Saturday, September 08, 2007

Local lingo

There is feeling, simplicity and clarity in the local lingo which is easy to be seduced by and eventually embrace. That is when you can understand it of course! The locals are fully aware that once they slip into their personal patwa they may as well be speaking another language as far as us whities are concerned. I would like to think that my ear is gradually tuning in and beginning to make sense of the hidden vowels and consonants but it may all just be an illusion. The only clue I can usually grasp which hints that I am being talked about is the proliferation of the word 'she' in every sentence.

When I first arrived I joked about the cat's mother but really I found the overuse of 'she' when referring to women as mildly offensive. On further examination though I have noticed that the men cop it too. 'He' and 'she' is used here in the traditional sense in which we use it at home. It is, however, also substituted for his and hers. So if someone is talking about 'her father' they will say 'she father' instead. This can lead to a lot of shes in one breath. For instance:

'She went to pick up she child from school and take he back to she house where she cooked he some dinner'

Once you have clicked it makes perfect sense and being referred to constantly as 'she' is no longer a problem.

They use the same words here but in different ways and sometimes to great affect. If you are thinking about a person or a situation too much, so much so that you become preoccupied or stressed, you are said to be 'studying' . If your girlfriend has run off with someone else and you hit the bottle to drown out the hurt and the pain then you are 'studying she too much'. I like that. For that is what you do. You are not just 'thinking' about her in a situation like that. You are going over and over the whys and wherefores. You are studying the situation and trying to work it out and usually it is best to stop. I have been told many a time not to study something or someone too much and usually it has been fine advice.

If you are going somewhere for lunch, let's say to Dawns, a lovely little Creole restaurant on the beach, you are not going to Dawns, you are going by Dawns. This has the added advantage of being slightly unspecific. I am forever calling people on their cell phones and asking them where they are; 'by Andy's' they will say. Which means, in all reality, that they can be anywhere in the near vicinity of Andy's, they do not actually have to be at Andy's. This can make tracking people down an exasperating experience. You usually find them in the end though. This, as I have said many a time, is a small small place. It is uncanny the amount of times you are talking about someone and lo and behold a few moments later they will show up, as if they knew.

You are always hailed and acknowledged by people who know you as you pass. They shout your name, a greeting or sometimes just a sound. Some will stop and chat and some will walk on by. The ones who acknowledge you but do not stop are known literally here as shouting friends. People you know, who also know you but with whom you do not have a personal relationship. Acquaintances, we would call them at home, but I much prefer shouting friends.

And what do these shouting friends of mine shout at me? A long time ago I wrote about the myriad of terms, mostly derogatory, that have been assigned to me over the years due to my elevated height. Lamppost, Giraffe, Lofty, Gangley, the list goes on. Here, I have found myself a new name and it is I want to hold on to. It is celebratory and positive, complementary in the way it is spoken. When I walk the streets of Bequia I am greeted from bars, from beneath the shade of trees, from the markets and from boats. 'Tallest!' echoes across the streets and the waves. Tallest by name and Tallest by nature, Tallest I will forever be.

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