Welcome

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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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No more eating bulla or how I am going batty over the use of words.

Usually, when you take on an overseas assignment, your organization likes to show that they care for your welfare by sending you on some aculturization program. At its best you may get assigned to you someone from the new host country who will help guide you through some of the behavioural and linguistic traps that are just waiting to snap around your ankles. At the other end of the spectrum you may be given a manual, often written 50 years ago, and not updated, that puts you nowhere except into deeper doo-doo if you follow one word of its advice. More often, you learn on the job, so to speak: they often say that the quickest way to learn a language is to get a mate who speaks it. We have been a bit lucky to find as neighbours and friends some Bajans who are prepared to help us wade through some of the murky waters.

Let me share some of the linguistic minefields that I have had help negotiating recently.

In Jamaica, when you mention bulla, it's a sweetish bread that is great with cheese and from an early age a child can find its meal is bulla and Ovaltine or tea (see previous post).Ho-ho! Not in Bim. One of my judgemental friends yelled the other evening "We all know he's a bulla!" Poor old me, struggling with the image of this man, with a face flat like a bulla bread, with skin the light brown tinge of a bulla bread. In Bimshire slang, to bull- is to engage in sexual relations with another man, so he can "be bullin'" if a man has homosexual tendencies; to get bull, when referring to a female means to engage in anal sex; and Bulla or Bullaman is a homosexual man. All of a sudden I don't feel the same about my bulla. I see from a quick check that one of my fellow bloggers--a Jamaican to boot--has also fallen foul of some of this confusion (see Moving Back to Jamaica blog).

But my Bajan friends, all literate and well-educated people, any oddly mainly lawyers, did not want me to step out with too little knowledge, so they hit me with a few more terms. They told me about to foop, which is the Bajan equivalent to the word "f**k" as in to have sexual relations. To get me to a master's degreee level they let me know about to horn someone-to be going out/sleeping with that other person's girlfriend or boyfriend. That term has been around a long time, even from the English Middle Ages. For the doctorate I had to learn about to wick-to engage in sexual relations with another woman, and a wicker is a lesbian). That one puts a new spin on the English expression of frustration "You're getting on my wick".

Now I feel a man well equipped and ready to hit the streets of Barbados. If you want to do your own research and be fully fluent in Bajan slang you can check out a good site (see link).

3 comments:

ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID said...

NHow interesting?

eemanee said...

It was quite surprising when studying Shakespeare to discover references to horning in As You Like. The Spanish also have a similar expression.

Jdid said...

you like you ready for post doctoral studies.

i personally like how bajan expresions of derision get adjectives applied to them just for good measure like "good idiot" or "half a idiot" or "pieca poppit" or "real clown"