Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Letter of the Day | No shame in Patois

Published:Monday | October 2, 2017 | 12:00 AM


With Heritage Week days away, now is a great time to remind those Jamaicans who believe Creole, or Patois, should have died with slavery, that it is the greatest proponent of our heritage, and we should embrace it.

More than anything else, it is that thread that keeps our social fabric together.

And, it is indeed a language within its own right, because it has rules and regulations just like other languages.

It is the confluence of cultures - African, European, Asian - that gave rise to Jamaican Creole. It started out as a plantation pidgin, a sort of trade language that emerged from the potpourri of the many varieties that were present on the plantations. The pidgin eventually evolved into a new language, one that is mutually intelligible, which even the Europeans themselves understood.

Jamaican Creole was berated by the Europeans and their Creole offspring. They regard it as backward, not something to be spoken by people in high society and of well-bred stock. In fact, everybody and everything that was associated with Africa was invariably viewed negatively.

Enslaved Africans were made to feel bad about themselves, their culture and the language that expresses it. They believed their enslavers, and so the seeds of self-hatred were sown in their psyche, and have long grown into a big tree of low self-esteem and self-deprecation.


Simply a language


Jamaican Creole is simply a language that we use to embrace and alienate one another. It betrays our cultural nuances and sensibilities. It is the language of our folk songs, myths and legends. It is the language of reggae and dancehall music.

And it is not just for entertainment purposes, as one noted educator once wrote in The Gleaner. Non compos mentis. If it were only for entertainment purposes, it means that we are a nation of entertainers. How ridiculous can we get sometimes in our effort to be pretentious?

And that is what the war on Jamaican Creole is all about, pretentiousness. Those who say they are of a certain stock, social background and prominence, even those who speak it every day, refuse to embrace it because it is not compatible with their hoity-toity profile.

Jamaica Creole belongs in the homes, in the schools, onstage, on TV and radio, in the newspaper, and the boardrooms, because it is our language.


Educator and Journalist