Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
A Boboli in Trinidad and Tobago is typically a person who allows another to beat him up, misuse him or make a fool of him.
Boboli, bobolee, bouberly (n) is rooted in the Carnival and Good Friday celebrations where an effigy of Judas Iscariot, called a “bobolee” was beaten. The word Boboli is believed to be of African origin specifically from Kikongo bubulu ‘ignorant; stupid; mad’ + Kikongo buubulu ‘beaten; flogged’.
- He beat him in his kitchen mercilessly and Schmeling tumble down like a Bouberly (Beginner “Joe Louis & Schmeling” 1939, in Rohlehr 1990:199)
- The customs of Good Friday have been slowly dying out. The boboleee is made from men’s clothes, stuffed with rags and newspapers are rarely seen today. The bobolee, representing Judas, would be beaten until the stuffing came out. The beating of the bobolee would usually begin at 3 PM, the time Jesus was believed to have died.
Boboli – Caribbean Usage
According to Britannica Kikongo-Kituba, also called Kikongo ya Leta or Kileta (“the state’s Kikongo”) is a creole language of Central Africa. The style evolved out of the contact between Kikongo-Kimanyanga and other Bantu languages in the western Democratic Republic of the Congo and the southern Republic of the Congo.
The definition of bobolee seems to have been evolving over the years. In the early twentieth century, a bobolee was a stuffed effigy of Judas which was tied by the neck and dragged through the streets on Good Friday, usually followed by children with sticks, striking it until it came apart. Hence the sayings “they beat him like a bobolee”, or ” he gets licks like a bobolee”. The current metonyms seem to tilt toward someone who is taken advantage of because he or she is not intelligent or lovestruck.
The word Boboli/Bobolee/Bouberly is practised primarily in Trinidad and Tobago. A Boboli is not to be confused with the word bobol, which has an entirely different meaning.
Various words and phrases from Trinidad & Tobago can be traced back to English, French, African, Hindi, and Spanish origins. For instance, growing up in Trinidad and Tobago is fascinating because the 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 emerged.
Trini folklore such as Papa Bois is an oral tradition meant to pass on the stories to the next generation. Other Trini phrases in the vernacular are Maljo, Goat-Mouth, La Couray, Reds and Take-in-Front.