Jamaicans love nicknames. Their favourite way to bestow a nickname is to look you over and call you something based on your most obvious physical characteristic. A tall person is ‘Big Man’, a thin person ‘Slimmaz’, a short person ‘Shorty’. If they can’t see something particularly notable about you, or if you are only interacting for a moment, the nickname will be more generic: ‘Boss’, ‘Rasta’, ‘Auntie’, ‘Darling’. There is no political correctness to the nicknames, and no malice intended with them. A student with fairer skin is called ‘Brownie’, a street vendor with one arm is called ‘One-ie’, a coworker with Asian characteristics is called ‘Miss Chin’. The Youth Development Program students are genius (and ruthless) at giving nicknames to each other: ‘Patty’ (like the food), ‘Zombie’, ‘Vybz’, ‘Cookies and Cream’.
Couple these nicknames with the Jamaican habit of catcalling, and you get some hilarious interactions…
Things I’ve been called on the streets of Kingston: