Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bungo push di graaass cyaaat!

I wonder if I am prejudiced?.......

Ok. Now that we have both stopped laughing let me correct that statement.

Why am I so prejudiced? I speak now about my prejudice against patois. I speak it and enjoy it, as do my friends. Yet if I am in a less socially relaxed situation I tense when I hear it used. Why is that?

In situations where Jamaicans are being interviewed, I cringe as I anticipate what will drop from their mouths. I liken this to having a friend that you don't acknowledge in public because they are just not flaunting material; you are ashamed of them. However, the indictment is not on them but on me. And so in the case of our Jamaican patois, the burden of guilt is mine.

When did I become like this? I'd like to blame my upbringing, but that would be unfair. In my family, patois was hardly ever used because Standard English had to be learned as part of our social development. I had to be conversant in English because that was what was required by the education system, of which my mom was a part. I picked up a few words of Patois here and there and looking back now I laugh at my peers and myself in our futile attempt to fit into the 'in' crowd of Patois speakers. We sounded funny and usually had to repeat what we said so that other Jamaicans could understand. We were afflicted with the 'uptown Patois syndrome' ... we knew a few basic words in Patois and tried to pronounce the regular english words with a Patois accent.

We latched on to the phrase of the day.. Yush!, Dun know! and of course descriptive fabric. Yet we never sought to learn any of the idioms, metaphors, etc... Nothing that made it a language. I had the benefit of doing a linguistics course that taught about the features of a language. Patois is no longer linguistically considered a bastardisation of english, but an entity. It fulfills all the criteria including being widely used. It is still awaiting social acceptance so that it may be standardised, with its own official dictionary.

So if I know all of this, why don't I do better? Because I am a PUNK!!!! I have no spine! I'm not willing to cross that border, set that trend, embrace my heritage!

Yet when those from other countries come with their accents I am the same one looking down their throats hanging on to every word, falling in love with their accents and their words and phrases... basically falling for their language as if I don't have one of my own.

I met some Africans studying in the UK and they said that they learned Englsh as a second language because it is the language of trade. They need it to be able to navigate the global market place and broaden their horizons. But when they converse wth each other they slip into their own language seemlessly. Even the soap opera "Generations" seen on TVJ (I think) has dialogue that is in english and then slips into whatever African language they speak.

Funny enough if I hear foreigners saying "no problem mon" I get really pissed that they refuse to learn to speak the phrase properly. So I am defensive of my native tongue but ashamed of it all at once. There has to be a change or compromise.

I acknowledge that there is a time and place for everything. Official documents and proceedings must take place in English, at least until we standardise our language. English is already too ambiguous to add further confusion with unstandardised Patois. The legal system would be in shambles. But in the schools, it must be made known that we are teaching English as a second language. Students should be corrected gently when their english usage is incorrect, but not made to feel as if their Patois use is a source of shame. A student speaking Patois should be asked to translate what they are saying into english and encouraged in the task in much the same way that we teach Spanish and French.

Every language has its own curse words. Why are ours considered more dangerous than others? Is it because they are muti-syllabic? Why do we consider them so crude compared to sh*t and f*ck? Hell p*ssy is not a bad word in England! But then we aren't in jolly old England are we!

I believe that our colourful fabric gets a bad name simply because Patois is already seen as bad, so they become the worst of the word. It is true that used together they are quite powerful; an additive effect if you will. In pronounciation they cannot be rushed the way they cannot be rushed the way our North American neighbours can rush theirs and mutter them under their breath. Ours are more purposeful requiring a commitment to their passage through our lips. These are no slips of the tongue. Perhaps it is for these reasons that they are feared and conversely why their users feel so empowered.

The "s*ck yu mada" curse I have no explanation for other than it is excellent at ensuring that you get the ass-whoping of your life quite deservedly.

I find it amusing when someone stops to tell me about my parts, simply because their accuracy decreases when they get to the covered areas. I've been told my head was 'big lika wah', 'lika don't know wah', 'lika toto', etc... and since none of those descriptions are particularly offensive to me I felt no compulsion to retaliate. I have however developed my talent for the witty reparte, and although I am no 'trace-stress' (pronounced like seamstress), I can hold my own long enough to avoid the KO.

I try to use my native tongue, Patois, whenever possible. Not surprisingly, addressing senior staff requires a proper command of the english language. This extends to most older patients who are often insulted if you address them in Patois even if it means that they will understand what you are explaining better. They still believe that English is better than patois. It will be hard to change their minds readily. For now I explain in whichever language the patient is more comfortable.... who am I kidding! I explain in english and use easier to understand terms. But to get my point accross when a certain behaviour change is necessary from the patient, I use Patois because it far more emotive.

1 comment:

Rae said...

too many thoughts on this. my comment will be the length of ur post if I'm not careful. Just a few highlights though:

1. Funny enough, I find the f-ing this and that far more offensive and more crude than the fabric. Not sure how that came to be, it just is for me.

2. As much as I embrace and am an advocate for Jamaican patois as a language in its own right, its use in schools is an issue for me. It makes no sense in my eyes to translate things into written Patois for those who speak it because alot of those we would be catering for can't read. Jamaican patois is a mostly spoken language. The literate among us are the ones that seek to write it.

3. I too feel a sense of shame when a Jamaican is interviewed and cannot speak English properly because English is the stated official language of the country and most times they aren't speaking strict patois (which I think would require a translator), they are just butchering the English. a deso mi a go tap.