If I love my people one more time, my word! I came across this picture below recently and had a good laugh. We Jamaicans are very headstrong people– we name things what we want, we sometimes take English words and pronounce them HOW we want, and we refuse to stand corrected by other native English speakers. Also, English is Jamaica’s only official and national language, but the creole Jamaican Patois or Patwa is widely spoken here– a beautiful, vibrant language which is chiefly lexified by the English language but bears a lot of similarities to several West African languages in terms of words and sentence structure.
I am a practicing physician in a Jamaican public hospital and my institution has lots of foreign doctors and nurses, imported to fill the shortage of skilled workers as many of our people migrate in search of better wages (migration is a common everyday topic, especially among our disgruntled nurses, but that’s a whole other discussion). Anyhow, I mentioned that to say… I have absolutely NO idea how they adjust sometimes with understanding our people, honestly. Even I struggle with the descriptions sometimes and I’m not ashamed to say I probably haven’t heard it all despite living here my whole life– especially as a city girl. I hope you find this post entertaining, as it was intended to be. I am in no way ridiculing my people on the way we speak. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Head to Toe Anatomy of a Jamaican
- Head Top— crown
- Head Back— back of the head, occiput
- Yeye— eye
- Ayz— ears
- Nose hole— nostril
- Chest— may refer to the chest, abdomen and sometimes even the neck
- Stomach (“tumuch”)– may refer to the chest, abdomen and sometimes even the neck. Often never refers to the actual stomach organ.
- Belly— usually means the abdomen
- Belly Bottom— lower abdomen
- Crotches— pubic region (no.. not crotch. We only use the plural noun, pronounced to rhyme with sausage “cratches”)
- Batty Jaw— butt cheeks
- Batty/backside— buttocks or sometimes, the anus (battyhole)
- Hand— may mean anywhere from the shoulder to the hand
- Foot— may mean anywhere from the hip to the foot
- Han’ Miggle (hand middle)– the palm of the hand
- Foot Bottom— sole of the foot
- Boasin— inguinal hernia
Should I get into the different terms for the genitalia? Oh, Lord. Pardon me. (P.S. Patients will use these terms all the time in the most respectful of ways when seeking medical advice. Pussy, hood and buddy are not off-limit terms when talking about these parts of the body to the doctor, and should they be off limit? That’s debatable).
- Vulva/Vagina— Jamaicans don’t understand the concept of the vulva vs. what the actual vagina is by the way, and many don’t care to be corrected. Everything “down there” on a female is the vagina. So, umm the terms.. ready up. Pussy, punani, pum-pum, punny, cho-cho, coochie, kitty, fanny, front, poke, pokey, renkin meat, punash, sally (pronounced sah-li), saltfish, salt ting, tunny. All these really mean vulva technically, and we add hole to end of these to refer to the vagina e.g. punny-hole, pussyhole. We don’t really use the term cunt out here much. Oh and the clitoris? Pussy-tongue.
- Penis— Teapot, teelie and toolus refer to a boy’s penis. Adult male penises are called buddy, hood, wood, dick, tool, john, hose, pipe, rifle, bamboo, charlie, cock, cocky.
- Scrotum/Testicles— seedbag
Unique Jamaican Physiology
- Gas is a diagnosis. Pain in your chest, stomach, belly, belly bottom, knee, shoulder etc.? It’s gas. Yes, sometimes gas is a real thing which is known by everyone else as bloating, but that should be limited to the abdomen right? Nope, not here. Pain in most places is caused by gas and there’s more. It’s relieved by drinking tea or, “tea buss the gas.”
- Diarrhoea goes by the term running-belly or operation. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say “mi belly a operate me” or “mi belly a operate pon me.” No they did not have a surgery. They just have diarrhoea and likely abdominal cramps too. Oh and certain foods can “craab up the belly“, i.e. cause stomach upset.
- Jamaican coconut water can “wash off the heart.”
- You have to be careful when eating or food may go down the “wrong throat.”
- Fever is a rise in the entire body’s temperature, but it’s not uncommon to hear Jamaicans say “fever fly up in him head” or “mi alright man, just likkle fever in mi belly.”
- Bad feelings is a common ailment. “Mi alright doc. Just a bad feelings take me this morning.” Correct term: malaise.
- Stoppage of water is urinary retention.
- Abdominal pain is referred to as “mi belly a cut me.”
Well, that’s it for today’s quick post. Did you learn anything new? Also, Jamaicans, if there are any I left out, drop them in the comments please.
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‘Til next time.