Nevisian local lingo
I’ve been on Nevis island for four months now…and nope…I’m still not bored. The pronunciation of Nevis (Nee-vis) is different to Ben Nevis in Scotland. The island has been home from home since a young age. There are people who still remind me of how chubby I was as a toddler and would cry a lot unless I was being fed.
I’ve been coming to Nevis so often so much that I am ‘the local foreigner’. I’m actually thinking about getting this put onto a shirt. Whilst I understand quite clearly (most of the time) when locals speak, I don’t adopt a local accent, for a number of reasons.
1. People look at me and know I’m not from the island, and
2. I’d sound stupid
I’m a second generation Nevisian (pronounation Nee-vision if you need some help). My grandparents were born on the island and lived in England for the majority of their lives. My mom and her siblings were born in England so naturally, the accent got watered down. Their accent is a little more authentic than mine if I tried. I do, however, use the local lingo, otherwise, I find people wondering what I’m talking about. Here are a few phrases that I thought I’d share with you.
This is my favourite phrase, which means to hang out or party. If you’ve read any of my previous posts then you should be familiar with this one. In Nevis there is even a bar and restaurant with the name of the Caribbean phrase.
Current is electricity or power. On the island, I’ve always been accustomed to the current going off at times. Without a backup generator, the chances are, you are without electricity and therefore Wi-Fi (which is important for me) for hours. Recently, there have been times when we have actually had more time without current because the electricity company was doing upgrades. It’s been poorly managed to say the least.
The ‘no current situation’ has had more of an impact on some parts of the island because some homes need electricity to the pump water into their homes. Many people were left with no power and water. Understandably, there was a lot of frustration on my Facebook timeline. That’s a file*.
When I first arrived the water was on rations. Every night around 10 pm the water was switched off so you couldn’t take a shower, flush the toilet or wash your hands in the sink. On the side of the island I live, the water would come on between 5-6 am and it varied depending on where you lived on the island. Homes who have a cistern were fortunate. #islandlife
That’s a file!
If you’ve been following my updates on Nevis Culturama Festival, then you know that I use this a lot. WOOTOOP is not only the name of a song by a local sound, it is an expression that translates to “bam” or “in your face”. ‘That’s a file’ refers to a case file against someone/something said or done. So when “current gone”, that’s a file!
Pronounced “trans” is a local description that refers to a vehicle to get around in – transportation. On Nevis people say trans, vehicle or even describe it as a ‘jeep’, ‘pick up’ or ‘truck’.
If you’re British you probably say tissue paper or kitchen roll. Not here! Simple distinctions like this are the difference between being understood or not.
Quite simply this is kissing your teeth. It’s an emotion about something that annoys you. It’s not the most attractive custom to adopt if you’re not familiar so I recommend, not to do this. It just makes you look and sound silly. This is instead of ‘KMT’ (kissing my teeth).
“Persons” (not people)
This is one description that I don’t adopt. My English literature just won’t accept it. When I first heard people describing ‘persons responsible’ I wanted to correct them but even on official documents, this is how people use the word to describe more than one person.
This is a common expression which people use at the beginning of a sentence. It adds a lot of effects when someone is telling a story.
“Awbe” / “Arby”
I struggled with this one. In a nutshell, it means “us” or “we”. Everywhere has local slang, this is one of them. When I verified with local people, I learned that the pronunciation varies depending on where in the island people are from. Phrases like this look funnier than they sound.
This is a general expression for getting back to normal. For instance, after drinking a lot of alcohol and getting back to normal. So if you’ve been liming hard, someone might ask if you’ve had time to catch yourself, i.e. recover.
“Squeeze one in”
Refers to having enough time to have one (more) drink. Yes, people on island love a drink.
Something I find very important about living on a rock. If you walk into a building it’s customary to greet people, even if they are strangers. Good morning, good day, good afternoon, good evening or good night. People will think you are rude otherwise.
Travel blogger, Riselle write about this in 6 Do’s and Don’ts When Visiting the Caribbean
This is a greeting, it doesn’t mean ‘what’s wrong’. It’s a hey, how are you doing. Unlike in England, people actually wait to hear an answer.
Whilst I don’t use all of the Nevisian lingo, I do understand when people use the words or phrases mentioned. It helps stay up to date with the conversation. There are a lot more, some not so appropriate. This post was to share a bit more of the Nevisian culture with you.
If you’re from Nevis, add to the list below in the comments box ↓
Can you share some of the local lingo from places where you’re from or on your travels?
“The Local Foreigner”
Post updated Friday 27 October 2017.