The Anglophone Caribbean (the 19 territories where English is an official language) is home to around six million people, most of whom speak a variety of Creole as a first language and acquire Standard British English in the formal education system. Standard British English in the Caribbean is mainly used in writing and formal contexts, while Creole varieties are preferred in speech and informal situations. However, in actual communication language choices are not so clear-cut: they have often been described as a continuum from Creole to more standard varieties.Excerpt taken from the OED blog post, ‘An introduction to Caribbean English’ which explores the history and current status of English in the Caribbean, and the vocabulary of this variety of English
Caribbean English words recently recorded in the OED
- bammy, n.
- bassa-bassa, n.
- belly wuk, n.
- brata, n.
- dutty, adj. and n.
- lime, n.6
- mamaguy, n. and adj.
- oonuh, pron. and adj.
- seen, int.
- steups, n. and int.
- like peas
- tabanca, n.
- to eat parrot head in parrot, n.1
- wagwan, int.
- washikong, n.
- wine, v.2
- wuk, v.
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The OED works in partnership with external experts from or in the Caribbean to ensure that our entries for Caribbean English draw from local knowledge and expertise and reflect the everyday reality and distinctive identity of the Caribbean English-speaking community.
- A carnival of words: Caribbean English in the OED September 2021 update
- When regional Englishes got their words
- Still dung wet? Discovering an unexpected lexical survival on Twitter
Steups (1952) is an onomatopoeic representation of a very typical Caribbean reaction—sucking air and saliva through the teeth to express contempt, disapproval, or annoyance. To make such a sound is to suck or to kiss one’s teeth, and kiss my teeth is now such a widespread expression of disdain that it is often abbreviated to simply kmt on social media, as in this exasperated tweet quoted by the OED entry: ‘Sometimes ah jus seh ‘cha’ an kiss mi teet. Kmt’. There has even been some campaigning online for a steups emoji to be created. This has not happened yet, but at least steups and kissing teeth are covered in both the DCEU and the OED—forever a part of the Caribbean’s lasting legacy on the English lexicon.