01 October 2010
The language that Jamaicans use has been called Jamaican, primarily to avoid the negative connotations of patois and creole. No matter what the name is, the language continues to bear the brunt of the prejudice non-scholars have against so-called "mixed" languages. (Too many literary illiterates do not realize that English is the prime example of a language that unashamedly borrows words from all other languages.) Poets have a unique responsibility to fight this prejudice (we need a word like racism, sexism, or ageism, but linguism would lead to the adjective linguistic and languism sounds too odd). Philippine poet Gemino H. Abad likes to say that "we [referring to Filipinos] have colonized English." Carribean poet Kamau Brathwaite describes Jamaican this way: "English like a howl, or a shout or a machine-gun or the wind or a wave. In its contours, its rhythm and timbre, its sound explosions, it is not English."