Trinidad and Tobago language and flag

Trini Slangs

If you meet any Trinidadian or Tobagonian – Trini – you quickly acknowledge they like to ole talk all the time.

At the centre of any Trini lime, you will find food and blag.  Post-colonization Trinidadians carry forward the oral storytelling traditions of their West African ancestors to the ensuing generation at every lime.

The charm and sing-song tone of the Trinidadian articulation is easily distinguished from the other Caribbean countries.  It wasn’t until I migrated to the United States that I found a genuine admiration for the history, complexity and uniqueness of the spoken word in Trinidad.


Here is an inadequate sampling of sayings from Trini:

B

  • Back a jackass in ah horse race (phrase): Back or bet on a loser one that should have been obvious had no chance to succeed.
  • Bokee: A penalty in children’s games, usualy marbles, in which the winner snaps a finger or pitchess a marbles hard against the loser’s fingers or knuckles.
  • Break Dew:  Remain outside for a long time at night; stay outside all night until the morning DEW comes.
    • You break so much dew you catch cold (Ottley 1971:10)
  • Bring Belly: Become pregnant while living in the parental home.  You playing big woman, knocking all about at night, don’t bring any belly here.
  • Broko foot: Having one leg shorter than the other, limping.
  • Brulejol:  A dish made from salt cod, oil, onions, tomatoes, peppers usually eaten for breakfast.  French origin brÛle ‘burn’ + geule ‘throat’.

C

  • Catty-Catty (adj):  Said of a man who likes sex with many women.
    • She lend one brush to Lord Shorty, the catty catty one from South.
  • Cax for bokee:  In marble PITCH, a game in which players place their marbles at random, each player then tries to hit another’s marble, and the player whose marble is hit gets a BOKEE penalty.
  • Cax:  The sound of a solid hit in marbles
    • I hit him caxs!
  • Cobo, Cobeau, Corbeau n Coragyps atratus (Black Vulture), a large bird. A very common resident in Tridindada, not found in Tobago.   Corbeau is French for Raven.
  • Cockroach before fowl (phrase): Temptation; something impossible to resist.
    • Doh put that cake out – you put cockroach before fowl.
  • Cocktax: Court-ordered child support payments.

D

  • Dhansirya: A woman who wastes money.  I sorry fuh he, that wife ah he one is ah dhansirya.
  • Dotish: Stupid; slow-thinking;incompetent.
    • Dotish men like you deserve what you get.  If you can’t work things out with your own woman, then stop complaining.  Sorf -soft- men like you should simply do as you are told.
  • Douen, Duende, Douaine, Doune, Dwen, Duegne (n): A Folklore character, the spirit of a child who died before baptism.  Douens wear large hats, have backwards-pointing feet, utter a soft hooting cry, and often lead children to wander off.  <Spanish duende ‘goblin’>
    • Nex’ ting you know douens hauntin’ TTT, an’ we seein’ all dem programmes runnin’ backwards instead of upside-down as dey does run sometimes. (Keens-Douglas 1984:3)

G

  • Ganga Channa: A magical practice to make a lover remain faithful; a woman squats over a bowl of hot CHANA, lets her sweat drip into it, and gives it to the man to eat. See also SWEAT RICE.  Ganga ‘Ganges river; water + chana).  The correct term [is] sweat rice, but channa (chick peas [garbanzo] beans) are substituted for rice and Ganga refers to water, of whatever dubious origin.  This meal is served by a woman to the man that she wishes to cast a spell over. (Skettel.com 25 April 2001).
  • Get On:  Carry on loudly; talk in an angry or excited way.
    • Any time you get ah real American in an aggravating situation, the first thing he do is let his voice be heard in objection; in other words, he does get on. (Lovelace, 1987:20)
  • Gouti Look Back: A position for sexual intercourse in which the man is behind the woman who is usually on her hands and knees.
  • Gownay: Elope; run away to get married.  They gone to gownay.
  • Guts like Cobo (phr): With have, describing someone who can eat anything also someone who doesn’t react badly to being insulted or getting pressure.
    • He doesn’t get on, he have guts like cobo (1990)

H

  • Have cocoa in de sun (phrase): Trinidadian phrase used as a warning that something is vulnerable, and needs to be protected; often used for situations in which people have something to hide.
    • When yuh have cocoa in de sun, look out for rain!
  • Horn (v):  Cuckold; commit adultery; have a sexual realtionship outside of an offical one.
    • Platform work demands at least the minding of one deputy, in case your wife is horning you while your’re out there , drilling.

