Do you find yourself wishing that you had a translation book while visiting Trinidad or taking part in Carnival? Then use this Glossary to find out how to speak like a Trini!
The Baby Doll is a traditional carnival character depicting a masked woman holding a doll, in imitation of a new mother. She would accost any male spectator as being the delinquent father, with demands for money to buy 'baby milk'.
Bacchanal denotes the merry-making and noisy confusion of those engaged in any carnival activity.
A badjohn was a thug, notorious for their fearlessness in fights. They were intimately associated with the early steelbands as both henchmen, supporters and panmen.
See Carnival Band.
The Bat is a traditional Carnival masquerade, imitating in costume this winged mammal.
A blue devil is a carnival masquerader caked in mud and painted blue depicting the Devil. Wearing horns, he or she drools a red blood-like substance, carries chains and pitchforks and blows flame through a flambeaux.
is a French for ‘wood’, this refers to the cudgel or stick used in combat by bâtonniers or stick-fighters. The wood used may come from the Poui tree.
A Bookman is a traditional depiction of the Devil having a list of those condemned to Hell. Carrying his book he is masked, wears an over-sized hat, sequined gown and may carry a pitchfork.
A ‘bottle and spoon’, refers to the musical effect of a glass bottle being struck with a metal spoon. The perfomance may be solo or as a musical accompaniment. It is a common element in the engine room of a steelband.
A burrokeet is a traditional carnival character, whose costume is that of a donkey. Derived from the Spanish burroquito for ‘donkey’.
Bâtonnier is French for a stick-fighter.
The calypso monarch is the winner of the National Carnival Commission’s Calypso competition. This event is held on the evening of Dimanche Gras in the Queen's Park Savannah
kaiso Calypso is the folk song of Trinidad it is a medium for social criticism, commentary and parody .
kaisonian Also known as a kaisonian, a calypsonian is a singer of the calypso artform.
Canboulay is the street procession held in the post-emacipation era and the predecessor of carnival celebrations. It involved era re-enactment of négue jardins or field slaves being mustered to extinguish fires in sugarcane plantations.
A Carnival band consists of costumed individuals organized under a given theme. Varying in size it may have as many as 3,000 paid members.
The Carnival Development Committee is the forerunner to the present- day National Carnival Commission. This body was responsible for organizing carnival events.
Trinidad Carnival is the annual two-day festival held before the observance of Lent. It features street processions of costumed masqueraders as well as showcasing highlights of calypso and steelband music.
In the era up to the 1930s a ‘chantwell’ was the lead singer who led a carnival band and sang its theme song. His role has now evolved into the present day calypsonian.
The slow mincing shuffle of carnival revellers following the rhythm of music from a mobile steelband or disc-jockey.
Chutney Soca is a lively musical beat, derived from the fusion of East Indian and Soca accompanied by a female dancer.
Commess is Trinidad dialect for controversy, confusion or bacchanal.
The cow mas is a traditional carnival character doing the costumed imitation of a cow.
The ‘dame lorraine’ is a traditional carnival character lampooning the wives of plantation owners. She is depicted as a parasol-carrying woman in flowered dress and hat. Her bust and derriere being grossly exaggerated.
French for ' Grand Sunday' or 'Fat Sunday': Dimanche Gras is the Sunday before Carnival Monday. The Calypso Monarch Competition and the Carnival King and Queen Costume competition are held in the Savannah on Dimache Gras night.
The dragon is a traditional carnival depiction of a scaly colourful dragon.
The percussion section of a Steelband which provides the timing for the musical rhythm.
Extempo refers to the spontaneous composition of rhyming stanzas on the spur of the moment. This is usually done without instruments ending with the refrain ‘sans humanite’.
Fatigue is heckling or jesting humour.
A fete is a party with music, dancing, eating and drinking.
The Flag Woman performs an enthusiastic flag-waving dance during the live performance of her steelband. This energetic task was formerly performed by a male.
A Flambeaux is a torch made using a glass bottle, kerosene and old rags.
A ‘fresh water yankee’ is a term used to describe a Trinbagonian who has an American accent, usually from a short stay abroad.
To ‘gallery’ is to show off.
A gayelle is the arena used for staging a kalinda or stickfight.
