Is the English Language
Trinidad and Tobago's Native Tongue?

Part 4:  Useful vocabulary for the visitors...


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Yes, English is the primary language. Trinidad and Tobago is proud of its educational system and its 98% literacy rate, which is a great achievement for a small nation. But it is true, even while Trinidadians (Trinis) write and speak fluent Standard English; they often use local words and phrases when speaking to one another in casual settings. Many of these words are appropriated English words that have taken on slightly different meaning or are heavily accented.

To experience the English language Trinidad and Tobago style, jump directly to the following Trinidad Dictionary sections...
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 Colorful Collection of Common Colloquiums 

Here are a few examples from our Trinidad Dictionary to whet your appetite: the word "that" is often pronounced "dat", the word "thing" as "t'ing", and the number 3 as "t'ree". All English words differentiated only by accent.

On the other hand, Trinidadians buy "bhaji" and "channa" at the grocery - the East Indian words for spinach and chickpeas - and many fruit names are of French origin. Other words, in this exotic colloquial mix, are uniquely Trinidadian.

You will enjoy listening to Trinidadians speak, their choice of words, particularly when limin', engaging in ol'talk, and giving fatigue, can be priceless.

 Rhythm is a Real Trini T'ing 

The cadence of the language Trinidad and Tobago natives speak, has been compared to the way the Welsh speak English. Trinidadian kids in particular almost sing their words. Without being aware of it, a Trinidadians natural sense of rhythm and rhyme is reflected in their speech.

When you visit Trinidad you'll hear the lilting ring of Trinidadian for your self, and if you are familiar with some local lingo you'll enjoy your visit that much more.

So have fun, start your vacation today; you’ll be surprised by what you learn in our Trinidad Dictionary...

Trinidad Dictionary – Part 4

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M

Macajuel (pronounced Mah-cah-well)
1: Boa-constrictor. Non–venomous snake that crushes its pray with its coils, swallows its pray whole then spend weeks or months at rest digesting.
2: Macajuel syndrome - the feeling one gets after a large meal when one feels tired. 3: A slothful person.

Maca Fouchette
Meal made with leftovers. Patios, literally meaning "food stuck between the fork".

Maco (pronounced Mah-co)
1: Someone who minds other peoples business, a busy-body. A gossip. To maco is to spy on, to observe with malicious intent. 2: Huge, anything overly big, as in dat maco house – that huge house.

Macocious, Macociousness
A busybody. Someone with the traits of a maco.

Macumere (pronounced Mah-co-may)
A good, old, close, female friend. A confidante and mentor.

Macumere Man
A man who is useless around the house, a lazy man, even effeminate.

Maga
Very thin, frail, boney. Often repeated for emphasis.

Makin' Style
Showing off.

Makin' Market, Make Groceries
Buying, shopping for, doing the weekly shopping.

Mal Yeux (pronounced Mal-joe)
Patios meaning bad-eye. Evil eye. An evil curse, hex or spell cast on someone, and any discomfort or illness believed to be its result. Wearing blue beads around the wrist, or jumbie beads around the ankle is supposed to ward off mal-yeux.

Mamaguy
To make fun of, or poke fun at. To fool someone with slick reasoning or smart talk. To ridicule. To take advantage of someone. To pretend support or encouragement.

Mama Poule
Mentally weak, gullible or spineless. Of weak character, someone who is easily taken advantage of. Hen-pecked.

Mammy Apple
Brown, rough skinned grapefruit sized fruit with sweet firm orange flesh.

Mango Chow
Preparation made with full but not yet ripe mangoes, seasoned with vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic; somewhat like a mango salsa but with slices of mango. A favorite with young Trinidadians and Tobagonians.


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Mannish
A child acting like a grownup. See Force Ripe.

Manicou
Opossum. A nocturnal, arboreal, rodent-like marsupial with a prehensile tail, which rears it young in a pouch.

Manicou Crab
A brown, terrestrial mountain crab that lives in the forest. A relative of Trinidad Blue and Mangrove crabs. Very good to eat, has a slightly sweet flesh and a hard shell.

Mas
Abbreviation for mask, masker, masking, masquerader or carnival costume. To play mas is to wear a carnival costume at Carnival time, to join in the masquerade, or to join a carnival band.

Mas Camp
A Carnival band's headquarters. Traditionally the place where Carnival costumes are made, sold and distributed.

Mas In Yuh Mas, Dat Is Mas
Expressions of delight and appreciation for well presented Carnival band or costume.

Matter Fix
Everything is now organized, set in place or completed.

Mauby
Bark from the Carob tree that is made into a drink, the bark looks similar to cinnamon, but has a taste more reminiscing of root beer.

Mauvais Langue (pronounced Mo-vay-lang)
Patios meaning, bad tongue. To speak ill of someone. To gossip about or carry down.

