Lost in translation?
- Wayahsayin Bobo (wy-yih-say-in)? – what’s up, how are you today?
- Backin’ News (bak-in nyuwze) – gossiping, engaged in idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others
- Fasseh (fah’ce-ih) – one who interferes with the property or affairs of others; a mischief maker
- Hoggish (hawg-ish) – coarsely self-indulgent or gluttonous; selfish
- Keel Out (keele owt) – to stretch out and relax; laying in a particular position; fully relaxed
- Nehwah happnin’ (neh-wah hap-in) – no way; not now, not ever
- Skin up (s’kin up) – to give in to one’s charm; to make peace, or become friends with
There are lots of Caymanian words and sayings that might leave a visitor confused. But the recently published Cayman Islands Dictionary may help translate for tourists and Caymanians alike. Containing over 1,000 words and sayings, along with definitions, pronunciation and real life examples, the dictionary is an innovative, one-of-its-kind source of Caymanian culture compiled by Kevin Goring.
A project 12 years in the making, the dictionary was sparked from Kevin’s passion to keep Cayman’s heritage going strong. It all started in 1996 when Kevin, who is Cayman born and bred, went overseas to attend university.
Whilst there, a friend sent him an email that ended with the sign-off “don’t come back with a foreign accent”.
Little did he know exactly what that email would set in motion.
“I took his words to mean that I should stay true to myself and to not allow the experience of living in a foreign country to influence my native culture,” says Kevin.
“From that point onwards, I began writing emails in ‘Caymanian’ to the same friend and some family members who had no idea what I was saying, because they had never seen Caymanian words spelled out before.”
Whilst back in Cayman, Kevin started up an email newsletter referred to as ‘GapSeed’ (Gapseed: 1. The passage of information; 2.chatter, hearsay, news) to pass on news to his Caymanian friends who were studying abroad.
He also sent out a series of jokes, called “You know you muss be from Cayman…”, which soon went viral.Not only were these a hit in the Cayman Islands, they also resonated with college students worldwide and people who needed a reminder of home.
“Needless to say, I was blown away by the response to what I considered a leisure project driven by sheer passion, curiosity and patriotism,” he says.
“Not only did it entertain everyone, but it reminded them of home, warmed their hearts and inspired them to share our culture with others. “
From then onwards, Kevin began to collect authentic Caymanian words and phrases, inspired by his curiosity for Cayman’s linguistic culture.
Upon realising just how many words he had collected, Kevin decided they needed to be shared, and started putting together the dictionary.