Trini Phrase: Bad John

  • Bad John  (noun): A man willing to use violence and who likes being known as a dangerous person; a ruffian. John Archer, nicknamed Bad John,  a notorious habitual violent criminal during the early years of the 20th century. There really was an Afro-Barbadian born ex-soldier, ex-Panama Canal worker and ex-revolutionist who stowed away on the SS Don and ended up in Trinidad in 1887. That man, John Archer, a wharf worker attended church regularly and once saved three persons from drowning. But he was a rum-drinking character, always using obscene language and involved in street fights. The “marish and parish” referred to him as “BarJohn”. When John drowned at age 62, he had 119 criminal convictions.
    • You playin’ bad-john! Take care I bust a lash in your ass and make you coil up like a old snake here tonight. (Khan 1964:131)
John Archer aka Bad John

Bad John is a common Trini phrase to refer to individuals that were either unruly or above the law in Trinidad and Tobago. Interestingly slangs can change over time. I have lived in the United States for 20 years now, and every time I travel back to Trinidad and Tobago, I have to reacquaint myself with the words and phrases that have evolved.

Trini folklore such as La Jahbless is an oral tradition meant to pass on the stories to the next generation. Other Trini phrases in the vernacular are Doux-Doux, Kote-si Kote-la, Light Candle, Sprawl Off, Jhorts, Sancoche, Kaka-Nay, Rum Jumbie.

Click here now for other Trini expressions and leave us a comment below of phrases you have heard.

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

Source: date September 18, 2010 sourced September 9, 2018.

Featured Image by Henry Hustava on Unsplash


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