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BHM: Bajan nicknames and origins


ISOBELLA BURNHAM

BHM: Bajan nicknames and origins

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NationNews.com continues celebration of Black History Month, with another article written by a student from the visual and performing arts division of the Barbados Community College. All students in that section are required to take a course in Caribbean Cultures.

NICKNAMES IN BARBADOS are said to have their origins in the European slavers renaming their slaves as they could not understand the slaves’ natural tongue.

Some say that the practice was also used to denigrate and demoralise the slaves. In some cases the slave owner gave the slaves their own surname in much the same way that a farmer brands his cattle to claim them as his own.

But however they came about, nicknames in Barbados right up to the present day, employ far more wit and humour.

Barbadian nicknames as we know them today can be defined as a unique part of Barbadian culture which can be seen as a study of irony and oxymoron.

“Barbadians have a way of assigning a nickname that is completely opposite in meaning to a person’s outstanding personal characteristic.” (Roberta Niles).

Nicknames usually are better known than legal names and stick with a person until death. Most nicknames are usually given during childhood. Some people go through life known to most only by their nicknames. Some are obvious and others are confusing, some funny and others less so.

In this article, I will discuss and elaborate on two main points: classification of nicknames, and how nicknames affect one’s life.

The major research sources used are Addington Forde, Roberta Niles and Edward Cordle.

Generations

Bajan nicknames have been around for generations and have stayed relatively the same. Nicknames are a vital part of Barbadian culture that not many people notice.

Giving one’s close friend a nickname that lasts leaves one with a sense of achievement. Amongst one’s friends, one becomes the “hero” for giving the person a memorable nickname.

There are many small businesses in Barbados that have taken their names from their owner’s nickname. Two examples of these are “Bert’s Bar” and “Chubbie’s Video”.

There can be no doubt that nicknames shape you as an individual. They make you think about what you do and how you do it.

My father told me when I was younger that I was never to wet myself at school because I would forever be known as “pissy pants.

Incidents

The following individuals acquired their nicknames as a result of specific incidents in their lives:

“Breadfruit killer” acquired his name when he climbed the breadfruit tree and cut all the breadfruits down.

“Hunter” was so named because he was always looking for female company.

“Hawk” would see a girl and quickly move in to make her acquaintance.

“P4” got his name when he was the fourth person in St Philip to register a car.

“Eggnores” was homeless and used to call on people just after dinner time to ask for any leftovers, or as he called them “eggnores”.

“Fry soup” got his name because in the days before refrigeration, all leftover food had to be eaten later in the day, usually warmed up by frying. When he asked his mum for “fry soup”, he had a nickname for life.

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