Midnight Robber
Costumed carnival character that died out by the 1970s. An extravagant braggart and fear monger, who usually wore black, armed himself with daggers and revolvers, and wore an enormous, elaborate hat often in the shape of a coffin that was trimmed with fringe. He assailed his victims with long-winded speeches of doom and gloom. A monologue of empty threats, hence robber talk, gun talk.

Minstrel
Roving band of public entertainers, with whitened faces in the blackface tradition, who played black music reminiscent of the southern United States.

Moco Jumbie
Stilt dancer. Spirits of African mythology and tradition that evolved into Carnival characters.

Mook
A very stupid person, a chupidee.

More Worse
Any worse. Superlative, as in T'ings couldn't get more worse.


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N

Nah, Nuh
1: Used at the end of a plea or request to replace "please", as in Bring some for meh nuh? 2: Used in response to an annoyance to replace "no", as in Doh do dat nah, or to mean "Absolutely not" as in Nah man.

Nanci Story
1: A fairy tale. A folk tail given by the spider Brier Ananci. West African children's stories and folk tails similar to Brier Rabbit stories in the United States. Trinidad versions include stories told by "Anansi" the spider, about forest animals, dwens or douyens (the souls of children who died before being christened) from Central Africa; and socouyants from the Fula/Fulani people of West Africa, and the Soninke people of the Savannah Belt. 2: A lame excuse, or cock and bull story.

Navel String
Placenta. After-birth.

Nennen
1: Godmother. 2: To experience hard times or adversity, to catch yuh tail, or catch yuh nennen.

Nex' T'ing
Another thing.


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O

Obeah
A kind of witchcraft practiced in the West Indies based on African magic rites, similar to Voodoo.

Obeah Man, Obeah Woman
Someone who practices obeah. To wok' obeah - to work magical spells, to attempt to influence other through the use of obeah.

Obzokee
1: Clumsy, ungainly, a bull in a china shop. 2: Awkward in appearance, anything twisted and out of shape.

Oh Geed!
That’s nasty. Exclamation used in response to an offensive smell.

Oh Gorm Man
An all-inclusive expression of surprise, sadness, admiration or indignation, dependent on inflection.

Oil Dong
Oil down. A traditional dish made from breadfruit, salted pork and ground provisions, stewed down in coconut milk. Delicious.

Ol' Talk
1: Idle chatter, chitchat or clever social banter. 2: A smooth argument used to wiggle out of a sticky situation, or charm ones way into someone's good graces.

Ol' T'ief (pronounced Ol' Teef)
Old thief. A habitual thief, someone who has a reputation of taking advantage or stealing from others.

Oui
Patios meaning, yes. Used at the end of a sentence or exclamation to give emphasis, as in All yuh good, oui.

Oui Foute
Patios expression of surprise, literally "yes do", but used in Trinidad to mean, what madness, what foolishness.

Oui Pappa
Patios meaning, yes father. Expression of surprise, as in Oui pappa, look trouble reach.

O-Yo-Yoy
Expression of surprise. Often associates with stubbed toes, hurt, pain, and bad news. Somewhat like "Ouch!" or "Oh no!" Also a sigh of exasperation.

Oyster Man
Oyster vendor, who sells oysters that are found growing on Mangrove tree roots in local swamps, something Sir Walter Raleigh wrote about in his memoirs after visiting Trinidad.


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P

Paime (pronounced Pay-me)
A sweet corn dumpling raped in banana leaves and boiled. Similar to pastelle.

Pallet
Frozen fruit lolly, ice cream sucker. A Pallet Man is someone who sells pallets form a small bicycle cart.

Pan
Steel-pan, steel-drum. Musical instrument invented in Trinidad between the late 1930s and the early 1940s. A tempered oil drum with notes grooved into one end that are struck with rubber tipped sticks to produce a melodious sound. The only musical instrument invented in the 20th century. An instrument in a steelband or steel orchestra.

Pannist, Pan Man, Pan Woman
Person who plays pan as a musical instrument.

Pan Yard
A steelband's headquarters. The place where a steelband holds their rehearsals. Traditionally an open yard or vacant plot of land.

Paw-Paw
Word of Amerindian origin. Fruit similar to Papaya, which is the Hawaiian variety most often available in supermarkets. Paw-paw is indigenous to the Caribbean and Central America. Fruits can weigh up to 10 pounds, and reach 15-inches long. The flesh can be either yellow, orange or pink. Both Paw-paw and Papaya aid digestion, and can be used to tenderize meat.

Papa Bois
Patios meaning, father of the woods. African folklore character, the protector of animals, who is bearded, aged and very hairy, has cloven hooves for feet and carries a hunting horn.

Papa Yo!
An exclamation of great surprise.

Pappy-Show
To ridicule or make fun of someone or something.

