The Mango Story

Collected by Peter L. Patrick

 

I recorded this story August 10, 1989, on the front porch of Belinda’s middle-class home in Kingston, during an interview of several hours. Belinda [a pseudonym -- "B" below], aged 36, is a medical-records clerk. Kelly (19, "K" below) is her oldest daughter, secretary in an uptown apartment complex. The InterViewer is myself, Peter Patrick ("IV" below). Belinda is recalling the devastation recently wrought by Hurricane Gilbert (1988), Jamaica’s worst storm in a century.

Click here to play the 1 min. 42 sec. soundfile (MP3 format):

1

B:

I lost a lot a tree down de bottom, I don' have any mango tree now.

2

IV:

No? You had mangoes before?

3

B:

Yes! I had t'ree mango trees...

4

K:

...we have to buy mangoes…

5

B:

Oh, boy, I would have mangoes like-... Now I have to be buyin' mangoes.

6

IV:

Oh, lord!

7

B:

Which I never usually do.

8

IV:

I bet.

9

B:

I used to have mangoes to give away!… Now, I have to be buyin'.

10

IV:

An' now dey gone up too.

11

B:

Yes! Mhm.

12

IV:

Expensive! East Indian... four an' five dollars for one.

13

K:

It's nine an' ten dollars now, you lucky you see it fo' dat.

14

IV:

Yeh. I hear de GG. say dat, you know, it was goin' to ten--

15

B:

[Laughs] Yeh, de GG. se--

16

IV:

                              --but I never see one fo'--

17

B:

                              --se 'im not buy- se 'im not buyin' it fo' dat, no?

18

K:

I see dem fo' nine…

19

IV:

His wife goin' go out an' buy it an'- tek off de price.

20

B:

Yesterday I bought one-- a mango for five dollars, one mango.

21

B:

But den, dis lady--

 

 

[K says something faint]

22

B:

No, Miss Julie. One a de big mango, the big roun' Aden-lookin' mango.

23

 

Dis lady, she... ksst! [B 'kisses her teeth'] I stop[ped?] downtown, so...

24

 

I park right beside her,

25

 

So I was goin' over to de Pos' Office.

26

 

So I wen', she se, "Lady, buy one a de mango na?"

27

 

So I se, "I not buyin' any mango."

28

 

So mi come over back now, hear: "You not buyin' one of de mango?"

29

 

So mi se, " 'Ow much for it?" "Five dollars." Ksst!

30

 

So I fel', "Cho!" Jus' because she aks now. Mi jus' buy de mango.

31

 

It hurt me, you see! Spend my five dollar fi go buy one mango!...

32

 

If she ever know 'ow dat hurt me...

33

 

But den, because she was jus' askin', you know? Mi jus' buy it. Ksst!

 

Notes:

Line 12: "East Indian" is a kind of mango commonly grown in Jamaica.

Lines 14, 15: "The GG" refers to the Governor General, a well-known public figure in Jamaica, who out of solidarity with the poor declared he would refuse to buy mangoes at such high prices.

Lines 23, 29, 33: "Kiss you teeth" or "sucktooth" [here represented "Ksst!"]: African-diaspora expression of negative affect: scorn, irritation, contempt, anger etc. Often followed by the exclamation "Cho!", as line 30.

 

Interpretation:

This excerpt begins in typical interview Q-&-A format by way of an indignant complaint, involves both women in a brief exchange sparked by interviewer's display of local knowledge (corrected by K!), and leads into a monologic narrative by Belinda which expands on the initial complaint.

As the middle-class urban narrator (who was born working-class, in the country) adopts the voice of the roadside mango-seller -- a higgler personally known to the women, but not to IV -- a shift into lower mesolectal JC occurs on several levels: lexical, phonological, morphological, intonational, and paralinguistic.

The narrator sums up by demonstrating that the breaking of one norm (against paying -- esp. paying a lot! -- for mangoes) is licensed by the upholding of another (giving business to someone in need who is, after all, trying to work). The use of down-to-earth Patwa (=JC) underlines both the narrator's claims to working-class values: being someone who does not spend foolishly, yet does the neighbourly thing.

[JC-U11-B, 26:45-28:30. Collected August 10, 1989 by Peter L. Patrick in Kingston]