Monday, May 20, 2024


By Tony Deyal

When I was growing up, “accra” for me was a fried delicacy made of flour, seasonings including pepper, and small pieces of “salt-fish”. It was a case of nearer my cod to thee. In Barbados it is a beach and a hotel. The difference between a Trinidad “accra” and a Bajan beach hotel of the same name is as wide as that between a Jamaat and a Jamette, a PM and a post mortem, or a hoe and a ho’.”

When it comes to hoes and hos, Jamaicans know the difference. They believe that “Every hoe have dem ‘tick a bush”. This means that the flat-bladed part of the farming tool, or hoe, has a stick (‘tick’ in patois) to fit it, and while you’re digging for provisions, there’s always someone out there expecting to become your soul’s companion. A “ho” is different. Jamaicans see a “ho” as a “sketel”, slut, or really bad girl who has been around the block a few times.

Checking Barbados, I didn’t find a hoe. However, I got a “hold-down” (stoop down low), and even a “horn” (cheat on a lover). I also got a “Polished Hoe” but it turned out to be a novel by the great Austin Clarke whose “Hoe” was so popular around the world that it won a Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2003 and a Trillium Book Award.

Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is very much like Jamaica when it comes to “hoe” and “ho” except the Jamaican men are more “hopen” and “oping” in their desire to catch up. When one of my Jamaican friends heard about “Ho Chi Minh”, the president of Vietnam, and found out that the boss was known as “Uncle Ho”, he called and boasted without a second thought, “Tony, I going there.” And then, thinking it was plane sailing, he gave me a huge laugh that ended with a “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and asked “You aint commin?” I left it at that. He went with great hanticipation and hecspecations.

The humorous downside of Ho is something that happened to me when I was growing up in Trinidad. My neighbours, two houses down, were originally from St Vincent and the big sister of the family always pulled rank on the smaller sister constantly threatening her about her behaviour and lack of respect. The big sister, Irene, handed Jane a bucket and demanded, “Go by the stand pipe and full this bucket. Don’t waste time with them jaggerbat women friends you have and bring the water quick because Mammy tell me to make sure I cook some rice for we to eat this evening.”

While in England a ‘Jagger-bat’ could be a much-valued and very valuable gift which is neither vampirical nor a fly-by-night, in Trinidad a ‘jaggerbat’ is a lady of the evening with very loose virtue, morals and other parts. The younger sister was upset and very angry, “You not my mother and you can’t tell me what to do. Besides don’t threaten me again, Oh-ho!”

Now this “ho” when used after “Oh” in the Caribbean is different from the other usages of the word. One example follows: “Oh-ho!” exclaimed the pirate chief, a gleam of triumphant satisfaction passing over his face for an instant and then vanishing as he again confronted the captain sternly.” The preceding sentence is an example of the use of the interjection “Oh-ho!”, which generally expresses surprise, exultation, comprehension, or mock astonishment but can also be a taunt, a sneer, or insult.

However, in the case of the two sisters, blood was not thicker than water and was about to be shed by the bucket full. Next thing I knew, it was fire, brimstone, and a fight to the finish by the two sisters behaving like the biggest jaggerbats in Charlotte Street Port-of-Spain, Montego Bay in Jamaica or the “Red Light” zone in Bridgetown.

The big sister screamed, “Who you calling a ho? Is me you calling a ho?” and, forgetting for the time being that they shared the same female progenitor, picked up a knife and threatened loudly, “I will kill your mother so-and-so,” or words to that effect. Fortunately, other neighbours rushed to the scene, seized the weapons, calmed the combatants, and explained that it was an error in communication and not an insult or accusation worth fighting over or, for that matter, doing fatal bodily harm to their mother’s genitals.

A few days ago I thought of the “bacchanal” of the two sisters and again found that English and Trini are two different cups of tea – one that you have to hold up one finger in the air while drinking from a small cup, and the other in a bigger cup tightly held with all hands on dreck. In the English language “a baccanal is a crazed party with drunken revelry, ecstatic sexual experimentation, and wild music” with lots of “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll”. In Trinidad, unlike the “jaggerbat”, the baccanal (according to the Caribbean Memory Project) “is rowdy, scandalous behaviour; good party, minding another’s business and adding to, thereby causing confusion, back-back, suggestive dance, the male dancers front rubbing against the females rear and vice versa.” While I think Trinidad is more “vicey” than anywhere else in the Caribbean, it is still dicey to say that to Jamaicans.

That is because among Caribbean people jaggerbats and vice-versas are part of the bigger picture. All of us are “full ah temper”, fuelled by it, and totally tempestuous when we’re angry, upset or just feeling pressured and need to take it out on whoever is nearest and even dearest. Is there a difference between a quick temper and a short temper in the Caribbean? Only if the person is above or below five feet tall. Some of us and our wives are a temperamental couple. I tease my wife by telling people that I’ve got a temper and she’s mental. We went to a psychiatrist to see whether he could help. He was even more temperamental that we had no patients.

I also told them that my wife is a Guyanese and we went to Kaieteur Falls for a hike. As usual, I lost my temper and she was so angry and upset she threw the entire map of Guyana at me. I was angry at first but then I realised that it had helped me to know where we stand. The problem was that we went round and round indulging in really bad-tempered accusations. It was a vicious circle. Sometimes I think it is a pity that I can’t manage my anger like the former US president, George Bush. When his dog, Millie, had pups he told the large gathering of media big-shots, “You may have read that the pups are sleeping on The Washington Post and The New York Times; this is the first time in history that those papers have been used to prevent leaks.”

*Tony Deyal was last seen quoting the American comedian, Stephen Wright, “Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until they speak.” What did you my readers say? “Shut up Tony?”



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