Cayman Islands Dictionary will help preserve our culture

Tell me sump’m bobo: If somebody was ta tell you det Cayman nah gah no culture, would you agree, or would you stall um out wit all kine ah facts n’ figurations? Some ah dem people say we nah gah no culture, uwah people doon’ know way we goin’, n’ uwah children doon’ know way we come from. Well hear wah: dass about ta change!

After more than a decade in development, ‘one of the most important documents in the history of the Cayman Islands’ will receive its official push into the local market this December.

The Cayman Islands Dictionary, a collection of words used by native Caymanians, has been entirely self-published by Caymanian Kevin M. Goring, who began compiling words in the late 1990s while away at college, thinking of home.

“It just came natural to me,” Kevin says.

“I’ve always loved working with words, playing with slang, inventing new phrases, and studying the differences between words that are used in various districts throughout Cayman. (eg. Ereckleh, Tereckleh, Areckleh, Dereckleh). It’s really interesting to see how simple changes in accent or emphasis can give a word a completely different meaning, even if the word is standard English! Although the process of collecting, writing, defining and refining words for the dictionary was extremely tedious, I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it!

“I’d like to see at least one in every home in Cayman so that everyone can learn more about our culture, learn our dialect and pass on the words to the next generation. Hopefully it will change the hearts and minds of those who are lacking in culture so that they will join in with the rest of us.”

Passion for learning

Since college, Kevin’s passion for learning more about Cayman’s linguistic heritage has led him to compile more than 1,000 words and phrases that will be included a line of products he calls The Caymanology Collection. Built on a philosophy that all things Caymanian should be studied and preserved, The Caymanology Collection is a cultural movement toward educating, entertaining, inspiring and empowering Caymanians. Kevin hopes that all Caymanians will become more self-aware of their culture as many ‘old time’ traditions such as boat building, thatch weaving, quadrille and basket making will be lost forever if they have not studied and passed on to the next generation.

“If that were to happen, we would all deserve ah ‘sapappah’ wit ah tamarind switch. That’s why we need to start with a dictionary so that we can preserve our means of communicating unique ideas. Our language will be lost if we don’t make the effort to record it,” Kevin says.

In the spirit of Caymanology, The Cayman Islands Dictionary is the first publication ever to feature a massive collection of words used by native Caymanians. While some readers will discover new aspects of the Caymanian culture, others will learn to spell and pronounce everyday words such as ‘bobo’, ‘tee-dee’, ‘ereckleh’, ‘cassawa’, ‘spile’, ‘wex’, ‘flitters’, ‘‘duppy cap’, ‘chimmy’, ‘teets’ and ‘cow itch’.

Future projects

As part of the effort to develop Caymanology and promote The Cayman Islands Dictionary, Kevin’s plan is to release companion products starting in 2012. On the list of future products is You Know You Muss Be From Cayman, a collection of unique Caymanian experiences that Kevin first released via email in mid-1999.

You Know… received rave reviews by Caymanians living and studying overseas, which prompted friends and family members to encourage Kevin to turn it into a book. After 12 years of false starts, You Know… is finally on the list of priorities within the Caymanology brand, and will receive the proper attention to ensure its success. Also on the list is an audio version of The Cayman Islands Dictionary and a website as well as Special Edition versions for various occasions.

Kevin is employed as a graphic designer with the government and says that preserving culture is important. “I firmly believe that Cayman’s culture is spiralling and there are many of us who are confused or disinterested in culture altogether so there is a need to get back to our roots. I hope this dictionary will make a large enough impact on all three Cayman Islands that we will all become more interested in spreading Caymanian culture to the world – together. This first publication serves to educate all who claim that Cayman has no culture of its own, and to promote awareness amongst our children. Many of them are being led to adopt other cultures or adapt to external influences and it’s up to us to instil core Caymanian values in them. It is my hope that Caymanology will provide some evidence that we can embrace our own customs and traditions by staying true to who we are while educating others, particularly our children and visitors to the island, on our way of life,” he adds.

Kevin is in the process of submitting The Cayman Islands Dictionary to key retail outlets throughout all three Islands and hopes to begin book signings in December and early 2012.

The book is available in Foster’s Food Fairs, Hurley’s, Harbour Breeze and Books & Books with more to come. Email [email protected] for more details or follow Caymanology on Facebook.