4 Places All Jamaicans Know of that Google Maps Will NEVER Find

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have come across my articles about Jamaican culture a few times. Jamaican travel tips, historical facts, cultural idiosyncrasies, and linguistic dissections are a standard fare in this section of my website.

After reading a few of these posts, you’ve probably come to the grand realisation that Jamaicans have very creative ways of saying ordinary things.ย I did my best to showcase this inย 50 AWESOME JAMAICAN WORDS & PHRASES THAT COULD PUT SHAKESPEARE TO SHAME.ย In this specific article, I illustrated several examples of how we often turn phrases to toss insults at people’s feet that are as hilarious as they are hurtful.

Another instance where Jamaican patois is as colourful as ever is when it comes to giving directions and measuring distance. This is because Jamaicans often describe some places and directions that Google maps will neither find nor compute. Here are the four main ones you should listen out for.

While Giving Directions

When I think about my home country, one of the things I miss most is our sense of community. This sense of civic responsibility makes Jamaicans very helpful to one another. However, if you have ever taken directions from a Jamaican, you know that our helpfulness is sometimes not very helpful at all. Here are two directional descriptions Jamaicans give that you should never, ever trust.

1. Right ‘Roun Di Corner

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If you ask for directions and a Jamaican tells you that the place you’re looking for is right around the corner, you should probably ask for more specifics. Which corner are they referring to exactly? You’re likely to pass a few before you get to the exact one they have in mind.

If they are unable to tell you exactly which one it is, a good rule of thumb is to count the next three or so. If you are in a rural area, multiply that estimate by two or three. It’s also well to note that going around the corner could actually mean making a left or right turn, especially in a T-shaped intersection.

2. Right Up/Down the Road

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The directional measurement of right up or down the road in Jamaica is highly deceptive. In very rare instances, this could mean about a quarter of a mile up the road. This is usually in urban areas.

Once you move into a rural setting, you may want to extend your leniency to up to about 20 miles or so. Worst case scenario, up the road may not be a straight distance, but also includes several left and right turns that were conveniently omitted.

What can I say? We’re terrible at giving directions. If my Google Maps had a Jamaican accent, I would do the opposite of everything she said! ๐Ÿ˜…

During Regular Conversation

When we get really creative with our geographical descriptions, however, is during our regular conversations. After all, this is when our comedic talents are at their greatest!

3. Chooku

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Jamaicans learn of a place called Chookuย from a very young age. Here are the key features of Chooku.

  • It is an hour or more from the Jamaican’s current location.
  • It is in a rural or isolated area.
  • It is not particularly easy to find unless you know the area well.

Another word we often use in place of Chookuย is Timbuktu. However, it turns out Timbuktu is a real place Google Maps can actually direct you to. I was mind-blown when I learned this in the 8th grade!

4. Behind a Jesus & Back a God

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No, we are not implying there is more than one Jesus. “A” in this instance, actually means “of”. So, yes, it literally translates to “Behind of Jesus”. If something is Behind a Jesus, naturally it is also at the Back a God. Because of this, Jamaicans may describe a place that is too far away asย Behind a Jesus and back a God!

I was a teen when I first heard someone say this and almost died laughing. As a student who lived roughly 30 miles from my high school in the city, according to the city kids, I went home toย Behind a Jesus and back a God, every day. ๐Ÿ˜†

โ€”

I’m sure Jamaicans aren’t the only ones who are directionally challenged. What are the cultural equivalents of these words and phrases in your area? I’m especially interested in hearing from my British and Irish readers as we share a lot of our linguistic idiosyncrasies with you!

To my fellow West Indians, I know you’ll have plenty to say, as well. Feel free to add to my list via the comments, below.

About the Author

Alexis Chateau Option C Curved

Alexis Chateau is a Jamaican author of mystery, paranormal, and crime fiction novels. Her interest in the culture and history of Jamaica was shaped by her social sciences degrees, earned with first-class honours at the Montego Bay Community College and the University of Technology, Jamaica. To see West Indian characters in action, read her historical novel,ย The Moreau Witchesย now on sale for as low as 99 cents, all through Black History Month.

Praise forย The Moreau Witchesย from the National Library of Jamaica

This book catapulted me into reading so many others, looking for that good feeling I got from reading yours. It was so well written! I absolutely love it. You are a genius.

โ€”Monique Fergie-Scott, National Library of Jamaica

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35 thoughts on “4 Places All Jamaicans Know of that Google Maps Will NEVER Find

      1. Buahahahaha! It’s done that to me here too, or it doesn’t realise a business doesn’t exist anymore. Or the time it put me on the highway. Me nuh drive pah highway innuh. Nope. ๐Ÿ‘€

    1. LMAO! I never used Google maps in Jamaica. One time my friend used it to find my house and ended up on the street behind me.

      1. Lol they’re only good for businesses and other popular landmarks (once they’re still in existence of course ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚). In terms of houses, i don’t trust them with house numbers. I just use it to get an idea of how to find the street then i call and be like “which colour wall u seh?” Or “come out to the gate.”

        Nah mek Google lost me again (sure it will happen though ๐Ÿธ)

  1. Iโ€™m forever discredited for my tendency to assure folks places are โ€œjust a few blocks awayโ€! The life and perspective of a constant walker, I suppose…
    But my favorite destination is BFE. It refers to a place that is forever far away: Bum F Egypt. Iโ€™m sure people can accurately fill in that middle letter with the adjective of their own choosing!