K

  • Kakanade:  Gossip; idle talk, shit talk.
  • Kakalaylay  (n): Sexually suggestive dancing. /kakalele/ (<kaka lele dance>)
  • Kaka-nay (n): Dirty nose; snotty nose. /kakane/ (<French Creole < kaka ‘feces; waste’ + nay ‘nose’ < French nez )
    • We call him Mr. Ka Ka Nez because he alway digging he nose (Baptiste 1993:96-7)
  • Kick Pan: A children’s game in which a metal container is placed in the centre of the playing area; a catcher searches, while players to sneak in and kick if over before being caught.
    • The children playing kick the can down the road
  • Kuyoh (n):  Fool; someone easily decived; under someone’s power. /kuyo/ Spanish cuna or French couillon ‘fool; imbecile’.
    • His wife horning him, she have him so kuyoh, he only washing wares

L

  • Lajablesse, La Jabless, La Diablesse (n):  A folklore character, a beautiful woman in a long dress who has one foot like a cow’s; she entices men astray at night in the forest or on lonely roads.  < French la ‘the’ + diablesse ‘female devil’>
    • [The] diabless…is a she-devil, one of whose foot end in a cloven hoof, who frequents cemeteries and crossroads….she is particularly fond of attending belle air dances, and after the festivities, young males would make advanced to her and she would encourage her victim to follow her home….then as she leads him to a precipice she would suddenly transform herself into a huge hog…If however, the young swain knows the ropes he would pick two sticks and make a cross at which time she would also disappear.
  • Lick Out: Devastate; destroy; damaged; take away; wear out; use up; spend money without restraints, recklessly
    • The school fees lick out my money.
  • Lime: Participate in an informal gathering of two or more people, characterised by semi-ritualised talking and socialising, drinking and eating.  In the day when you miss me, Ah liming by some old lady.
  • Loup Garou, Lugahu (n): In folklore, a human who takes the form of an animal, generally, at night. <French loup garou ‘werewolf’>.
    • The man who stole the chickens and was acquitted is really ah loup garou.

M

  • Mama Glo, Mama Dlo, Mama D’Leau (n):  A folklore character in the form of a beautiful woman, sometimes snake-like, with long hair and a fish-like tail who lives in rivers.  <French Creole mama dlo/glo <French maman ‘mother’ + de l’eau ‘of the water’>
    • Then there were….mama d’leau… – mother of the waters who is the great snake character of rivers. (Ahye 1938:45)
  • Massa Day Done:  An expression used to reproach someone to remind them that colonial days are finished and old privileges and oppression are no longer acceptable. (Public lecture by Eric Williams, 22 March 1961)
  • Matta Fix: Settled; arranged; ready to go.
    • A good brulejol must never boil, Once it’s well mixed, is matta fixed.

P

  • Pail Closet: An outside latrine; an enclosed toilet consisting of a pail (bucket) underneath a seat with an opening in it.
  • Papa Bois (n):  A folklore character, usually depicted as having a man’s head, chest and arms, with goat-horns on the head, and the lower body of a goat or similar animal. He is the protector of animals in the forests and can change himself into animal forms to lead hunters away. <French Creole Papa ‘father’ + French Bois ‘woods; forest’>
    • The African legend of Papa Bois mixing with the European tales of werewolves – our lou’ gahou’ the Anansi stories of the Ashanti people of the Gold Coast.
  • Pull hand: In SUSU, to collect the entire amount of all members contributions in your turn

R

  • Ram Goat Can’t Pee:  Phrase indicating that you do not believe someone’s story.  He cleaned up the whole house? That ram goat can’t pee!
  • Rings: In PITCH, a small circle, usually about 18 inches in diameter, in which the marbles are placed; the object is to now opponents’ marbles out of this ring with your TAW.
  • Rings & Taws (Right Through): In PITCH, shouted before pitching in RINGS, when you intend to roll your marble through the field of play and keep anything you hit out of the ring, including your opponents TAW, and in addition claim points for any opponent’s marbles which have been indirectly hit.
    • I going to pitch, rings and taws!
  • Rum Jumbie (n) – Habitual drunkard; alcoholic.

S

  • SUSU:  A cooperative savings systems in which each person contributes the same fixed amount each week, and the whole amount, the HAND is taken by a different member each time.
  • Sweat Rice: Rice into which a woman, given to a man to make him remain faithful.  Steam rice. “Sweat rice” was supposed to be one of the more potent aphrodisiacs employed to “tie” men.  Sweat rice: A meal of rice, which a woman prepares when she wants to trap a man.  The woman prepares this by squatting over steaming rice, and allowing her vaginal  juices to “sweat into the rice.”

T

  • TAW: A large, lucky, or choice marble used to shoot at other marbles, rarely parted with or betted
    • Partner, we doh play with no doggle, Dat is not real marble, Dat is balls-bearing…Yu want to mash up people taw!
  • Turtle Botheration:  A preparation of a  turtle penis in rum, of which small sips are taken as a male aphrodisiac.

Next time in Trinidad learns a couple of phrases of the language.

Source: Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago by Lise Winer

Featured Image: The Red, White and Black by JP-Talma

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