Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unusual Jamaican place names...

Saturated. That's best word to describe Accra this Tuesday morning. It had been raining for most of the night, and traffic this morning was pleasantly light - given half a chance I would have stayed in bed too. Again had flashbacks to my childhood - I wonder if per chance this has to do with one of the big birthday's coming up? After all, the first sign (or so they say) of mid life crisis is longing for youth and all things youthful.

As a child, rainy days at home were spent playing all kind of games with my siblings, me being head-cook-and-bottle-washer as I was the oldest. A favorite of ours was making up nonsensical words - stringing together syllables that would literally twist your tongue, causing the others to roll on the floor with laughter. Sometimes in driving through the Ghanaian country side, I am reminded of those words. The place names registering on my retina but not quite making the connection to tongue and speech.


We too have some unusual place names in Jamaica, less known for their potential as tongue twisters but perhaps more as brain teasers, evoking the simple question ' why?'. Some I definitely have to share! Among my favorites :

  • Shake a Hand Market, Portland - a village square noted as a popular meeting place;
  • Try See, St. Ann - said to be a post emancipation name, alluding to the fact that freed slaves should now 'try and see' how they could make a life outside of the plantation and slavery;
  • Fat Hog Quarter, Hanover - well, let's just say this is one place they used to have a lot of pigs (i.e. hogs)
  • Corn Puss Gap, St. Thomas - so named after the hikers who got lost in the hills and you guessed it - corned a cat and ate it. To 'corn' something in Jamaica means to season, primarily with salt, as a means of curing.
  • Flog Man, Manchester - a popular place for meeting out punishment, which then was generally flogging.
  • Mi-nuh-call-you-nuh-come (i.e. patois if I have not called then you should not come) , St. Elizabeth - so named by the Maroons, the run away slaves from the plantations who wanted to make it clear that they wanted no intruders.

  • Aural reminders of past and present all combined into one. Interested in seeing more? And also seeing the connections to European and Africa countries? Visit the Jamaican Gleaner Pieces of the Past website, which has a really great collection of these names.

    Place names and meanings given based on : What's in a Name by Dr. Rebecca Tortello
    Picture : by Ray Chen, from the Jamaican Gleaner Website


    5 comments:

    Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

    Denise, this is so funny, especially "Mi-nuh-call-you-nuh-come". Hilarious. Thanks.

    Jacqueline Smith said...

    Denise you would love Lorna Goodison's poem "To us all flowers are roses" in it she calls up so much about us based on the names we gave to places.

    Denise said...

    Hi Nana Yaw, I am sure that Ghana has a few funny one's too - one more good reason for learning a local language I guess.

    Denise said...

    Hi Jacqueline, just finished reading her book From Harvey River, was such a good read on so many levels. About two weeks ago I also heard an interview with her on BBC radio. She is really phenomenal. Will have a look-see for the poem you mentioned.

    Pen Powder said...

    The rains, methinks, are always very welcome.