The 'iron man' is the virtuoso percussionist in the engine room of the steelband. His enthusiastic rhythmic pounding of metal provides timing for the steelband musicians.
Jamette derived from the French diameter or diameter referred to members of half of society, below the accepted standard of conduct.
Jouvert is derived from French patois and means ‘daybreak’. Jouvert marks the official start of the two day carnival celebrations, it officially commences at 4:00 a.m. on Carnival Monday.
The Ju-Ju warrior is a traditional masquerade depicting spear-carrying African warriors.
Kaiso is the original name for calypso. See Calypso
The Kalinda is the still popular ritualized stick-fighting artform. Held within a gayelle it features duels between two men armed with wooden sticks amidst singing and drumming.
Las' lap refers to the dancing and revelry during the last hours of carnival.
Lavway is French patois for ‘the voice’ or ‘the truth’. In origin it was the call and response chants of the stickfight. Its rhythmn was assimilated into calypso.
A lime is any informal socializing and/or recreation in a relaxed environment.
Mamaguy is Trinidad dialect for deception by means of flattery.
Matadors were women attendants to the stickfighters. Attached to specific stickfighters in the gayelle they carried baskets of food and drink as well as bandages.
A traditional carnival character: depicted is a minstrel of the 19th century American era. With white painted faced, cardboard boater hat and clothes of that persona, the character sings while strumming a banjo.
Mud mas' refers to masqueraders on carnival jourvert morning, who plaster their clothes and body with mud.
The NCBA is the 'National Carnival Bandleaders' Assocation' which has been engaged since its formation in 1958 in improving the artistry of Carnival for national benefit. In addition to bandleaders, its membership encompasses all those engaged in Carnival activities from costume builders, designers and craftsmen to individual masqueraders.
NCC is the National Carnival Commision, the official body engaged to promote carnival activities, events and its associated artforms.
The stands on the northern side of the stage at the Queen's Park Savannah favoured by the less inhibited, and sometimes more unruly audience because of its bacchanal atmosphere.
Ole mas is the abbreviation for 'Old Masquerade'. It refers either to the 'mud mas' on Jouvert morning, or the witty street satire of lampooning popular personalities or issues through placards and odd costumes.
Pan Trinbago is the official body which represents the interests of the steelband movement.
Held since 1963, Panorama is the premiere steelband competition of the carnival season.
Patois is a dialect of the French language.
Picong is derived from the French "piquant', which means spicy. It refers to a humourous verbal duel done in verse between two calypsonians. The winner is determined by the humourous impact of improvised witty responses.
The Ping Pong is another name for the tenor pan especially in the early stages of its development.
To ramajay is to improvise on a given tune in competition with other pannists.
A saga boy is a flashy dressed dandy, or ladies’man.
A French term meaning 'without mercy'. It was a standard rhetorical phrase inserted at the end of early 20th. century calypso choruses.
Savannah, also called the Big Yard, is the venue for judging the main events of carnival: Panorama, Parade of the Bands and Dimanche Gras. Located in Port-of-Spain it is approximately 199 acres in area.
Soca is the musical artform emerging from calypso in the late 1970's. The late Ras Shorty I is credited for its creation, who defined soca as the "soul of calypso".
The steel pan is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. Made from discarded oil drums, it is the only musical instrument invented in the 20th century.
A steelband or steel orchestra is a musical ensemble comprised mainly of variously tuned steel pans supported by other musical instruments. Steelbands are known either as traditional or conventional steelbands.
Trinbago is an abbreviation for the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
In Trinidad dialect tabanca refers to depression resulting from a broken romance.
From the French: 'Tambour' for drum, The musical instrument made from bamboo tubes used in Carnival during the period 1884 to the 1930s before the invention of the Steel Pan.
In Trinidad dialect.‘tan tan’ is another word for aunt .
Trinbago is an abbreviation for the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Viey la cou is French Patois for old courtyard, so called either because it was the area for rehearsal of the characters in Traditional mas.
No relation to the alcoholic liquor, a ‘wine' is a sultry dance movement of gyrations of the pelvis.
‘Wine and jam’ refers to rapid gyrations of the hips, together with forward and backward thrusts of the pelvic region. It also describes soca and calypso music with lyrical incitations to that effect.