    1. BFE must be our equivalent of Timbuktu! ๐Ÿ˜… I would think as a walker things would seem far away since you take longer to get there. ๐Ÿค”

    1. Hahaha, that’s my favourite one as well!

      I learned about Timbuktu when we were doing African civilisations. The teacher just casually said, “And the Italians built the first university in the world in something BC in Timbuktu, which was attended by both Italians and Africans.”

      We had an uproar in the class. We had to stop her. What did she just say? Did she mean Timbuktu was real? Did she say university? We were friends with the Italians? Wait, what??? ๐Ÿ˜…

      1. Lol I’d actually love to visit the real Timbuktu one day.

        And yea, the ancient world was way more integrated than many people realize; people moved around all over the place โ€“ it just took longer. Hence why there are no subspecies of humans…

  2. In New England “a long ways” seems to refer to any place over two miles away or, God forbid, “across the river” as in “you came all the way across the river!”

    1. Hahahah! Just two miles becomes far away? I thought Atlantans were bad. Anywhere further than 15 minutes is too far in ATL.

    1. Oh my goodness! You probably won’t believe what I’m about to tell you, but here are slangs from that list that are in Jamaica patois.

      1. Using down in place of to. We also use up. Up a Kingston, down a Mobay. We may also say dung instead of down.

      2. Dreckly is heard sometimes. I’ve always thought the person just can’t be bothered to say the full world. Jamaicans swallow a lot of syllables when we speak, which is what makes the words so hard to catch.

      3. Them there. This one out of all of them almost made my eyes pop out of my head. In Jamaican patois, it would be used as, “Take up them there” for a group of things, or even “see them there” for a group of people.

      I wonder what else we’ve stolen from each other over the years. I really wish there was more research on the connection between Jamaican Patois, English in Ireland, and English in England.

      1. I can very well believe it. Has mining ever been a strong industry in Jamaica? The reason I ask is that Cornwall (where I live but not where I’m from) and West Devon was once the centre of global tin mining. The industry was so successful, that Cornish miners eventually worked all over the world for industrialists helping develop mining industries, particularly in the Americas. I understand there is an area in Mexico with heavy Cornish influence in cuisine and place names because of it. If I find the article, I’ll post it so you can have a read ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. My hunch was right. When mining started to decline in Cornwall, many of the miners sought new opportunities in the America in particular the Caribbean and South America – Mexico, Peru, Argentina, the southern US and… Jamaica!

        https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=gnSFDwAAQBAJ&pg=PR11&lpg=PR11&dq=did+cornish+tin+miners+go+to+jamaica&source=bl&ots=AQVlj8uRQA&sig=ACfU3U3XJxNZsrXsI6ZqaFsNhTC0tmp34g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjG4Om9_7rgAhUdRBUIHQcEAh0Q6AEwGnoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=did%20cornish%20tin%20miners%20go%20to%20jamaica&f=false

        So your “them there” and your “dreckly” come from the Cornish workers ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. “Right round the corner”
    That’s one we definitely use! It means “not far from here” even when not strictly around a corner. Not very helpful to visitors, admittedly.

    “Up north”
    We all know what it means but nobody can tell you technically where “up north” starts. It covers fully 1/3 of England. It’s believed to start in Cheshire on the west side and Yorkshire on the east side though some think Cheshire is still part of the midlands and Nottingham (which is farther south than Cheshire is in the midlands) is technically the north too.

    “Out in the sticks”
    Meaning somewere very rural. I believe “the sticks” are supposed to be trees. i.e. somebody who lives so rurally they are surrounded by trees ๐Ÿ˜€

    “The middle of nowhere”
    Similar sort of meaning to “out in the sticks” but it can also be a phrase people use when they are lost. For example, you end up “out in the sticks” on a road you don’t recognise potentially miles from where your friend lives. So you pull over and phone them up and say “we’re in the middle of nowhere, help us find you.”

    “Up sh*t creak (without a paddle)”
    Meaning that person is in terrible trouble for doing something wrong – usually making a major mistake at work like losing important documents.

    1. I knew the British had similarly bad directional tricks up their sleeves ๐Ÿ˜‚ I guess we can just blame you guys then and wipe our hands clean. ๐Ÿคฃ

      I think I’ve heard out in the sticks before. It was said by my friend from Bristol!

  4. Yep the direction thing we have a community in Kenya known as the kamba when they tell you novaa meaning its just here just know you have a long way to go

  5. Haha. I love the ‘Behind a Jesus and back a God for ‘back of beyond’. Must remember for future reference. In case you’re interested, the Spanish equivalent is ‘En el quinto pino’ (in the fith pinetree). You have to have humour in your language. ๐Ÿ‘

    1. Hahahaha! I should have known the Spanish had one of their own. My experience with the Spanish is that you guys love puns and sarcasm as much as we do. ๐Ÿ˜‚

  6. Hi, I just thought Iโ€™d let you know I particularly enjoyed thus blog of yours. One of my favourites. Whatโ€™s the ISBN number of your Moreau Witches book? So I can recommend my local New Zealand library purchases it.

    1. Thanks, Chris! I’m glad you enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      The paperback of The Moreau Witches has 3 different ISBNs because every distributor requires their own.

      Amazon: 978-1790527564
      Barnes & Noble: 9781987012095
      Ingram: 9780692198230

      They can order from any of those three sources. Let me know if you need anything else!

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