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Speak Lucian

Speaking Lucian is different than speaking Patois, though they are often intertwined, making the language particularly difficult for a person new to the island to learn. However, even without learning Patois, there are certain nuances--some unique to the island, some common throughout the West Indies-- you can learn to sound like you’re not a tourist as quickly as possible. You check it?  Irie.

Sentence Structure:   Invert it.  Instead of saying “I want a ride,” say, “A ride I want.”

Question structure:    Minus the word “is.” Instead of saying “Is that yours?” say “That’s yours?” or instead of “Is that true?” say “That’s true?” or “For true?”

Drop words:                Such as “at, in, on” when they are not really necessary.

                                    On: “Put the food for me.” (dropping ‘on the plate’)

                                    At: “Look the thing there.” (Look de ting dere.)

At:                               Use “at” instead of “to.” “I’m going at the back.” or “I’m going at my home.”

Again:                         Anymore. “I eh listening to you again.”

Another/Next:             Instead of “another” say “next.”  “A next bus coming just now.” or “Give me a next one.”

Coming Down:           Getting off the bus. “I coming down here.”

Eh:                              Instead of “not” or “ain’t,” say “eh.” “How you eh seeing me?”

Eh eh:                         This is an emotional outburst/expression with a variety of meanings.  When spoken quickly in a higher pitch, it is an explanation of excitement or surprise;  slowly in a deep, guttural tone, it means disapproval.  It can mean “hey,” “no,” “what are you doing?” and “you better stop that,” among others.

Excuse me/Hello:       Instead of saying “excuse me” to get someone’s attention or to interrupt, “Hello?” is often used. This is also used for asking someone to repeat what they just said.

Finish:                         Means “done, gone”:  Q: “You have macaroni pie there?” A: “Finish.”

Gasson:                      This is patois, but used so commonly it is worthwhile to learn it. Literally translated it means boy, but is used in the colloquial sense, such as “man, dude, or boy.”

Give a stone:              Stand someone up.

Hear what/Hear that: Listen to this

Hit/Knocked down:    Instead of “getting hit (by a car or other),” one gets “knocked down.” (or for bonus points, ‘bungced.’)

Hit/Cuff/Licks:            One does not “hit” another person, but gives them a “cuff” or gives them “licks.”

If:                                Several uses. In cases of wanting someone to repeat what they just said, someone would say, “If….?”  In cases of disbelief: Q: “Does that make you angry?” A: “If (pronounced ‘Eef’) I’m angry?”

Irie:                             Really good. Can be used in several ways, as part of a greeting (“You irie dere, gasson?”), to answer a greeting (“Tings Irie”) or in agreement, ending a conversation. (“Okay.  Irie.”)

Just now:                     A period of time that occurs sometime in the future between momentarily and never. “I coming just now.”

Just so?:                     Like that?  Or, Now, after all of this time? “Just so, you telling me?”

Like joke:                   A lot, great quantities. “That man making money like joke!”

Look at/watch:            Instead of looking at something (like a menu), you watch it.

Look:                          Say this to draw attention to something. For example, say “look,” to get the driver’s attention so you can pay the fare.

Messieur:                   Patois, again, but common. Most often used as an exclamation of surprise or indignation, though with several intonations. (Also commonly shortened to “eh-sieur!” or “’sieur!”)

Mad:                           Good, crazy, fun. Crazy can be used in the sense of a crazy party, or in the sense of true madness.  “This party mad, boy, wha?”

No kinda way:            Upset. “Don’t take it no kinda way.” (Don’t take it to mean that; don’t get upset)

Not now:                     Sort of a false double negative, meaning why now?  “Not now you’re telling me that?”

One:                            Used for emphasis, rather than singularity. Giving someone “one cuff,” does not mean one alone, but to emphasize the severity of the cuff to be given.

Onetime:                     All at once. “Go dong to tong and take de ting onetime.”

Pappyshow:                 Nonsense, foolishness. (pronounced exactly as it looks.) Can be used as a noun (“Stop talking pappyshow!”) or a verb (“Don’t pappyshow me!”).

Pass:                           To walk past, or to walk/travel in a certain direction. “Pass over so. There have too much mud.”

Put on size:                 Gain weight. If someone tells you you’re putting on size (and it is likely they will, repeatedly) this is not often meant to be as offensive as it sounds. It is an observation, but meant to imply that you are healthy, happy, living life well.

Roro:                          Gossip, scandal. (Bonus: Rorocious. A person who thrives on scandal is rorocious.)

So:                               Used for demonstration purposes. Meaning there: “I living down so.”  Meaning like that: “Just so she tell him.”

Also used to mean “and such”: “They coming here with families and so.”

Soaps:                         Gossip

Some Kinda Way:      Not good.  “Gasson, I feeling some kinda way.”

Th=F:                          Words using the th dipthong are instead pronounced with an ‘F’ sound, as in “birfday.”

That/This:                   These are used in a seemingly opposite fashion.  Substitute that for this. (Eg. “Do that for me.” “Listen to that.”)

The/De:                       Instead of “the” say “de” (E.g. “I catching de bus just there.”)

There/Here:               Used in a seemingly opposite fashion.  Substitute there for here. (E.g. “Look there.” “I’m there.”)

Thing (Fing/Ting):      Anything/anyone you cannot remember the name of: “Look, dere fing mother.” Also, any action for which you cannot remember the name (or are too lazy to say): “Fing it dere.”

To me:                        I think, or it seems to me. “To me, she’s putting on size.”

You ain’t easy:          You’ve got it going on, you know your stuff.

You understand?:      This question is hypothetical, meaning, “Are you listening?” or “Do you follow me?”

You check it?:            See: “You understand?”

You OK?:                   A greeting, and often a hypothetical question, not necessarily an expression of concern for well-being. Appropriate responses: “Ok; Ok, alright.” “Ok ok.” Or “I’m there” (or for bonus points, “I dere.”), or “I’m there not too bad.”

Whose Own:              An item is not someone’s, but someone’s own.

This is an article I wrote for the Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Literary Magazine, "Serious Ting" summer 2004 issue. I am the outgoing Island Solicitor/Reporter for Saint Lucia. Do not reprint or reuse without my permission please.