Both are islands so that does mean a certain insularity. An apartness from those on the mainland, wherever or however far away that mainland actually is -- in Bermuda it is 600 miles but we still feel it.
Shared heritage too. Both are/were British colonies, Bermuda rather older than the upstart that is Penang by some 177 years or so (1786 versus 1609). So both share the same common language, that knot that binds us together. (I have just finished watching the Commonwealth Games which I thought were wonderful, part of which prompted this post). Or do we?
Bermudjian is the way the local people speak the language in Bermuda and it really does have its oddities. My children Alex and Ali speak it like the natives that they are and can turn it off and on at will. Sounds strange sometimes to hear them cracking along with their friends in what sounds like another language but then comes down to that lowest common denominator:
"That's what I'm talking about".
"You got that right!"
and of course the ubiquitous:
"Fat, bye" which has no known translation but which can be used just about anywhere in conversational Bermudjian.
With these short simple phrases you can have a conversation lasting hours, with the duration of the conversation being dependent on the availability of some fine local rum or Elephant beer, Carlsberg of course, "to refrAsh the vocal chords, don't you know (pronounced "doan-chu-noow")."
|The Beer-muda Triangle|
No spelling mistake there as Bermudjian often replaces vowels with others seemingly at random. As for double negatives and malapropisms, well...
Take this simple phrase: "You don't tell me nuffin'"
Loosely translated it means "You don't tell me nothing". A double negative, yes... but is it?
At first glance this could be a cry from the heart of someone desperate to know things but who is being deliberately excluded from those things as in "you doan tAll me nuffin, bye". But on reflection it could also be a directive in the same way as "doan chu tAll me nuffin, bye" is a directive although slightly differently worded. A request given rather peremptorily to someone to not give him or her instructions, the implied undertone being that the instructions will not be followed and that the requestee is rather put out by the fact that someone has the temerity to think about giving an instruction when clearly that other person has no right to do so and in all likelihood is being "dis-respActful".
This is the worst thing that anyone can do to another Bermudjian. Be dis-respActful.
Coming to Penang it has been an assault on many of my senses, one being the language. Of course the local language takes precedence but when it comes to the use of English, some times it makes my eyes water until you actually get into the rhythm of what is being said.
The loose translation of 'yes' is 'ya'. I never realized that until I filled in an official form for something which had one of those yes/no boxes translated into both languages and saw the yes/ya option presented for the first time. I had thought that 'ya' was a very chummy greeting as in the Bermudjian "ya ya mon".
After playing tennis one day in chatting with one of the other guys who turned out to be a business coach, he told me that the Malays didn't finish what they were saying when they spoke. They ran out of context and content before they finished usually so they would add a few cheerful "ya's" or most normal "la's" to the end of what they were saying as in:
"Bring me a beer la".
The 'la' is redundant but it does end the phrase correctly and makes the sound of what has been said feel about right. And I guess at the end of the day we can drone on and on about the mangling of the Queen's English but it is a living language in the way that say Latin no longer is and has a life and breadth of its own, wherever you may go. It just takes a little while to get to grips with how the language is chosen and what the local rhythm is. Makes for tricky moments when the gap in understanding is fairly wide but one of the solutions certainly here in Penang is the use of the word 'can'. It is used on its own in the context of "certainly that can be done. No problem. Hope you enjoy the outcome." But this is all truncated in popular use so that the correct response to that earlier request would be:
Hope this is all clear.