Genesis of Bajan Nicknames
The concept of nicknames first originated in Barbados during the slavery era. During this era, slaves tended to use their native language to communicate in ways that the planter class could not understand. Because of this, the plantocracy decided to rename the slaves, due to a lack of understanding of their language. In some ways this practice was used to demoralise the slaves but today, nicknames tend to be a tone of affection when they are given, and are very humorous in the way that they are applied, even when sometimes the name may seem demeaning. Nicknames in Barbados are usually given in childhood. Don’t be ashamed if you don’t understand a person’s nickname because some nicknames tend to be quite confusing and tend not to make a lot of sense. Nicknames are given sometimes based on an occupation, or as a result of a particular incident. However, in recent times, nicknames tend to be given based on the looks of a person.
Popular Nicknames and their Meanings
- Cow foot – someone with unusually large feet.
- Buffalo – someone who is overweight from a very young age.
- Boy blue – given to someone with a very dark complexion, so dark it was described as being. “black til it blue”.
- Chinee man – given to persons with slanted eyes.
- Jack – given to someone who is “jack of all trades, master of none”.
- De hammer – given to carpenters.
- Hawk – a guy who would see a girl and quickly make a move.
- Hunter – a guy always looking for female company.
- Daddy and Mums – terms used to address elderly folk. Commonly seen with conductors. addressing elderly persons on vans.
- Short man – for short men.
- Tall man – for tall men.
- Red man – to address men who are “light brown” in complexion.
- Fat man – for chubby or fat men.
- Ras – used to address persons who are Rastafarians.
- “B” – to address a friend/confidant.
This list is by no means exhaustive, as some nicknames are less common and just applied based on something from a person’s childhood as previously mentioned. However, the giving of nicknames is a key part of Barbadian culture, specifically that of the forefathers.