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Jamaican Talk

Updated on January 16, 2011

Jamaican Patois

For those who do not know I am happy to inform you that Jamaicans speak two languages. Of course there are those who would argue that there is only one language. That is quite understandable if you hang around Jamaicans who have decided to shelve one language and use the other. However, the truth is there are two languages: the Queen's English - "Son, where have you been?" and then there is - "Bwoy whe yu did de?" This language is often referred to as the Jamaican dialect, Creole, or Patois (Pat-wa).

Jamaica's second language, Patois, was created by African slaves who were brought to the island centuries ago. The Spanish first settled Jamaica in 1492 and later brought some Africans to the island. The English took control of Jamaica in 1655 and brought many more Africans from several West African countries to the island. During the course of the Spanish and English control of Jamaica, various other immigrants or settlers were either brought to, or came to the tiny island. These immigrants or settlers came from countries such as Israel, Germany, France, Holland, China and India.

Jamaica is truly a melting pot of multiple ethnicities.

In addition to the immigrants and settlers who came with their various languages, the Africans brought many of their own. And so, in an effort to communicate with their fellow-slaves as well as with their masters and fellow-inhabitants, the Africans coined their own words and phrases.

Patois was born.

Patois is not broken English, but instead is a sweet mix of several languages: English, Spanish, French, Dutch and African languages. In fact, if you travel to other West Indian islands which had the same experience as Jamaica, you will find a "Patois" particular to each island.

The Jamaican Patois is a beautiful language in terms of its directness and color. Interestingly also, is the fact that Jamaicans from different parts of the island speak variations of the language. Amazingly, someone living in Kingston all his or her life may have to ask a native of St. Elizabeth to repeat something he or she says for clarity. Can you therefore imagine an American trying to understand a Jamaican speaking Patois? Well, it is said that nothing is impossible and so Americans who spend a lot of time with Jamaicans understand some things. Some Americans even try to talk Jamaican - now that's a funny sight- and many have confessed to liking the Jamaican accent.

Let me get back on track. Why do I say that Patois is direct? Well, because it is. Patois uses a lot fewer words to say the same thing expressed in English. Let's look at some examples: 1. English - "Mary, I am not coming with you." Patois - "Mi nah come yu nuh." 2. English - "How are you doing?" Patois - "Whaapm man?" 3. English - "Have you completed the job?" Patois - "Yu dun baas?"

You will notice from the examples above that Patois gets to the point more quickly than English does. Patois is also very colorful.

A favorite English expression is, "Son, you won't like it if I hold you." Actually, that may be from an older generation because now it is wrong for parents to speak "harshly to their children."Anyway, the Patois equivalent is, "Bwoy if mi grab yu yu wi kno whe wata walk go a pumkin belly." Do you know how water gets inside a pumpkin? If you don't, a Jamaican will offer to tell you - in plain terms.

To further highlight the colorful Jamaican Patois, let's look at some usage:
1. Children are pickney, pickney dem, pickeynies;
2. One's lover is one's sugar plum plum, or bunununus;
3. Having a good time is having a catawampus time;
4. The female's reproductive organ is poom-poom, cho-cho and more, while the male's is cocky, wood and more; and,
5. The homosexual is a batty-man.

Some other interesting things to note about Patois are: 1. there are various spellings for any one word. For example, "pickney" used for children can be spelled pickni or even picni. 2. Some Jamaicans who attempt to use more English and less Patois retain traces of Patois in their oral language without even knowing that they do. You can always tell by listening to how the speaker sounds his or her ending - the Patois speaker says "fine" for "find"- or, you can tell when the speaker misplaces the letter "h" - the Patois speaker says "ide" for "hide" and "henter" for "enter."

Today, many Jamaicans live abroad and are forced to speak English to be understood. However, these same Jamaicans speak Patois among family and fellow Jamaicans. What's really funny is that there are some Jamaicans who have tried to throw away the second language. For those Jamaicans, anyone who speaks Patois around them is considered to "talk bad."

