Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Monday, November 28, 2005

On Cursing up a Storm

In a recent public speech, I was able to utter one of the worst curse words I know without an adverse reaction.

What was the word? “Bombo-claat.” In Jamaican patois, it means literally “sanitary napkin.” (Imagine, if you can, someone in Miami getting very angry and shouting out “Maxi-Pad” or “diaper.”)

To my credit, the audience I was speaking to had not a single Jamaican. Also, I repeated the epithet in the context of a true story in which a Trini friend decided to try the word on a group of Jamaicans, and in the direction of one fellow who was eyeing his girlfriend with some relish.

Strangely enough, (to my friend) the response was uncharitable. A broken bottle, a vicious approach and a run for dear life are the highlights of the story, which relied on the fact that those Jamaicans being told the word had clearly forgotten the etymological, diaper connection.

The Trinis liked the story, but probably would not have been as entertained if I had used a favorite Trini curse word that starts with the word ”mother.” It’s hard to imagine that anyone would be happy with a reference to their mother as part of a curse-word.

In the US, the word ‘ass-hole” is used as a fairly mild insult, but to put an “r” in front of the word is to turn it into a Bajan curse word that is heard as the worst of the worst words to ever use.

In Jamaica we eat our bullas. Proudly. And with butter, cheese or pear. And we don’t like to share them, thank you very much. In Jamaica, bullas are made from flour, water, sugar etc. and look something like rock-cakes.

A Trini would be appalled at the idea of eating their bullas, and it’s not because the idea of adding condiments is offensive to good culinary taste. In Jamaica, the ideas of going “batty” and of being a “batty-man” have nothing to do with one’s mental health, or being a mad person.

The issue here is that the words “bulla” and “batty-man” are demeaning slang for homosexuals in Trinidad and Jamaica respectively.

One man’s food is another man’s insult.

Beyond the issue of language difference, is the sheer satisfaction that comes from good cursing.

Good cursing?

Yes, appropriate cursing that expresses frustration and relieves stress. It heightens tensions, and also lowers it, depending on the intent. It’s quite useful in heat of the sexual moment (or so I’m told ;0) No amount of sharing one’s feelings, communicating one’s experience or using “I statements” compares to letting loose some chosen, timely and appropriate cuss words.

Now, I don’t endorse the kind of cursing that is about tearing someone else down.

But the truth is, tearing someone down has nothing to do with the curse words used, and more to do with the intent of the speaker. I, for one, am suspicious as hell of people who don’t curse, and instead use nice sounding words and a smile to deliver their insults and tear-downs. I’d prefer for them to curse, and therefore share their true feelings, than to couch their feelings in mumbo-jumbo so that the target is left feeling “fuc*ed up” without even knowing why.

Cursing involves being vulnerable, as it puts emotions in plain view. It includes being truthful and honest about nasty thoughts, even at the risk of being judged and rejected for having them.

To avoid using curse words is to run to try to paint a picture without all the available colours of the rainbow – the results could be nice, but are certainly is not as vibrant as they could be.

PS * the reason I used “*” in the place of the proper letters is that I’m unsure about the blogspot rules for “indecent” language.


At 4/25/2006 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure that "bombo-claat" equals "sanitary napkin" - I always that it was "p*ssy-claat" -see, I used the * too.

At 10/27/2006 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a complete waste of time... find sonething useful to do with your time.

At 11/15/2006 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bombo-claat, Pussy-claat, Rass-claat(literally ass-cloth), all refer to sanitary napkins, or technically the old Indian (from India) ass cloth. As a Jamaican I find this blog to be very entertaining. I may refer to it in some bar argument later.

At 4/20/2008 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's this I am hearing you say about people who refrain from cursing?People use different methods of self-expression.Just bcuz they are not blaring the 'claats' doesn't make them servile or ineffective in conveying their message. In fact they may have mastered the art of effective and dignified communication without the use of aggressive and abrasive language. Furthermore, what is bombo claat (toilet tissue or sanitary napkin) expressing;ur true and honest feelings? about what? tissue?

At 7/31/2008 5:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete Rock - Ready Fe War lyrics:
Peter? What's a bumba claat how you say it?

[Peter Tosh:]
Bumboclaat, bumba claat is one of Jamaica's password
One of the most highest potential of culture that relieves the spells of evil

Why? How?

[Peter Tosh:]
Well it's so scientifical
I've been investigatin this word so long to find out what these words mean
And what they are for, cause in the beginnin was the word and the word was with Jah
And the word was Jah the same was in this time
Cause so it was in the beginnin so it shall be in these days


[Peter Tosh:]
Well, I was born and raised and grown up
In colonialism and exploitation, and hear dat I heard dat and ummm...
Bumba claat, ras claat, blood claat, and every kind of claat
Yuh can tink of is bad words, and indecent language


[Peter Tosh:]
And I born come here it in Jamaica, so why is it indecent?
So I went on an investigation and once upon a time I found myself in some circumstances
Held down by some spiritual vampires dat my mouth couldn't move
My tongue couldn't shake, my head couldn't move
And di only ting datcould mek mi move fi seh, MOVE YUH BUMBA CLAAT!
And I'm free, yes I! And from datday on I never stop seh bumba claat, yes I!

At 8/26/2010 4:28 PM, Blogger Marcus said...

We’re kicking this topic around on our site at this location:

Come and join the discussion.


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