Kingston Slang

Kingston Slang

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Kingston slang is an integral part of a visit to this Jamaican tropical paradise. The local language isn't difficult to pick up and it's filled with color and interest. With a few Kingston slang terms and phrases in your vocabulary, you'll fit right in with the locals.
Deh 'bout: Meaning "nearby" or "close to." An essential slang term in Kingston, you'll hear this if asking for directions to a restaurant or store. Navigating through the city without understanding this Kingston slang phrase is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Dreadnut: Not as scary as it sounds, this word in the local lingo simply means "coconut." It's a Rasta term, and you'll find that Rasta is often the local language of Kingston. Some say the slang term "dreadnut" comes from locals who wear their hair in dreadlocks, climb coconut trees, and drop them on unsuspecting people below. But that may all be an urban myth.

Feel no way: A common slang phrase in Kingston, meaning "no offense taken" or "not a worry or a care." This expression is often found in daily conversation, a reflection of the relaxed nature of the Kingston people. The first time I heard this phrase was from an old man in a wheelchair, sitting in front of a local butcher's shop. When leaving, I accidentally grazed his arm with my bag of food, and I immediately began to apologize. He responded by saying "feel no way," which I took to mean that he had no feeling in his extremities. Later, I was told that he meant he was not offended by my actions.

Ah sey one: This slang phrase is used in Kingston local lingo to express a feeling of excitement or to say that something is, in American slang, "cool." Any happy and joyous event is likely to include this expression. When you are sharing the stands with 10,000 people at a football match, you cannot help but get chills of excitement when the massive crowd explodes into a simultaneous chorus of "Ah sey one!" after a home side goal.

Na badda mi: Since Kingston is a pretty relaxed place, you're unlikely to hear this phrase uttered too often: it means "don't bother me." But no-one can remain unbothered all the time. Hopefully, knowing this phrase will help you avoid being chased down the road by an irate lady waving a broom.

Mash it up:
"Mash it up" is Kingston local lingo for good luck, or in American slang, "break a leg." One would use this phrase to express support for the success of another individual. It is very common at weddings and family gatherings, as you can imagine.

Give tanks:
No, it's not a typo -- just Kingston's peculiar pronunciation of the phrase "give thanks." The phrase is used when showing appreciation for what one has in life. Spirituality permeates life in Kingston and people show gratitude for even the smallest things. Before each meal is served, chefs in local restaurants "give tanks" for the ingredients they used to cook it, and servers will often ask you to "give tanks" for your dinner.

Jah guide:
Another way of saying "goodbye," this comes from "God shall guide." The common Kingston slang phrase dates back to the time of the first settlers in Jamaica. Although literal translations may differ slightly, the meaning has always been the same. Kingston residents use this phrase to bid farewell and best wishes on your journey.

Labba labba: Very onomatopoeic, this slang phrase means that someone is "talking too much." If you hear a local saying "labba labba," it may be time to stop shooting off and allow for some moments of silence.

Strong money: Refers to the US dollar or any foreign money that is of greater value than the local currency. It may well be one of the first Kingston slang phrases you hear after arriving on the island. Foreign money is very valuable in Kingston, in terms of both wealth and status, and most banks and shops will ask if you would like to pay in "strong money" or copper coins. You may get a local asking you where he or she can exchange their copper for "strong money" before heading overseas.
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