Electric Lit: How I Learned to Embrace Jamaican Patois, the Language of My Youth

There’s something about Jamaican patois that grates and soothes at the same time. It is the language of home. It is the language of the women who lived in my childhood home as helpers, the language of the women who told me and my sisters stories about rolling calves and duppies, the women who plaited my hair morning after morning and got us girls ready for school. It is the language of my primary school classmates fashioning a ball out of an empty juice box, stuffing the empty box with other bits of trash and tapping the corners to soften the edges, then throwing that ball in a game of dandy shandy or sight—something like dodgeball—in which the child in the center jumps and weaves and bobs to avoid the ball, sometimes diving to the ground, and the children standing around watching and waiting their turn squealing and hollering as the game progressed. It is the language of the higglers in the market urging passersby to buy their produce.