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Supporting Sister P: Feminist Alliances in Class-Prejudiced Jamaica

Carolyn Cooper


We were watching you on TV on Sunday night and we were wondering how come an intelligent person like you could be supporting Portia. -- University of the West Indies student (female).

The logic of class politics in Jamaica dictates that, as an academic, I would be intelligent enough to understand that the construct, The Most Honourable Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, is a contradiction in terms of the most basic sort. First of all, Sister Ps diction is contra to the language that many educated Jamaicans associate with high political office: Standard Jamaican English, especially of the big words variety. Jamaican poet and cultural critic Louise Bennett satirises this high-flown diction in the poem, Big Wuds [Big Words]. The primary speaker in the poem mockingly warns her friend about the danger to her jaw posed by unfamiliar, polysyllabic words:

Missis mine yuh bruk you jaw-bone
All dem big wud yuh dah-sey
Bout New Nation, Federation,
Gal, go weh.

Wat a way yuh elevated!
Gal, is wha yuh chattin bout?
Nowadays is so-so big wud
Dah-fly outa fe yuh mout!

Just be careful you dont break your jaw
On all those big words youre using
Talking about New Nation, Federation, Delegation.
Girl, get out of here!

Youre really high class!
Girl, what are you talking about?
These days its only big words
Youre spouting!

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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