Parang
Christmas music with a distinctive South American flavor. Originated with Spanish Priests teaching native Amerindians biblical stories. Derived form the Spanish word "parandero" meaning serenader. Soca parang is a calypsofied and updated version of parang, a Trinidad Christmas calypso.

Parlour
Small street corner cafeteria where cold drinks and snacks can be purchased.


To experience the English language Trinidad and Tobago style, jump directly to any of the following Trinidad Dictionary sections...
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Pastelle
A Christmas delicacy, made from pork, beef, olives, raisins and other seasonings, wrapped in a corn dough then covered in banana leaves and steamed.

Pelau
A very popular one-pot rice dish. A cook-up made of rice, pigeon peas and usually chicken or beef. An excellent meal to take to the beach.

Petit Careme
Patios name for a short dry spell, usually in September during the height of the rainy season. Similar to an Indian summer in North America.

Ponchacrema, Punch de Creme, Punch-a-Creme
A potent Christmas drink made with eggs, condensed milk, and rum served over crushed ice, and sprinkled with either bitters or grated nutmeg.

Phagwa
Holi. A Hindu religious festival where song, dance and music play and important part, and where spectators throw abeer, a brightly colored powder.

Pholourie
Trinidad street food of East Indian origin. Small fried balls of split pea flour served in a thin slightly sweet chutney sauce, usually mango or tamarind.

Picka
Thorn. Doh touch dat bush, it have picka.

Picong
To tease, heckle, ridicule, make fun of, see Fatigue.

Pierrot Grenade
Grenada Clown. A scholar who boasts great learning in speeches that demonstrate his ingenious language. Dresses in tatted rags, his costume would also include discarded tins and small boxes, a straw hat strewn with shrubbery, a whip and sometimes a hart motif on his chest. Heart shaped motif on chest and whip links this character with Jab-Jabs and earlier Canboulay stick fighters.

Pigeon Peas
Congo Peas. A small, speckled, smooth pea that is the main ingredient in pelau and other Trinidad rice dishes and soups.


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Pissant (pronounced Pis-sant)
Insignificant, small, beneath contempt.

Pissin' Tail
Good for nothing. Person of no consequence, class or importance.

Pissenlit
Carnival costume of Jouvert tradition. Literaly translated the "stinker". French "Pisse en lit" for 'wet the bed'. A mas of the Jammet carnival, which must have been one of the most objectionable characters. Usually a man dressed as a woman in a long transparent nightgown, whose menstrual cloth was stained red, and who girated his pelvis in what today would be called winin', or jookin'.

Pitch Lake
A lake of heavy, almost solid crude oil. Open tar pit. At one time it was considered one of the wonders of the world. Located in La Brea in southern Trinidad. Visited by Sir Walter Raleigh on voyage to discover El Dorado. Used to surface roads in Trinidad and Tobago. See also La Brea Pitch Lake. The largest tar pit in the world.

Pitch Oil
Kerosene, or tar oil. Hearkens back to a time when oil was extracted from the pitch in the Pitch Lake. Pitch is an archaic English word, "pich" meaning tar. Interestingly, the Amerindian word for the material in the Pitch Lake was "piche".

Planasse
To hit someone with the flat part of a cutlass.

Playin' Social
When someone pretends to be of higher social status. To put on airs.

Pomme Cythere (pronounced Pom-se-tay)
Patios meaning, golden apple. Sweet golden colored fruit with a spiky, woody seed that is often eaten green with salt. Used to make anchar.

Pommerac
Patios believed to mean, Maracas apple. Red pear shaped fruit with white cottony flesh and a large seed.

Pone
A heavy, sweet pudding made of cassava and sweet potato.

Poui
Brightly colored (yellow and pink) flowering trees. One of the most beautiful flowering Trees in Trinidad. Blooms at the end of the dry season.

Pouyont (pronounced Poo-your)
Cutlass. Machete.

Pow
Bow. Chinese steamed bun filled with barbecued pork.

Press
1: A wardrobe, an upright closet in which clothes and other items are kept. 2: Shaved ice, similar to a snowcone, that was pressed into a block and then dipped into fruit syrup.

Puncheon
High potency homemade rum.


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Coconut Head Logo Discover Trinidad's Vibrant Language 

The language Trinidad and Tobago natives' use, is a rich and colorful version of English. So much so that, experiencing the creative way in which Trinidadians use words can be an adventure in its own right.

Beach slippers for our guestsJourney to Trinidad like Christopher Columbus and Sir Walter Raleigh did, expecting discovery, and you won't be let down. Discover the island, its people, their music, food and language.

In our opinion, Trinidad and Tobago offers so much more than other Caribbean Islands, and our Trinidad Dictionary will help you make the most of your visit. All you have to do is relax and read on to experience the English language, Trinidad and Tobago style...

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