island lingo

This isn't actually going to be very islandy, since almost everyone we hang with is a fellow expat, and we're all required to speak fluent English. The natives speak English and Jamaican patois (per Wikipedia), but I'll focus on the fun words we've picked up from our new international friends.

Words from the UK (this is the bigger list; I guess they talk more):

  • accountancy - noun - accounting. (A good one to start with! "I work in accountancy." Apparently "accounting" is giving an account of your actions, while accountancy is a profession.)
  • ace - adjective - awesome. ("Seven Mile Beach is ace!" Can also be used as a plural, in the exact same way. "That's aces!")
  • bonnet - noun - car hood. (I don't think Americans have used this word relating to a vehicle since Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was around!)
  • boot - noun - car trunk. (I heard this also from a South African who was boasting of how big his Vespa's boot was, fitting two whole helmets inside.)
  • car park - noun - parking lot. ("If not for the firm's car park, you'd have no place to put your car in George Town.")
  • Chartered Accountant - noun - CPA equivalent. (More on what it takes to become certified/licensed/qualified in other countries in a future post.)
  • chips - noun - fries. (But not skinny fries. Steak fries.)
  • craic - noun - ("crike")  event. [ I think this one's Irish. "What's the craic?" (equivalent to "What's going on tonight?" Or equivalent to NS saying, "What's the skinny?" This was a real conversation.)]
  • flat - noun - apartment. (They NEVER say "apartment". South Africans are the same.)
  • footie - noun - soccer. (Using "football" was getting confusing.)
  • gob - noun - mouth. ("I should learn to keep my gob shut!")
  • half- - pronoun - 30 minutes past the hour. ("Let's meet at half eight.)
  • jumper - noun - sweater. (This makes no sense! I'm more likely to sweat than to jump.)
  • keen - adjective - eager. ("I'm keen to swim with dolphins." South Africans use this a lot too.) 
  • kip - noun - nap. ("Can I kip on your couch for the night?" Apparently, asking to sleep over is rude, but asking to kip is not, even though they have the same results.)
  • Oh my head - phrase - astonishment. (Like "Oh my word.")
  • Mackintosh - noun - rain coat. (Goes with Wellies.)
  • mental - adjective - crazy. ("She's MENTAL." But not literally.)
  • mossie - noun - abbreviation for mosquitoes. ("The cruisers bring the mossies with them.")
  • pumps - noun - sneakers (or "tennis shoes", for my Southern readers). (One UKer couldn't figure out why I was stressed that my red pumps were squished in the bottom of one of the infamous 15 boxes.)
  • quid - noun - a British pound. (Similar to how Americans use "buck" for a dollar.)
  • rubbish
    • noun - trash. (This is an obvious one, but it's hysterical that they use it all the time.)
    • adjective - nonsense. ("Your argument is pure rubbish.")
  • schedule - (Same as in America, but always pronounced "shed-jule".)
  • swish - adjective - fancy. ("The apartment is very swish.") 
  • uni - noun - short for university. (Because no one went to college.)

Words from South Africa:
  • costume - noun - swimsuit. ("We're having a braai on the beach; bring something to drink and your costume!")
  • half- - pronoun - Same as the UK meaning above, unless speaking in Afrikaans, in which case it means 30 minutes before the hour. (Confusing!)
  • hectic - adjective - crazy. ("That's heeeectic, man.")
  • ja - adverb - ("yah") yes. (Usually used in a series, like, "Ja, ja, ja, ja.")
  • oke - noun - guy. ("He's a good oke.")
  • robot - noun - traffic signal. ("Turn left at the robot." Seriously!)
  • shot - phrase
    • thank you. ("Shot, man!")  
    • awesome. (Kind of like how UKers use "Cheers" instead of Thank you. "Shot.")
  • torch - noun - flashlight. (Easier to say than flashlight. I might adopt it.)

This is a longer list than I anticipated! But I'm all for a bit of vocabulary expansion while here. As long as I don't pick up a false European accent, I think I'm okay.


  1. This was so interesting!! I love it! I might add a view of these words to my vocabulary...

    This post was ace!!

  2. Shot! That was fun.

  3. I was chuckling over some of these...I enjoyed it! :)

  4. all i have to say is.. I AM SO GLAD YOU BROUGHT YOUR RED PUMPS! :)

  5. love it. i can't wait to hear if you do adopt any sort of an accent... ;)