One of the weirdest things about being an international student is dealing with two or more sets of slang. There are always a few confused looks when I forget to “switch over” after stepping off the plane in SFO. Over the semesters, I’ve managed to mentally translate and find equivalents for most of the words I use at home in Barbados. However, I’ll always feel that Barbadian, or Bajan, slang feels more dramatic and colorful than any American translation I can come up with. Here are some of my favorite Bajan words to add some je ne sais quoi to your speech.
Rasshole (or RH)
Examples: “Wuh de rasshole?”, “It cold as rasshole!”, “This line so rasshole long!”, “Oh rasshole!”
This is basically our catch-all swear. It can replace “f—” in most instances. There’s no real rule of thumb for its usage; I’ve heard it used as a noun, adjective or adverb depending on the context. No matter what, it adds emphasis to the sentence and usually expresses annoyance, anger or frustration. If you’re in the line at the bank in the hot sun, there’s a good chance you’ll hear it at least once. Notably, it once made an appearance in an anti-littering slogan (“Stop RH littering”). The organizers claimed that the “RH” stands for “road and highways” but we all understood the message.
Example: “Wunna doan know how hard writing a Strikeout is.”
“Wunna” is derived from the Igbo word “unu,” and is a second-person, plural pronoun. It can be used to replace “y’all” or the plural “you” in most cases. Sometimes, Bajans also say “all a wunna,” which is a way of emphasizing that a statement applies to every member of a group. It can get even more specific than that, too: “All-two a wunna” would refer to both people in a duo, making it very clear that a statement is directed at both of them equally.
Example: “That concert last night was burst.”
“Burst” is used to describe an overcrowded place, specifically venues for parties, concerts or sports events. Basically, if a place is coming close to violating COVID-19 guidelines, it’s “burst.”
Examples: “You going to the beach lime later?”, “That fete was so burst.”
This one was the hardest for me to lose when I moved countries. A “lime” is the Bajan equivalent of a “kickback,” and it usually implies that there will be a small-ish, informal gathering. “Lime” can also be used as a verb, where it would mean “hanging out with people.” A “fete,” on the other hand, is a formalized event. There are usually tickets needed to enter, drinks on sale, a DJ, etc.
Example: “Go plug out that kettle.”
You plug in a device, so logic follows that you can also “plug out” a device. It’s one of my favorite colloquialisms because it makes perfect sense but at the same time is technically incorrect.
Example: “Look at him doing his essay 10 minutes before the deadline. Cuh dear!”
The best American equivalent I’ve found for “cuh dear” is Southerners saying, “bless his heart!” It’s either used in a patronizing or sarcastic way when someone is doing something adorably wrong, or in a genuine way when a child does something cute. Either way, if you’re 20 years old and someone tells you “cuh dear,” there’s a good chance you need to reevaluate your actions.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it has given you a brief taste of Bajan slang. I think the only thing left I can say is “Go RH Bears!”
Contact Danielle Valdez at [email protected].