We’ve recently acknowledged that many of our Jamaican proverbs and sayings have disappeared with time. However, that does not mean the loss of our creative use of language and metaphors. There are a number of Jamaican phrases and slangs that we have developed and use today. Young people especially hear and use these slangs every day. Here are 7 of the most current slangs Jamaicans use:
7. Pree – the term is used vastly, usually meaning to focus on something. Depending on the scenario it can simply mean to look, to analyze, or to look intently in a way that might be considered intense or inappropriate. This gives rise to another slang in the form of a question, “why pree?” , which is usually meant to ask “why are you looking at me?”. It can also be used to mean “what’s going on?”.
6. “Mad ting” – this phrase coincides with the Oxford Dictionary’s informal definition of ‘mad’ referring to a quality of great enthusiasm or remarkability. Thus, ‘mad ting’ in our culture is used to refer to something that is very good or remarkable. According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is used similarly in the United States. For example, “I’ve got mad respect for him” means “I respect him greatly”.
5. “U know di Schweppes” – the phrase operates as one of the newer street slangs, heard most widely since 2017. It references the two grapefruit soft drinks sold in Jamaica, Ting and Schweppes. The term ‘ting’ functions as a brand name and also a Jamaica patois word meaning ‘thing’. Thus the phrase “u know di ting” would translate to “you know how things are/you know the situation”. Given the similarity between the two grapefruit drinks, Jamaicans see it fit to use the terms “Ting” and “Schweppes” synonymously; hence, “u know di Schweppes” means “you know the thing/you know how things are”.
4. “Get dark” – this coincides with the negative connotation of ‘darkness’ as something negative of scary. Thus to “get dark” means to get angry or belligerent.
3. “Rrrr” – the slang is used in a variety of ways. It is used as a means of expressing “hello” and also of expressing enthusiastic agreement.
2. “Everyting copaset” – this is in reference to the informal term ‘copacetic’. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the phrase “everything is copacetic” is used almost exclusively in North America to mean “everything is very satisfactory”. The Jamaican version takes on virtually the same meaning of “all is well”. Version of the phrase can be heard in films like Starship Troopers (1997) and She’s All That (1999).
1. “Medz” – the final term references the English word ‘meditate’, meaning to focus one’s mind for a period of time, usually in silence. The shortened Jamaican version of the word takes on a similar meaning. In Jamaica, to ‘medz’, means to focus on, analyze or consider something or someone seriously.
All these phrases and slangs are used commonly and almost exclusively by the younger generations. Given the persistent use of them, it would be unsurprising if they were added to our very own Jamaican dictionary one day.