Almost everything in Trinidad is called a ting, apart from the tings that are called aam.
Trinidadians will say, with a completely straight face ‘pass me that ting’ and will expect you to know exactly what they mean. If you’re lucky, they will point to the ting with their lips at the same time, but don’t get your hopes up.
If, after telling you in plain language what they want – including the helpful lip point, you still express confusion, then a Trini might do something else with their lips – a steups. This, if done properly, is a sudden, juicy sucking sound that might just earn your average Trini a slap if they did it in front of their mamma.
Now don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a steups means the same thing as its dried-out English cousin – a tut. They might sound similar and may get used in similar situations, but they are a world apart in meaning. A tut generally means ‘I am mildly annoyed with you’, but even with classic English Understatement factored in, this does not even come close to the meaning of a steups.
The literal interpretation of this much-loved and well-used Trinidadian ejaculation is (the faint-hearted among you should stop reading now) ‘kiss my arse!’ So you can see where the slap might come in now, right?
So, the next time a Trinidadian tells you to put the ting in the ting next to the ting then your best plan would be to smile knowingly, nod your head wisely, say that you just remembered a pressing engagement with your orthodontist and leave pronto.
As I mentioned earlier, if a ting is not called a ting it might be called an aam. Despite seeming to be just as unintelligible as a ting, this word is actually the next stage in evolution for the Trini language. When a Trinidadian uses the word aam they are actually genuinely trying to better themselves.
Here is a typical example of how it could be used – ‘just look in the cupboard and tell me if we have any aam …’
Even though you see that I have added ellipses at the end of this sentence, there will be no further word. That’s it. That’s all you will get. I know – I’ve waited and waited many times. That’s all there will be.
Maybe I’m going too far by asserting this, but I think that the use of ‘aam’ is a real attempt by the speaker to come up with a concrete alternative to ‘ting’, i.e. a word that actually means something. But I could be wrong. Believe it or not, I sometimes am.
Now as a true-blooded English person, I’m always tempted to reply with something sarcastic like ‘sorry, we don’t have any aam. I even tried to get some at the mall but they were fresh out too’. My tendency towards sarcasm might be completely appropriate here, but it falls on deaf ears when used on Trinidadians. Again – believe me, I’ve tried several hundred times and all that happens is that I get completely ignored.
So there you have it – everything you need to know about the Trinidadian language in one beautifully expressed article.
Oh, one last thing – any mention of aam should not be confused with Andrew Anthony Mark (AAM) Mungal who is as fine a human being and Trinidadian as you could ever wish to meet and happens to be the entire inspiration for this post.