medical ailments. This is done not only for our own understanding of the condition, but as a simplified way to explain to family, friends and health professionals what exactly is ailing us. Here are some examples.
- Turn foot – This is a reference to deformed feet. It is not meant to be derogatory, but rather to simplify the meaning of the condition.
- Running belly – This is a popular reference to diarrhea, and is widely used by locals as well as medical professionals.
- Stoppage of water – This is used mostly by the elderly to talk about prostate issues in men that cause blockage in the urinary tract and make it difficult to urinate.
- Popdown or mashup – These are expressions used when someone is showing obvious signs of exhaustion.
- Fassy – You might be subject to this nickname if you are prone to skin infections and leg sores especially if they leave behind dark, ugly scars.
- Sugar – This is a local term for diabetes, a disease characterized by the body’s inability to regulate the levels of sugar in the blood.
- Backed Up or Block Up – References for constipation, used especially when the affected person does not want to talk about the condition outright.
- Cold in the Mole – A reference to a head cold, this term is derived from the old wives tale that the condition was caused from not covering the head, leaving the “mole” exposed to the elements. We now know that a cold is just a cold, but many people still refer to a ‘mole cold’ when someone is suffering from the cold or flu.
These terms are slowly evolving as Jamaicans get more access to information about medical conditions. However, there is still a segment of the population who are comfortable using these terms when referring to certain illnesses.