Wednesday 27th June, 2007


A Rastafari dictionary

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Guardian Photographer Wendy Ann Duncan sports a salon ras.
Strike Squad member Brian Williams has a bongo.

Photos: Zen Dionne Jarrette

By Zen Dionne Jarrette

The most distinctive thing about a Rasta is his dreadlocks. The next is everything he says. These days, even people with their hair relaxed bone-straight or sporting a juicy jheri curl can be heard using Rasta-originated slang. The sayings have established themselves in the local lexicon.

Long ago Rastas were looked upon as a dark and terrible sect—hence the term “dread”—but now every Tom, Dick and Vashti can be seen sporting locks—no matter their race or socio-economic background.

One long-locked Rasta, Bro Resistance, gives his views on this growing trend.

“As a Rasta, it is always nice to see yourself initiate changes in the aesthetic,” he said.

“All of this is part of a new vibe and I think it’s all good.”

Babylon: The police, church or any establishment Rastas find oppressive.

Baddis: A woman of ill repute or loose sexual morals.

Bald head: A person without locks or someone who works for Babylon.

Bashment: A party or dance.

Blacks: The dreaded marijuana joint with cocaine rock added that Rastas frown upon smoking. Many Rastas believe this type of joint is the gateway to becoming a cocaine addict.

Bless: Used instead of “goodbye.”

Bobo: A person belonging to the Bobo Shanti sect of Rastafarianism, distinguished by their turban headwear and communal, subsistence-oriented living.

Bongo: Someone who has “real” dreadlocks, which are grown to resemble tree roots and are not uniform or patterned.

Carry ah dread: To have dreadlocks.

Downpressor: An oppressor.

Dread!: An exclamation of disbelief.

Earth strong: Some Rastas’ version of “birthday.”

Empress: A female Rasta; particularly used for wives or upstanding young women.

Endeavour best: To try your hardest to achieve something.

Fassy: A weak or idiotic person; could also mean homosexual.

Fireball: Rasta version of the four-letter word that rhymes with luck.

Folly: Anything bad or any sort of wrongdoing.

Ital: Organic or natural food without salt or meat, sanctioned for Rastafarian eating.

Ism schism: Any form of bureaucracy.

Jah: God.

Judgement: An expression of outrage or disbelief.

Lion: Any upstanding, distinguished or respected male Rasta.

Leggo beast: A wild, disorderly person.

Meat: Coconut jelly, which is eaten with food the way meat is.

No-tal: Meat and any salted food which is not ital.

One love: A way to say goodbye; also used as an apology.

Overstand: The Rasta version of the word “understand.”

Porkmouth Rasta: A person who is a Rasta in hairstyle only.

Queen: A Rasta’s mother.

Rastafari: An abbreviation of Emperor Haile Selassie’s name: his birth name was Ras (meaning prince or duke) Tafari Makonnen.

Rawtid: To be very angry—a take on the word “wrath.”

Respect: A way of saying goodbye; also an apology.

Rootical: Anything or person that is true to the Rastafarian faith.

Salon ras: Someone with a uniformed head of dreadlocks who has it just for style and not the religion.

Scene: “Do you understand?”

Sess: Marijuana.

Skanking: The distinctive style of helter-skelter Rasta dancing.

Spliff: A very large joint of marijuana.

Get the heights and the vibes: To be sexually aroused.

Unclean: Pork, or sometimes a reference to a woman’s menstrual period.

Waste dong: To speak ill of another person—usually behind their back.

Zion: Ethiopia, Africa, sometimes Heaven.

These are just some of the colorful things rastas say that have now found their way into daily conversation.

So now that you understand more of them, you won’t be confused the next time a Rasta talks to you.



©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

Designed by: Randall Rajkumar-Maharaj · Updated daily by: Nicholas Attai