If you’re new to Trinidad, and would like to experience us culturally, not just go to the beaches, and listen to our wonderful ‘steel drums’ (we call it pan by the way), then you should know that we ‘does talk a how’, meaning that we have our own unique way of speaking.
To understand our culture you need to understand what liming (pronounced without the 'g") is and here's a take on it that you won't find in any official tourist guidebook.
Closest meaning: “To hang out”
verb e.g. we liming tonight.
Noun e.g. De lime was sweet.
If there was one word that defines our culture it would be ‘lime.’ The nearest equivalent north Americans have is “hanging out,” but it’s not quite the same thing as Trinis take their limin’ a lot more seriously than N. Americans take their hanging out.
Trini's live to lime.
Limin' is more a national mood or attitude than just a slang word for hanging out.
You could say that we have national alert/preparedness levels (like the American terrorist alerts) that all relate to liming.
- Lime is our green or normal state. Trinis are always ready to lime.
- Party (our yellow state) is the next step up in our limin’ readiness. A party for a Trini means (lime+) dancing.
- Fete, the french word for party) is our amber state of limin’ escalation and nowadays is defined by the very big parties that occur mainly at carnival time
- Carnival is the ultimate state of our limin’ culture (our red state) and you could say that the entire country revolves around this annual event.
- Work is our one undesirable national state (because it's anti-lime). Work is a real real downer for us, and we generally prefer not to talk about it unless we’re actually at work. There is no colour for this but it’s generally regarded as a "merde (french word) state" to go along with what we say on Monday mornings when we have to go to work. We do have a few antidotes to this "work" state though. They are:
- The ‘After-Work lime’ which should be self-explanatory.
- The “During-Work lime” which is done when the boss is away.
- The weekend or TGIF. This is a state of mind or mood that becomes increasingly effective as we get closer to the weekend when we know we can do some serious limin’ and partying.
Tip: Don’t invite Trinis to a party unless you intend to have dancing. Instead invite them to a lime. “Ah havin’ a lime by me, come nah?” Trinis will understand what a dinner party, or a cocktail party is so make sure to qualify what kind of ‘party’ you are having so as not to disappoint your Trini guests.
Tip: Trinis love food and expect to be fed if you have them over at anytime close to dinner time which for us extends from 6pm till 3am.
What makes a ‘lime’ a lime
While we don’t need anything to lime, you could in fact say yuh limin’ by yourself’, good limes are defined by certain key ingredients,
The first three need no explanation, and may or may not always be present, but the last two are what make a good Trini lime.
Closest meaning: humour.
Noun: He’s a good shit-talker
For me, our capacity to laugh and find humour in everything is the defining characteristic of Trinis. Shit-talk is our local slang for the art of spontaneous social humour and it is the key ingredient to a good lime.
Shit-talkers are in high-demand because they add life to a lime by their ability to spontaneously make people laugh. Shit-talkers are comedians, and the ones who ensure that limes are never soured by too much seriousness. For example, if people get into a serious or heated discussion about politics, someone usually the chief shit-talker will make fun of the conversation, the topic, or one or more of the debaters and soon everyone is laughing.
In a big lime (meaning a lime consisting of lots of people) you may see little mini-limes (in different parts of the room) and it’s not uncommon to see shit-talkers making fun of each other (see picong below) from across the room. (Oh did I tell you how loudly we speak? Trinis have no volume control in a lime, yet are strangely quiet at work.)
Seems odd at first, but when someone says “he talks a lot of shit,” or “he is a “good ass,” it’s a complement. it means he or she is a very funny person, and we value a sense of humour very highly in Trinidad. (Makes sense that someone who is an “ass” will talk a lot of shit. N'est-ce pas?)
Tip: Don’t call anyone an ass or “good ass” as the terms are not used so much anymore and may be mis-understood.
Closest meaning: Playful heckling and teasing.
The words isn’t used very much anymore but it is known by every Trini. Picong or making fun of each other is key to a good Trini lime.
French word for party. The meaning and use of this word has evolved over the years. It was synonymous with the word party, and people would say “We fetin’ tonight” meaning we are going out partying tonight, or we are going to lots of different parties tonight. Today the word fete usually means the very big parties held at Carnival time with thousands of people and live soca bands.
There you have it. A perspective on perhaps the one word that describes Trini culture, and I trust you'll see that it's not just 'hanging out' but more of a national posture.
Note: This is one person's perspective so feel free to add yours in the comments below. Stay tuned for more on Trini lingo. For a more academic, but slightly dated perspective on the phenomenon of Trini liming click here.