Inventing New Ways for Jamaican Men to Address Each Other


Two American men run into each other on a busy street in New York City. They are old friends. How do you think they might address each other? Well, they might say something like this: "Hey there Todd. How're you doing old friend/old buddy/old pal. Long time no see". Surely there can't be that many terms of address which can be used when two men greet each other? Of course there can. This is Jamaica and we have a 100 ways to say even the most ordinary things. It’s fascinating to observe the large number of terms of address used in Jamaica and equally fascinating to note the rapidity with which they are invented, accepted into popular usage and often discarded. It suggests a dynamic, constantly changing culture and a people with tremendous natural creativity. (Or a people with a lot of free time on their hands) The following is’s attempt to compile a few of the many terms Jamaican men use/have used to address each other:

Bredren: Doubtlessly derived from “Brethren” this may be the most popular term of address used by Jamaican men in recent times. Bredren is so common and has gained such a high level of acceptability it can be used almost anywhere but Kings House.

Bossy: A relatively new addition to the list of terms of address used by Jamaican men. Never heard it before? Give it a chance. The person addressing you knows you are not actually his employer, I promise you.

Dads: My father would occasionally be addressed as “Dads” by beggars who would approach him as he walked along King Street in downtown Kingston. It invariably sent him into a rage. The beggar would approach him saying “Wapm Dads, beg yuh a money nuh?” Instead of some small change he would end up giving the beggar a tongue lashing and advising him in no uncertain terms that he was not said beggar’s father nor did he have even a passing acquaintance with his mother. My father missed the point. “Dads” is actually a term of respect. The person addressing you knows full well that he is not your son. (And if he doesn’t, you have a whole other kind of problem) He is merely attempting, in his own way, to be respectful… right before hitting you up for a “donation”.

Dawdee: This is a recent addition to the list and was, we believe, made popular by the hit song Clarks by dancehall DJ Vybz Kartel - "Ah weh yuh get da Clarks deh dawdee? Which colour dat? Mad enuh pardy"

Don: This one was extremely popular in the 1980s and perhaps was probably borrowed from popular movies about the Italian mafia. e.g. “Weh yuh seh mi don? Weh yuh deh pon?”

Doops: Doops is another term of address of recent vintage and ought not to be confused with Boops, which is an entirely different animal.

Fada: As with “Dads” above, this is a term of respect and not an attempt to claim a paternal relationship. Taking it any other way is to miss the point entirely and demonstrate how out of touch you are. Get over yourself and respond politely in similar terms. Perhaps you could say something like: “Weh yuh a seh mi don? Mi deh yah ah boom-bang”

Family: See comments for “Dads” and “Fada” above.

I-dren: This one may be a Rastafarian influenced version of Bredren. (But who knows how things are really invented anyway? If you have some information on the etymology of the term feel free to enlighten us.)

King: No, not prince, duke nor emperor. KING. Jamaican men know how to show respect to each other. e.g. "Yow King, we ah mek a trod go ah Stone Love big dance. Yuh nah forward?"

Lion: No, not tiger, jaguar nor leopard. LION. As I said, Jamaican men know how to show respect.

Linky/links: No the person addressing you is not calling you a part of a fence or a chain. The term is most likely an attempt to allude to closeness of the relationship between the persons speaking.

P: The origin of this one is not clear. It may be a shortened version of Parry, Pardy or something less polite. Who knows. e.g. “Yuh nah play di domino P?”

Pardy: Another popular entry to the list. This one is just another way of saying “friend” or “brother”.

Star: Not be confused with any celestial entities or the local daily newspaper. One of my favourite dancehall songs is one called "Weh yuh a seh star" by Spragga Benz, released a number of years ago, which is built around the use of the word star:

Ah weh yuh ah seh star? Long time mi nuh see yuh ah weh yuh did deh star?
Certain ting criss star? Ah you jus pass inna di criss car?
So ah your ting dis star? Wapm, line mi up wid her sis-star and mek mi be di show-star. She have a man? Ah nuh nuttn me wi be di co-star

Don’t know it? Google it. I promise you’ll like it.