Friday, October 5, 2007

West Indies Mission Customs and Lingo

Culture & Customs

Calling on a home – If a home has a fence, it is proper to advance only as far as the gate and then call “Inside”, three times with long pauses. If no one responds, the person is not at home or does not wish to be disturbed. (We do not peer inside with nose pressed against the glass and call out “hello, anyone home.”)

Good morning – or Good afternoon or Good evening – there is no substitute for not starting out a conversation in person or on the phone without saying one of these three phrases. If you do not do this, you set yourself up immediately as a stranger. Saying “hi” is just not an acceptable substitute.

Entertaining people – West Indies residents do not entertain inside of their homes. This is very important to consider when you wonder why you are not invited into the home. This has implications for the best way to conduct home and visiting teaching visits.

Extreme literalness in speech – if you go to a sales counter in a store and ask the salesperson at the perfume counter if she sells men’s belts, she will say “no.” If you ask “where in this town can I purchase a belt for a man”, she will point to the next counter.

Handsakes – according to the West Indian culture, a light handshake is in better form. Americans like their handshakes to be firm and are frequently surprised at the delicacy of the West Indian handshake (not unlike Mexico).

Interruptions – well-bred locals or even more rough West Indian characters never interrupt.

Names – in terms of respect for older people, they are addressed as Mr., Mrs., or Miss rather than by their first names.

Okay – it is customary to say “okay” as you walk away from someone. You will be in turn greeted by a chorus of “okays” from those you are leaving. If you do not do this, you are giving the impression or anger or rudeness.

Social Smile – Americans tend to wear a perpetual smile more often than Canadians or especially than the British. In the West Indies, the polite face to show strangers is the sober face. Smiles are reserved for something funny or someone well-known and liked. Don’t conclude that the native West Indian people are hostile or not friendly or have something against ‘white people.’

Touching – or back slapping or shoulder patting – is not considered appropriate nor is it enjoyed by the West Indian people.

Thank you – the most local of the residents of the West Indies would never use the expression “thank you.” Instead they use other expressions. When Americans say “you’re welcome” it is very confusing to some because “thank you” is already too much for them. This does not mean one should not say “thank you” or you’re welcome. Just be aware that the culture in the West Indies is different.

You are polite – means you have passed the test in the eyes of the public for being more that just well-spoken. It is used to describe those quiet of manner and speech, not over-tipping or showing off, not referring to advantages back home, not touching or patting or poking the person you are addressing and especially not giving off an aura of superiority. (A compliment even one step up from this is: “Don’t feel that way. You one of us, man!”) How to Live in the Caribbean by Sydney Hunt.


A. Alight - How are you

A be dees deys in da right place - all of these people are in the right place

Acs – ask (I acsed him)

B. Beat back (nobody can beat she back when it come to lying) – Nobody can
outlie her

Beck en all - gossip or talk bad about a person

Benzine - rum

Bob - Quarter (only in the South Part of Trinidad) - as in 25 cents

C. Come across - come over

Come da boddy - come over

I’ll see you Friday coming – an expression of time (coming) – If you say I’ll see you next Friday, you are being less definite – some Friday or another Friday

Copper – a copper coin. (Give me a copper).

D. Don't Study She - Don't pay attention to her


F. Fatigue – Doan gie me faiguem man or ah buss you mout – don’t ridicule me.
Don’t tire me.

For True - For Real?

Freeness (at the end of the meeting there will be a freeness) – means there
will be refreshments like food and drink

Front – is literally, a man’s front

G. Gaff - sit around talking

Gap – an opening into a yard, a road or a field

Give me a drop – this means a lift or a ride

Go call she - Go get her

Go call he - Go get him

Gon fo see baa – Going for a sea bath – pleasant conversation starter if you
are on your way to the beach

H. He takes she - they are getting married

I. Ideh - I'm doing good

Irie - Doing good

J. Jumbies - little devils

Just Cool - I'm doing good

Just Now - means 2 seconds or 2 years or in between


L. Licks - snap fingers and say licks means you are going to spank your kids

Liming - Sitting around

M. Mader fader dey home - Are your mom and dad home?

Make – is to used age (How many years do you make?)

Mash – on the mainland is generally reserved for vegetables

Me de know fa dat - I don't know about that

Me no for do dat - I don't know how to do it

Medeh - I'm doing good

Mindin my picknies - raising my kids

Molest – means to tend the plants (has a mild meaning)

N. Next – another or second

No Blues - no pornography

Not te cuts ya - Listen to my story

O. OK - How are you

P. Pester – means to keep after a girl until she gives in

Picknies – children

Plugged out – generator plugged out – anything that can be plugged in can
be plugged out

Q. Quite - really for

Quite so over - that direction over there a bit of ways off

R. Reach – (boat language) – means arrive, even for people

S. Scene Dred - What's up man

Script – means a written message. I will leave a script for you rather than a

She gone out to come back - she went out, but she is coming back soon

She is hard to sit with - They are busy or hard to get a hold of

She vexed - she's mad

Stupsing - something they do by closing their lips like when we roll our eyes in

T. Taking a sweat - Exercising

Take a 5 - Take a Break

Take a breeze - Take a Break

Take ya time - if you trip in front of someone or are arguing with someone

Team - theme

Till - closer - next street over

Till over so - that direction really close by

Ting – Thing

Title – means surname (what is your last name?)

Twin brother – good friend

Two of we went down road - means two of us

U. Use yuh kidney – use your head

Utes - Youth


W. Wash my skin – means to wash oneself (very precise & literal)

Watch me know - Listen to my story

We all (talk) Trinidad /(Gaff ) Guyana - for we all are sitting around talking

We don't study girls - We don't pay attention to girls

What da scene - What's up

What nem boddy - what is happening

Woman – temporary tone, bottom of ladder – better to use lady


Y. Ya dum no - Right one! That's what I'm talking about

Ya Storyam - you are lying