Only In Jamaica – Part 1: The "Masacraw" Of The Queen’s English

Being a full-time mom, wife and a part-time teacher does not often allow me the time to engage in one of my favourite past-times, writing. My husband has been prodding me for years to write more and I keep telling him I have no time, which is true, but I believe maybe I needed to be inspired. So started my quest:”What should I write about?” and then it hit me-Jamaica!!!  After all there is much on the rock to fill a thousand books. So here’s the first look at a series I like to call “ONLY IN JAMAICA-PART 1: THE “MASACRAW” OF THE QUEEN’S ENGLISH.

I never cease to be amazed at the many ingenious ways that our people find to “masacraw” (massacre) the English Language. The interesting thing is that many of them do it and do not even realize that what they are saying is wrong.  The daily news is chock full of such examples, not to mention everyday life in general.  I am sure we have all heard of at least one instance of Jamaicans doing what we do best-talking.  Now I can’t promise you that the following will enhance your intellect, instead my intentions are purely to provide you with an opportunity to engage in gut-busting-kin-puppa-lick laughter.  I won’t even comment on the fact that this state of affairs shows how we struggle with the English Language and that our people and our students really need serious help but again, another time and place for such serious discussion.

SCENARIO 1: I’m sitting in a classroom and the Form Teacher enters to mark the afternoon register. He proceeds to mark one boy absent for the morning session and the students protests loudly.

TEACHER: “You were not present this morning when I came”.

STUDENT: “Yes sir, I was here”.

TEACHER: “Where were you? Where were you”.

(Getting equally annoyed with the teacher, the student replies, with great emotion.)

STUDENT: “Where we me? Where were me? How you mean- Where were me?”

Now you know how I was trying not to laugh and had to exercise much restraint not to start rolling on the ground an “gi laugh fi peas soup” because I could not believe what I had just heard. What also struck me is that the student asked the questions with such confidence and I doubt he even realized what he said.

SCENARIO 2: This was related to me by a friend.

A lady gets up to give testimony in church and relying on a popular hymn which has the words “JUST AS I AM THINE OWN TO BE…….says: “Jesus never said you should be just like a potato, he didn’t say to be just like a dasheen, he said to be just like a yam”.  Now like the student this lady never tried to reason out what the real words were, she simply repeated what she thought she heard and you can very well imagine the conviction with which she said it, given we have all been to church and have seen how we in Jamaica testify.

SCENARIO 3: I was walking through Emancipation Park and was approached by a lady who says: “Hello, good night, we are holding a village for the Haitian people, so can you give a donation please”. Now for a few seconds I wondered what the hell she was talking about but then I remembered seeing a lot of candles in the park and in fact the earthquake had only recently occurred in Haiti, so I realized that what she really meant to say was that they were keeping a VIGIL.  Again, Miss Lady never skip a beat and I am sure she repeated it to many other persons throughout the night.

SCENARIO 4: Again, this was related to me by a friend.

A long line of people are waiting in a popular local bank and in waltzes a dapper and distinguished looking  man who proceeds straight to the cashier window, bypassing all who were already waiting. Of course, they reacted quite angrily to this and the following exchange occurs:

QUEQUE: “A wha do dis man doh eh-a weh him come from-bout him a cut di line-him no see wi?”

WELL DRESSED MAN: “Do you know who I am? Do you know who I am?

MAN AT THE BACK: (He steps out of the line)- “I don’t care who you am…………..”

Talk about opening yuh mouth an put yuh foot in deh.

Now there are so many others that I could relate but a feel sorry fi yuh from all di laughing so I’m gonna take it easy and give you some homework -(real teacher eeh).  The following are words and phrases that I have received in essays or that people/students have said either on the news or when speaking in general. Try to figure them out, I sure had a good time reading and hearing them. Here goes:

  1. “Aspects of this project will be curried”-trust me this has nothing to do with curry chicken.
  2. Biasism
  3. Abolishment
  4. Genocity
  5. Extravaganzer
  6. Discomfortable
  7. Intelligate
  8. “Dem nah hole wi astrije down here”
  9. Abundantful
  10. Construency

Then there are:

  1. ON A TAXI: “Sloid as a rock”

Mi gone yaah, cause just writing them a mek mi pap up. Next installment-ONLY IN JAMAICA: THE HIGH SCHOOL EDITION. Happy laughing.

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