IN TRINIDAD, 'TRACE' is a noun meaning a little road, like a lane. In Jamaica, it is a verb meaning to "lift up yu frock tail over yu head and tell smaddy how much string mek up dem mumma". Of course, it could also mean to sketch or outline. One word, at least three meanings!
I once overheard a Trinidadian friend commenting about a 'maxi' with three people in it. I immediately imagined a huge ankle length dress with three separate bosom sections, and started to wonder if it was a carnival costume or something. You see, I come from a place and time where maxi is a long frock and mini is a short frock. But in Trinidad 'maxi' is short for a 'maxi-taxi' and what they call 'maxi taxi' is what we in Jamaica call 'minibus!' One word, plenty meanings!
Rumour has it that Ity & Fancy Cat discovered the hard way how the meaning of words can differ drastically depending on where you are. The Jamaican comedy duo, while performing in Barbados, announced onstage that they love bulla and used to eat bulla daily when they were young. They were mobbed backstage after the show by a group of overly-enthusiastic male fans, blowing kisses and batting false eye lashes. Only then did they discover that the word, which means a nice, round pastry in Jamaica, is a popular name for male homosexuals in Barbados.
And many Jamaicans know that when Sean Paul says "I man nah play number two" he is not merely declaring his refusal to play second fiddle. (One number two, but two different meanings!)
A Peace Corps volunteer was having a traumatic first day of service. She had been singled out for special attention by all local mosquitoes. She had fallen victim to pickpockets. She got off the bus at the wrong stop, and had to walk past some leering young men.
She is on the verge of calling it quits and going back home, because on top of all of this, she misses her dog! She was sobbing as she recounted the horrors she had gone through that morning. At the end of her story, she was still crying bitterly when the Jamaicans who were listening responded in a chorus with the word "Hush" and the girl went ballistic! To the Jamaicans 'hush' meant "never mind, we are sorry, don't cry, etc!" but to young Miss Fresh-From-America 'hush' meant "Oh shut up!" So she turned red like a lobster and put down another round of bawling over the insensitivity of Jamaicans.
When a Jamaican at a dinner party announces that the drink and the food is 'too fresh', non-Jamaicans often think it is a compliment praising the fact that the food and drink taste like they have been freshly prepared. No! It is a criticism.
To us Jamaicans 'fresh' means the drink not sweet enough and the food is too bland, needing more salt and spice. And another thing; all Jamaicans know that when it is announced that a man received a jacket, it could either mean a coat to wear or child to care! But what Jamaicans call 'jacket' our brothers and sisters in the eastern Caribbean call 'horn child' and that which we call 'giving bun' they call 'horning!'
'Bun' and 'Horning'. Here at last we have two words with one meaning: "Something men will willingly give but just cannot take!"