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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

What is the origin of Bim?

Many Bajans whom I asked over the past few days cannot tell me why the nickname for Barbados is "Bim". A quick search around the Internet indicates that it's a left over from the long connection with England, where Barbados was named "Bimshire" or Bim for short. I don't know if that is quaint or is really an insult. I can understand the shortening of this conjured English county name, by why the original name? The next best explanation I found refers to the fact that in 1942, Frank Collymore founded the literary magazine, Bim, which gave generations of writers an outlet for their poetry, short stories and literary criticism. In that context, it was argued that Bim was the nickname given to the planters by their slaves.

As happens with Internet searches go, the connections keep rolling on. A further search pulled up a reason why the name Bimshire has gained more recent prominence, being the not so fictional setting for a book written by Austin Clarke, The Polished Hoe (see one very good review and interview in January magazine). Born on Barbados in 1934, Clarke has lived in Canada for most of the last 46 years. Interestingly, with the assistance of the Central Bank of Barbados and the Canadian High Commission in Barbados, the play had a short tour in Barbados recently at the Frank Collymore Hall and was one of the most moving productions I have ever seen.

The Polished Hoe is set in the 1940s and is about the unfolding confession of Mary-Mathilda, one long night. She unburdens herself to the local police, and eventually explains how the polished hoe allows her to expunge her bitter memories. She was a young black girl when her mother (who had grown up in slavery) had given her to a powerful white man, Mr. Bellfeels, to be his mistress. Mary-Mathilda later became the mother of his only son, named Wilberforce. I won't spoil the rest of the story. The story brings back fully some of the mental and physical burdens that were part of the slave tradition, and many of which still have a powerful hold. So evocative that one of the actors said after the permiere performance in Barbados that he was left shaken for several hours after each performance.

I'll press on with my searching as I'm still unclear about the real origins of Bimshire, and which part of its origins are still alive and kicking.

9 comments:

Jdid said...

would be interested in seeing what your query turns up.

Liquid Soap said...

Can't help you on the origin but if I am remembering correctly, I think BIM also used to be the name of a brand of soft drinks.Also, as I understand it, BIM! is also currently used as an expression much in the same way as "BUP!" used to be used some years ago.

Andy Colthorpe said...

I am of the understanding that BIM is derived from the international telephone code - 246. Look at any telephone keypad and spell it out!

Dennis Jones said...

The dialling code idea is interesting but "BIM" was around a lot earlier (back in the 19th century) than were the numbers for international dialling (in the early 1960s)

Arts Happenings Barbados said...

found this on wikipedia....Corrie Scott

Another name associated with Barbados or her people is "Bim" or "Bimshire". The origin is uncertain but several theories abound, one theory according to Richard Allsopp and the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados, "Bim" was a word commonly used by slaves. It derives from the phrase "bi mu"[2] or either ("bem", "Ndi bem", "Nwanyi ibem" or "Nwoke ibem")[3] from an Igbo phrase, meaning "my people." In colloquial or literary contexts, "Bim" can also take a more deific tone, referring to the "goddess" Barbados.[citation needed] The word Bim and Bimshire are recorded in the OED and the Chamber's Twentieth Century Dictionary. Another possible source for "Bim" is reported to be in the Agricultural Reporter of 25 April 1868, The Rev. N Greenidge suggested the listing of Bimshire as a county of England. Expressly named were "Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, and Bimshire".[4] Lastly in the Daily Argosy (of Demerara i.e. Guyana) of 1652 it referred to Bim as a possible corruption of the word "Byam" which was a Royalist leader against the Parliamentarians. That source suggested the followers of Byam became known as Bims and became a word for all Barbadians.[5]

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the various possible
origins of BIM . I will fondly think
of it to me Goddess Rock !

Anonymous said...

I always thought BIM stood for Barbados In Mind.

icelinedesigns246 said...

over here in the small beautiful island of BIM.....we have plenty meanings of what the word/abbreviation means. Though it is true that it deprives way back when, before we became Independent and was once "a part of England". Though what the other person said is used as well. It also known as Barbados Is Mines to some tourist. As a term used after moving on away from England. But it is alot more hearsay that one might think.

Laron said...

over here in the small beautiful island of BIM.....we have plenty meanings of what the word/abbreviation means. Though it is true that it deprives way back when, before we became Independent and was once "a part of England". Though what the other person said is used as well. It also known as Barbados Is Mines to some tourist. As a term used after moving on away from England. But it is alot more hearsay that one might think.