— [http://goo.gl/MX0wLM] Bennett humorously deprovincializes Jamaican Creole, recontextualizing it globally as but one of multitude of dialects spawned by a world-circulating language.
He denigrated the local Jamaican English by voicing the ideology of the colonial elite: “creole talk […], both in pronunciation and in diction, [was] anything but elegant” (Cassidy, 2007, p. 22). Miss Bennett wrote the poem at a time when she aimed to define what it meant to be Jamaican and from the tone of the poem wanted the people of Jamaica to see themselves in a positive self-light. It emphasized the importance of patois language in molding the cultural background of the Jamaican nation and the identity of its people. A common national identity was about to be forged.
At Independence from colonial rule, in 1962, Jamaica as a nation was at the crossroads in terms of its cultural identity, social status, and language (Branca, 2007, pp. 2-4). Jamaican patois that is birthed out of a rich African legacy was spoken widely in the island both during decolonization and at independence by the locals. In contrast, Standard English was spoken by the euro-centered ruling minority, and anything that alluded to the local Jamaican English dialect was deemed to be categorized as that of half-civilized people: be it skin color, language and even music. It is against this backdrop that some thought Jamaican English was of a lower standing, offensive, their pronunciation was abominable, it was a villainous patois, “an indolent drawling out of their words, that [was] very tiresome if not disgusting” (Cassidy, 2007, p. 22; Branca, 2007, p. 4). It was snobbism in language at its peak.
Bans a’ Killin’ by Louise Bennett, in patois (Bennett, 1993, selected 4-5) / [Standard] English translation: Bands of Killing (Madeira, 2015, translation for the purpose of ESL)
Ah yuh dem seh dah teck
Whole heap a English oat seh dat
yuh gwine kill dialec!
They tell that you have taken
a lot of English oaths that say
you will kill dialects!
For me no quite understand –
Yuh gwine kill all English dialec
Or just Jamaica one?
because I don’t completely understand it –
Are you going to kill all English dialects
or just the Jamaican one?
Language, den wha meck
Yuh gwine go feel inferior, when
It come to dialec?
standards in all respects,
why would you feel inferior
regarding this business of dialects?
An 'Wata Come A Me Y'Eye’
Yuh wi haffi tap sing 'Auld Lang Syne’
An ‘Comin' Thro' the Rye '.
and ‘Wata Come A Me Y'Eye’
you have to stop singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’
as well as ‘Comin' Thro' the Rye.’
Weh yuh honour an respect –
Po’ Mas Charlie! Yuh no know sey
Dat it spring from dialec!
which you honor and respect—
Poor Mr. Charlie! Don’t you know
that it stemmed from dialects!
From de fourteen century –
Five hundred years gawn an dem got
More dialec dan we!
from the fourteenth century—
Five hundred years have passed and now
they have more dialects than we do!
De Yorkshire, de Cockney,
De broad Scotch and de Irish brogue
Before yuh start kill me!
the Tyke dialect, the Cockney,
the braid Scots and the strong Irish accent
before you begin to kill me!
A English Verse, an tear
Out Chaucer, Burns, Lady Grizelle
An plenty a Shakespeare!
of English poetry and tear
out Chaucer, Burns, Lady Grizelle
and a lot of Shakespeare!
When yuh kill 'variety',
Yuh wi haffi fine a way fi kill
when you have killed ‘variety,’
you will have to find a way to kill
Book deh pony uh shelf,
For ef yuh drop a ‘h’ yuh mighta
Haffi kill yuhself!
books that are there upon your shelf,
because if you drop an ‘h’ you might
have to kill your own self!
The poem was also very familiar with the 1960’s radio deejays, who played it frequently. It is this influence that has ascribed the notion that this poem and especially its style played an essential role in the spread and growth of the reggae music genre that came to the fore during this era: "[i]t is difficult to say whether [Bob] Marley's lyrics would have been very different without the existence of Louise Bennett. Bob Marley, however, constantly sampled Jamaican folklore in his compositions, folklore harvested and promoted by Louise Bennett" (Walker, 2005, pp. 68, 73-78).
