Learning the Lingo - Trini Style

I mentioned in an earlier blog that CNN has pronounced the Trini accent as one of the sexiest accents in the world. We agree it has a pleasant appeal. People sing as they work here and seem to have the same sing-song style in their speech. Even though it's English they're speaking, that doesn't always mean we can understand what they're saying. Trinidadian English is a mix of English as we know it, Spanish, slang expressions, idioms, French/Creole words, some Indian/Asian influence and a lyrical twist of phrase. Trini expressions we're learning …

Liming or limin' – Yup … pronounced just like the fruit. It's an informal get-together of two or more friends/acquaintances; hanging out; can be considered loitering. Liming is discouraged in many stores and restaurants … unless you're a paying customer.

we liming

Rum store – any bar that locals frequent; a good place for limin'

rum shop in trinidad

Down de islands – sometimes referred to as DDI, a trip to one of the small islands off Trinidad, e.g. Gaspar Grande, Monos, Huevos or Chacachacare .“Up de islands” is heading north up the chain of other Caribbean islands/countries.

trinidad ddi

Foreigners – Anyone, especially white people, not from Trinidad or Tobago. More specifically is a foreign foreigner who is anyone not from the Caribbean.

Some words are just pronounced differently. “A”(ah) is how most Trinidadians pronounce “I” or “a” and “ax” is “ask”. “Dohn” is “don't” and “fuh” is “for”. “Dat” is “that”, “de” is “the” and “ting” is “thing”. I think some of this comes from the French/Creole influence where “th” is not pronounced. If we listen carefully, we can understand. It takes a little practice. It's also important to appreciate that this is their language … it's not a corruption of American or British English, it's a language unto itself. So phrases like “Buh whey nah” take a minute to comprehend “but wait now (wait a minute)” clicks with our brains after a few seconds.

Ent? - Don't you agree? (We hear this a lot and only recently figured out what it meant.)

Pans – steel pan drums; and panyards are the locations of the enclosed practice locations for the pan bands.

mobile pan band

Fete – an organized party; drinking, dancing and loud music, often till the wee hours of the next morning.

There are several Carnival terms that are used quite often since Carnival is the most significant celebration of the year here. In fact, “carnival” itself is derived from the Latin words “carne-vale” … farewell meat …and introduced by the Catholics as a celebration day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) was set aside as a time to indulge before the 40 days of fasting ahead. It is said Trinidadian's are either participating in Carnival, preparing for Carnival or reminiscing about Carnival. It's a year long affair.

Mas – mask/masquerade – part of Carnival activities with everyone in costume. Mas camps are set up before Carnival where costumes are designed and fitted according the particular theme of the individual camps, dances are practiced and generally everyone participates. Parties, fetes and mas bands keep the campers entertained before and during Carnival. We've never been to Carnival here. We experienced a smaller version in Tobago and one in Bonaire. Not sure if we could handle the crowds and craziness of a Trini Carnival (think Mardi Gras in New Orleans on steroids), but you never know.

carnival in bonaire

In my research, I've read that there are lots of Trini sayings and expressions that we might hear along the way. Reading them, I felt that they were uniquely put, but universally accepted truths. There's that “same, but different” thing I talk about so often.

We learn something new every day … all part of the allure of travel. Now we're off to go limin' with some friends.