One of the most favourite books Weekender owns is the awesome “Cayman Islands Dictionary”, compiled by local author Kevin Goring.
Since we’ve got it, we’ve noticed ourselves peppering our conversations with words like kriss and BoBo, nah? That book is still going strong, and rightfully so. So we are absolutely delighted to report that Kevin is back with a companion volume – “Caymanian Phrases”.
“In 2008, while working on the Cayman Islands Dictionary, I realised that some of the information I had compiled was not appropriate for a dictionary,” he tells us.
“So, I separated the phrases and sayings and one-liners from the words being used in the Dictionary and started a smaller companion book called Caymanian Phrases. At the time, it was only intended to be a tiny book of phrases and sayings, but that changed as I conducted more research.”
Following the launch of the dictionary, he resumed work on Caymanian Phrases by compiling additional information through interviews with family and friends, visits to the National Archive and reading books written by local authors, he said, and as the book grew the name changed to “Caymanian Expressions” to reflect the extensive collection of phrases, sayings, one-liners and other colloquial terms.
“I’ve been collecting phrases for the last 12-13 years through various conversations with my family and friends and whatever I could come up with on my own,” explains the author.
“My parents are always quoting old sayings that I’ve never heard before, so I always have to write them down on napkins or old newspapers or whatever I can get my hands on. I never want to miss out on anything because I never know when I’ll hear them again. I’ve also spent a lot of time at the National Archive sifting through academic papers, newspapers, biographies and books about the Cayman Islands and its people.
“I’ve had informal discussions with other culture-minded Caymanians, and some friends and acquaintances have even submitted words and sayings for me to research and possibly include in a future edition of the publication. Despite my obvious passion for Caymanian culture, I’ve had a really enjoyable time researching old sayings and trying to decipher their meanings (if none were available). It makes me laugh whenever I quote a newly discovered saying to a friend or family member who has no idea of the meaning. The expressions on their faces are often priceless,” smiles Kevin.
Given the large amount of cultural research involved, a project like this is not only a fun one but an important one, too.
“As a small island country it is a giant leap for the Cayman Islands to have the linguistic heritage of its people recorded for the world to see. It is also important for Caymanians to remain in touch with their own culture, the history of their ancestors, and to have tangible links that can be passed on for generations,” Kevin notes, rightly.
Going back to the dictionary for a moment, he says response has been ‘phenomenal’.
“I’ve been approached by people from all walks of life who have literally thanked me for writing the book. Everywhere I go people are telling me how much they enjoyed reading it, how important it is, and how the timing of its launch was so perfect. I’ve also heard stories of Caymanian families having get-togethers to discuss the words and some of them have even held trivia-type guessing games and other contests. Various websites have blogged about it, multiple copies have been sent as gifts to families and friends overseas (as far as the UK and Dubai, UAE), and several college students have contacted me via Facebook and Twitter to learn more about it.
“The best part for me is receiving e-mails from other Caymanians who wish to submit words to be included in the Dictionary, share ideas on how to improve it, or offer their take on the definitions. I really enjoy interacting with those people because it makes the Dictionary a community project that everyone has a stake in.”
There’s also a growing buzz on social media from those who have had contact with the book, the impact one that Kevin is “in awe of”. Caymanian Expressions looks set to follow in the footsteps of that dictionary with Christmas sales being very strong for both publications.
“Tons of copies were purchased as Christmas gifts and people are collecting both books to add to their personal libraries,” Kevin reports.
“I’ve heard stories of people reading the entire book in a day, while others are going around quoting various sayings just to get a reaction out of family and friends. To see the smiles on people faces whenever they speak about it has made it all worth it for me.” Plus. surely, learning or relearning some of those inimitable Caymanian phrases? Before he heads off to plan his next scheme, we ask him the inevitable question: which are your favourite phrases?
“That’s a difficult one as there are so many,” says Kevin.
“If I had to choose, I’d say Trouble Don’t Blow Shell, because of its homage to Old People Times. Boy Look Yah, Who You Fuh?, Greedy Choke Puppy and Find Yoh Backside Home Right Now! (which I heard a lot as a child) are also popular classics that many Caymanians and longtime residents can identify with.”
Caymanian Expressions is available at Books & Books, Hurley’s Marketplace, Foster’s Food Fair, The Strand, Foster’s Food Fair, Airport Centre, McLaughlin Rentals on Little Cayman and Kirkconnell Supermarket on Cayman Brac. Additional stores will be added throughout 2013. For more information call Kevin Goring at 929-8949 or e-mail: [email protected]