“Bans a Killin” was considered the most militant and political of all of Louise Bennett’s poetic narratives (Walker, 2005, p. 71). The poem was regarded as having played a significant role in the Jamaican nation's liberation from neo-colonial intellectual slavery. It helped carve out of the amorphous mass that is Jamaican culture, an art form and identity that was appreciated and acceptable by Jamaican people of all creeds. It is noteworthy that patois was a tool of great importance to the Jamaican nation after many years of colonial rule, and this mirrored in both the language and customs of the Jamaican people. The appearance of written language was a factor that trigged “the change in language consciousness [which gave] rise to the notion that [patois] language [existed]” (Cooper, 2004, p. 280).
Jamaican creole is a language-rule system –English-lexified Creole, used by Jamaican people and it varies in some way from an ideal language standard –Standard English. “The ideal standard is rarely used except in formal writing, and the concept of a standard spoken language is practically a myth” (Owen 2012, p. 28). By championing the language and culture of her people, Louise Bennett awakened in the Jamaican people an awareness of the importance of Jamaican Patois not as an inferior language of the masses but as a language that is an important facet of the Jamaican cultural fabric. “Out of many, one people.”
•  Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, editors (1995). The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (2nd. Edition). London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-203-42306-2
•  Backus, Ad. (1999). “Mixed native language: A challenge to the monolithic view of language.” Topics in Language Disorders, 19(4), Aspen Publishers.
•  Baugh, Albert C., and Thomas Cable (2002). A History of the English Language (5th edition). Routledge. ISBN 0-203-99463-9
•  Bennett, Louise. Aunty Roachy Seh. Ed. Mervyn Morris. Kingston: Sangster’s, 1993.
---. “Bans a Killin.” Selected 4-5.
•  Branca, Nicole (2007). “Language, gender and identity in the works of Louise Bennett and Michelle Cliff.” Honors Projects Overview.
•  Cassidy, Frederic Gomes (2007). Jamaica talk: three hundred years of the English language in Jamaica. University of the West Indies Press. ISBN: 978-976-640-170-2
Previously published: Kingston, Jamaica: Macmillan/Sangsters Bookstores, 1982.
•  Cassidy, Frederic Gomes, and Robert Brock Le Page (1980) Dictionary of Jamaican English. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
•  Cooper, Carolyn (2004). Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 1-4039-6425-4
•  Gardner, W. J. (1873). A History of Jamaica, its Discovery by Christopher Columbus to the Present time; Including An Account of its Trade and Agriculture; Sketches of the Manners, Habits, and Customs of all Classes of its Inhabitants; and a Narrative of the Progress of Religion and Education in the Island. Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, E.C.
•  Holm, John (2004). An Introduction to Pidgins and Creoles. University of Coimbra, Portugal. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58460-4
•  Madeira, Benjamin (2015). Translation of 'Bans a killin' from Jamaican Patois to Standard English for the purpose of teaching ESL/EFL. Web. BenjaminMadeira.com - http://www.benjaminmadeira.com/2015/03/bans-killin.html
•  Millward, Celia M., and Mary Hayes (2012). A Biography of the English Language (3rd. edition). Wadsworth, Cengage learning. ISBN-13: 978-0-495-90641-4
•  Owens, Robert E., Jr. (2012). Language development: an introduction (8th edition). Person Education. State University of New York. ISBN-13:978-0-13-258252-0
•  Patrick, Peter L. (2007). “Jamaican Patwa (Creole English).” Creolica. University of Essex.
•  Ramazani, Jahan (2006). "A Transnational Poetics," in "American Literary History". Advance Access publication. Oxford University Press. pp 332-359. doi:10.1093/alh/ajj020
•  Russell, Thomas (1868). The Etymology of Jamaica Grammar. M. Decordova, Macdougall.
•  Svartvik, Jan, and Geoffrey Leech. English - One Tongue, Many Voices , Palgrave Macmillan. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire [England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006]. ISBN-13:978–1–4039–1829–1
•  Walker, Klive (2005). Dubwise: Reasoning from the reggae underground. Toronto: Insomniac Press.
•  Wong, Ansel. 1986. “Creole as a language of power and solidarity,” in: Sutcliffe, David & Ansel Wong (eds.). The Language of the Black Experience. Cultural expression through word and sound in the Caribbean and Black Britain. Basil Blackwell. Oxford. pp 109-122.