About the picture
This sentence probably rang a bell; you know it from the famous Bob Marley song.
What does “no woman, no cry” mean?
Many people think that “no woman, no cry” means “if you don’t have a woman, then you won’t have to cry”. However, this grammatically correct Jamaican English sentence actually means “no, woman, don’t cry”
My choice for this example sentence was inspired by Martin Hilpert’s excellent series of lectures on World Englishes which can be watched for free on YouTube.
(Bird: The Jamaican doctor bird, or swallow tail humming bird, is Jamaica’s national bird because it lives only in Jamaica.)
Jamaican English or Patois?
A distinction exists between Jamaican English and Jamaican Patois (a creole language), though not entirely a sharp distinction so much as a gradual continuum between two extremes. Jamaican Patois is used by most people for everyday, informal situations – it is the language most Jamaicans use at home and are most familiar with. Standard English, on the other hand, is the language of education, high culture, government, the media and official/formal communications. It is also the native language of a small minority of Jamaicans.
General resources on Jamaican English
Introduction to Caribbean English by the Oxford English Dictionary
Do you know of any other great resources? Let me know in the comments!
Here are all the articles about Jamaican English that have appeared in my newsletter English in Progress about world Englishes and English language change
… Except, there aren’t any. Setting up this page has taught me I need to do better to try to represent Jamaican English and Caribbean English in my newsletter!
Heddwen Newton is an English teacher and translator. She is fascinated by contemporary English and the way English changes. Her newsletter is English in Progress on Substack.