Can you understand this patois? 325 words

Phyrebrat

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#1
Hi,

This is aimed at people who are not exposed to Jamaican patois. I want to know if you understand Craig's dialogue. I think it's self explanatory but I hear this 3 hours a day at least so I'm fluent :D

It's an extract where five friends are drinking and smoking on the patio terrace of a well-appointed house:
Willie (POV) = white
Kate = mixed race (Guyana & UK)
Neil = white (Kate's husband)
Craig = Jamaican (friend) drifts in and out of patois
Jose = Brazilian (friend)

Thanks

pH


He rubbed the small patch on his head where he’d felt the water and followed Kate down to the patio table.
Jose still had that not-awestruck look splashed across his face as he turned in slow circles next to the pond.
‘Is he stoned or…?’ Neil whispered to Craig, who shrugged.
‘Dunno, mi nevah see ‘im suh,’
‘Kate?! Translation, please!’ Neil said.
She’d recovered some of her composure; she wrinkled her pretty nose and sniffed. ‘I’m not even half-Jamaican.’ This was aimed at Craig, not her husband.
Craig took it in good spirits, ‘Aii, you not easy, likkle gyal, you not easy at haaall.’
They all laughed apart from Jose who was still turning, inhaling the grounds.
‘Seriously, bro, what’s up with the circling?’ Craig said, slipping out of his patois. Then he noticed Kate’s smile and added, ‘Di white people dem taak.’
Kate, who had taken a seat very close to Neil stood up and launched a slap at Craig across the table. ‘I’m not white, either!’
‘Mi knoooo!’ Craig yelled, rubbing his arm, where Kate’s slap had landed. ‘Come on, Jose, siddung, nuh; the whites and mixity picking pon mi!’
Kate and Craig exchanged a grin when Willie said, ‘I don’t believe I’ve made any comment on either the Brazilian or the Jamaican.’ He threw himself back in his seat and added, ‘Or the half-Guyanese chick!’
Kate’s mouth dropped in horror; ‘ “Chick”? You're lucky you're too far to slap.’
Willie stuck out his tongue.
So that was it. The equilibrium of the day had returned and with it came a languid slip into a Lowe summer afternoon. There was something about summers down in Lowe that struck Willie as slightly magical as if the gradations of reality had slipped a degree to one side somehow. Time was different, even the sun’s unshakeable arc across the sky meandered unpredictably, and a comfortable bubble enclosed the friends at Riffy Grange.
 

The Judge

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#3
Ditto. I did get most of it (I think), but it was rather hard work at times. I agree it would help those who aren't fluent if you eased back a bit.

(I know you're not after thoughts on the rest, but just to say that first line threw me as I read the "and followed" as continuing on the "he'd felt the water" and I had to re-organise the sentence in my head to see it was in fact continuing the rubbing the head bit. I'd suggest a comma after "water" and perhaps, "then followed" to make it a bit clearer.)
 

TheDustyZebra

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#4
Pretty sure I got it fine, except it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in particular. This may be just because I don’t know anything surrounding it for context.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#6
Dunno, mi nevah see ‘im suh,’

I think this is-
dunno, I (me) never saw (see) him, Sir -

if so the lack of direct address comma made it hard for me to be sure

This one pulled me out of the narrative while I worked it all out:

Aii, you not easy, likkle gyal, you not easy at haaa
(Aii, you’re not easy, little girl, you’re not easy at all - for me this could be:

Aiii, you not easy, little girl, you not easy at hal’ and still get the accent without tripping me up so much

I think that’s how the really good accent writers do it: enough to give the accent but keeping enough rules and norms to make it easily understood so as not to pull people out.
 

ZlodeyVolk

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#7
@Phyrebrat: firstly, it reads well enough, especially if I sub-vocalise it in a Jamaican-ish accent. But it does require a smidgeon of extra work, to be understood.

I've run into a similar difficulty with heteroglossia in my own writing (I use a lot of Geordie dialect in my current work), and soon found out that non-standard spellings are a BIG problem for many readers. Fair enough, that's part of spelling's job, to aid comprehension, an' such as; but I still wanted to use the dialect as a means to underscore cultural differences between groups of characters … So I searched and I searched; I found a lot of blogs on the subject, and most of them were crap … but this one made sense, to me: 'Writing Accents and Dialects', over at QuickandDirtyTips. It advocates for reliance on lexis and appropriate grammar, to convey heteroglossia, rather than attempting to represent accents 'phonetically', through non-standard spellings. The thought is that readers are still going to stumble over unfamiliar lexis, until they get the hang of it; but they'll be more accepting of it if it's not coupled with the chore of sounding out words on a syllable by syllable basis. It's the difference between:

'How, man, I'm feelin' proper radgie, like. Some gadgie's dunched wor motor, so I stotted a brick off his.'

and:

'Ha, man, Ah'm feelin' propor radgie, leek. Sum gadgie's doonched wor mortor, see Ah stotted a brick of his.'

You can't avoid non-standard spellings for non-standard words but, in the end, you have to strike a balance that works.

Hope this helps.
 

CTRandall

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#8
The only word I'm not sure of is "siddung". That said, I'd have a hard time reading a lot of this . As others have said, I think you need to find a balance between keeping the patois and not making it too much work to read.
 
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#9
I think a vague sense of missing some of the words makes it more realistic to a white bread POV, even if you figure them out down the line from context.

