If you have truly submerged yourself into Bahamian culture, you may have heard several of the following phrases:
Roach on ya bread!
Dog eat ya lunch!
Ya wybe sour!
Dat one name ova!
Oh what poets we Bahamians is! All of these phrases basically mean the same thing, that your situation is not good. Surely, seeing a cockroach on your food item would make you not want to eat it, no matter how delicious that food was going to be. The first phrase however, also has another layered meaning to it. See if you can figure it out from this song:
Get the drift?? No? To put it eloquently, it’s a sexual reference to someone stealing your significant other. Roaches are nasty, sneaky creatures, which could aptly describe someone trying to steal another’s s.o. If you’re not familiar female anatomy slang then I’ll let you figure out what body part the bread is in reference to.
I know, it’s a bit vulgar for my liking but people use the phrase to describe other not-so-nice situations.
Maybe you can add these to your list of Bahamian metaphors and maybe even use them, although as said in previous blogs, when using Bahamian slang or phrases, do so carefully and wisely.
There are some basic grammar rules to the way Bahamians speak.
- Words the begin with ‘v’ or ‘w’ are often switched so that woman becomes voman, very becomes wery, and worm becomes vorm.
- ‘oi’ sounds more like ‘er’ in words like foil, boil and moist becoming ferl, berl and merse.
- ‘Str’ seems almost impossible to say since words like strength, strawberry, and strangle are often changed to skrent, skrawberry, and skrangle.
- ‘Th’ is sometimes changed to ‘d’ so this and that become dis and dat.
If you can master these four rules, you’re only just at the beginning of speaking Bahamianese.
Here is a list of words you can practice using these rules:
The title of this to most non-Bahamians may sound a bit off. Like why is the word “is” thrown randomly in there. But to a Bahamian, in the midst of a conversation, this is fairly normal. Bahamian dialect has its own set of grammatical rules that we follow. There have even been sociolinguistic studies and a few scholarly articles on the art of the Bahamian Dialect (BD). I for one miss hearing it now that I’m away at school where there are only 3 other Bahamians. Some people think that it’s comparable to Americans that have heavy regional accents but it’s more than that. BD dates back to our African heritage combining English with West African languages and a little bit of French influence. Most of the time what people hear is a watered down version as tourism is a major industry so we try to cater to those that may have a hard time understanding what we’re saying. Also, you will find that more educated people tend to speak less dialect and its frowned upon in certain circles.
On the news when they interview people from unsavory neighborhoods and I hear them speak, it’s like “Dey een gat no broughtupsy ay?” Meaning that they sound as though they weren’t taught at home proper decorum for social interactions. I remember being corrected many times for using gern instead of going, or “Where is that?” instead of “Where dat is?”
Of course when I’m home or around my Bahamian friends I break out the good ol BD quick because I love it. My boyfriend says that I sound like an old, island woman because “city folk” (those from Nassau or Grand Bahamas) are more exposed to American culture and thus are a more watered down version of the true essence of Bahamian life.
Sometimes Americans would ask me why I don’t speak that way all the time and some are surprised that I speak English so well (still debating whether I should take that as an insult or compliment) and my reasons are simple: when I speak in BD unless it’s to another Bahamian I find myself having to repeat myself, people are looking confused because they’re not sure of what I said thus repeating myself and “ine fa all a dat!“
So instead of giving you links to lists of Bahamian Dialect words, each week I will give you a list of 5 and also explain them and use them in sentences so can show your Bahamian friend that you’re culturally sensitive or aware.
There are debates about whether BD should be taught in schools and whether it is something worthy of preservation as some have been trying to do. Language among other things is something that sets one culture or group of people from another. Language was created to help us communicate with one another. When a language becomes obsolete, so will many of the traditions and key cultural components.
Here is a link to scholarly information about BD or just google “studies on bahamian dialect”.