Interestingly, however, those who have divorced Patois are sometimes tickled by a rare outburst of "Jamaican talk" and find their long last second language even comical.


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    • tjmatel3 profile image

      Peter Grant 5 years ago from McDonough, GA

      Hello. It appears that you intended to leave a comment but did not.


    • profile image

      BekaS1974 5 years ago

    • profile image

      alyssaellis12 5 years ago

      hey im 10 and im jamaican its really cool have you seen there hotels i love riu and its purple its my favorite color in the world vist its a graet trip trip plan hehe that's use ful information is it i know it is

    • profile image

      Steven thurston 5 years ago

      Hey how do the Jamaicans talk

    • tjmatel3 profile image

      Peter Grant 6 years ago from McDonough, GA

      Hello. There are several ways to say both, but I'll give 2 each.

      1. Cum party wid wi. Or, Cum party wid wi awrite?

      2. Mi glad fi si yu. Or, Glad fi si yu mon.

    • profile image

      Awhi 6 years ago

      Could you please tell me how you would say the following in Patios or Jamican language pretty please.

      Come and party with us!

      Be nice to see you.

      Thank you heaps my cousin has a Party and he loves Jamica!

    • tjmatel3 profile image

      Peter Grant 6 years ago from McDonough, GA

      Hey, Jamaican Trini.

      Thanks for sharing. There's is no disputing that the Indians first occupied Jamaica. I simply chose to start with the Spanish settlers, because they made Jamaica known.

      Additionally, the piece is about the origin of Patois, not so much when Jamaica got started.

      Anyway, I appreciate you adding to the story, as that will help someone unfamiliar with the history of our country.


    • profile image

      jamaican trini 6 years ago

      Hello all,

      I am of mixed background jamaican & trinidadian. I was born in the U.S. but my family keeps up with our culture and teach it to our kids and so on and so forth lol anyway, I don't completely agree with everything said about the history of jamaica. The first natives of jamaica were indians of taino,and arawak decent who first arrived in jamaica from south america. There was also chinese,portuguese,and lebanese decent jamaicans along with german and the list goes on and on. Patwa/jamaican/patoi was a direct interaction between the british and african languages to create a common ground. Also arawak (the native jamaican language spoken by the arawak indians from jamaica ) was thrown into the mix as well and french,etc.

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I just have a little more detail passed down to me from my mother and other older generations.

      Bless up!!!

    • tjmatel3 profile image

      Peter Grant 8 years ago from McDonough, GA

      Hi QueenAlicia. Welcome to You left a comment 2 weeks on my piece on Jamaican Talk. Your question was: How do Jamaicans feel about other people? Like all races, there are some Jamaicans who care little for other peoples, but Jamaicans on a whole are inviting and very accepting of others. You will want many mixed marriages between Jamaicans and others. In fact, Jamaica is inhabited by so many races. The country's motto is: Out of Many, One People. You will find many Chinese Jamaicans, Indian Jamaicans, English-, German- and even Jewish Jamaicans. This makes it a lot easier for us to accept other people. Thanks for your question and best of luck on Hubpages.

    • profile image

      QueenAlicia 8 years ago

      To tjmate13-What's up with the culture? How do the people feel about other people who aren't Jamaican?

    • tjmatel3 profile image

      Peter Grant 8 years ago from McDonough, GA

      Sorry for the misunderstanding, Suziecat7. Yes, a video is a great idea. We shall see...

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Your welcome - I meant add a video so the language could be heard. It really is different and beautiful dialect.

    • tjmatel3 profile image

      Peter Grant 8 years ago from McDonough, GA

      Thanks, Suziecat7! It's a great idea to share in all one's languages, but many would be lost if I were to write in Patois. Glad you found help.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I love this especially the sugar plum-plum. I think people should speak all the languages they can as language can be so beautiful. It would be great to hear the Patois language in this Hub. But I did find a sample on - Whaaapm?


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