I think the amount of stage direction throughout makes it harder to follow the conversation, which makes guessing the context that much more difficult. It is hard to want to follow it since nothing seems to be happening aside from some light racial banter.
 

Shorewalker

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#10
I understood it, but at points, it dragged me out of the narrative as I figured it out. To justify doing this, it must be important...and I'm not sure that it is. If you want to inform the reader that Craig slips in and out of patois occasionally, a line or two probably would have sufficed?
 

Brian G Turner

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#11
IMO this makes for an interesting exercise in writing an accent phonetically - but for storytelling purposes, I'm not sure it's going to work.

First of all, you're going to be in a character's POV and experiences. That means they either understand the other characters or not, and if they are struggling to understand someone's accent then you as the writer can summarize this.

Secondly, I think any writer is in danger of being called out for doing this. Rather than try to explain, I'll try to illustrate by asking how much readers would tolerate the writing of a French character whose dialogue was routinely written like this: "Ai um frum Fronce, ze cuntry ahcross ze chanel"?

I know working class dialogue sometimes includes slang and phonetic spellings, but I'm also under the impression that it's best used superficially - ie, a few key words might be used as indicators (eg, "summat", "innit" "ain't"), but otherwise it's enough for the writer to state that a character speaks with a specified accent and let the reader imagine this with as few cues as possible.

Simply 2c.
 

tinkerdan

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#12
I could guess at most of it; however, and this could be just me, I have a problem with the concept.
‘Seriously, bro, what’s up with the circling?’ Craig said, slipping out of his patois. Then he noticed Kate’s smile and added, ‘Di white people dem taak.’
Possibly it's the lack of context also.
However, do you really know people who do this?
What I mean is that he has a fair grasp of the language that the majority here are speaking. What is the purpose of shifting in and out of a patois?
Is this meant to be a heavily comedic scene? The purpose of communication is to communicate and slipping into the patois when you know the words in the other language seems a bit odd especially when there are no other Jamaicans in the scene.

Perhaps context is the issue: I have been there when something dramatic happens and the person who spoke some English--though not well or fluent--suddenly slipped into their native language.

Slipping the one piece of non-encoded dialogue into the character's speech creates a suggestion that he's deliberately being rude and perhaps with the intention of trying to be funny.

Once again I understand I'm seeing this outside of context. That may be the goal with this piece.
 

The Judge

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#13
‘Dunno, mi nevah see ‘im suh,’
This one I think I got: "Don't know, I've never seen him like this". I initially thought the "suh" was "sir" with a kind of mock master-slave vibe, but it's not one he continues and "I've never seen him" doesn't make sense on its own, so on a re-read I concluded it was probably "so" meaning "thusly". (NB Watch the inverted comma before "'im" as it's the wrong way round.)

‘Aii, you not easy, likkle gyal, you not easy at haaall.’
I could translate this one word for word as "Eh, you're not easy, little girl, you're not easy at all" but I've no idea what "[not] easy" means in this context. I wondered if he means she's stroppy, or simply not a person who is easy to live/be with, but I couldn't be sure.​

‘Di white people dem taak.’
On first read I thought this was "The white people do talk" but that didn't make a lot of sense in context. I then wondered if "dem taak" was something in relation to Jose, ie something like "are stupid" but I'm not sure if Jose is white as far as Craig is concerned as he's Brazilian. Then I began to think he might be explaining that he'd fallen into white people's speech with the earlier bit which was out of patois. Basically, I've no idea what this is.

‘Mi knoooo!’
"I know!"? But that doesn't seem to justify the exclamation mark, or, indeed, be worth saying, so I'm not sure.

‘Come on, Jose, siddung, nuh; the whites and mixity picking pon mi!’
This was the only one I was fairly sure about: "Come on, Jose, sit down, now: the whites and the mixed-race person/girl are picking on me!" but even then I had to look at the "siddung" a couple of times and voice it in my head before I got it.​


I know you're only interested in our reactions to and understanding of the patois here, but just to say I do wonder if the scene is using it and the characters to their best advantage. It's very tempting to write scenes of banter to show the relationship between characters -- especially if there is actually an edge to the joshing -- but scenes should also move the plot forward. Even if something immediately before this scene has furthered the plot, this section itself comes across as a bit pointless. I know you're interested in the issue of race between them, but perhaps the dialogue could be sharper and the whole thing speeded up so it achieves more in its own right.

It's good to see more of the present day story. Looking forward to another nugget of it soon!
 

The Judge

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#16
"Why are you circling, brother? [I'm asking because] the white people; they talk."
Ah-ha! Thank you. I read that line as being directed at Kate, and hadn't cottoned on he was still talking to Jose! Not sure it's needed as a line, though, Phyre, since it's not really moving things on at all.
 

Toby Frost

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#17
I agree with Brian's comments about the Frenchman. For me, the problem is that the other characters speak in almost perfect English - I imagine them as comically proper middle-class Londoners, confronted by a comically Jamaican Jamaican. How would a Yorkshireman be written in this book?

I think a massive range of accents are taken for granted - or just not mentioned at all - when characters speak English. So unless there's a specific slang term, rather than an accent, that would invoke the accent, I wouldn't go with it.

No doubt the book would provide a wider context, but I'm not sure what's happening in this scene apart from the patois being demonstrated.
 

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