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Chameleon

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By Kathy Badenock

It is a truth universally established that all Vincentians travelling overseas are able to adopt the accent of his destination just by boarding the plane. This fact is often met with equal parts hilarity and disgust at the cultural fluidity. Persons against this practice argue that is points to a lack of national identity.

After all, Jamaicans and Trinidadian accents appear to be genetic, passing fluidly from grandparents to grandchildren regardless of how far afield they travel or how long they have been there. This national identity seems to have skipped Vincentians much like any knowledge of their rich past.

However, I dare to propose an alternate theory. Paramount chief Joseph Chatoyer, and his brother Duvalle, were both renowned strategists and linguists. Chatoyer was fluent in English, French, Garifuna and knew some Spanish. They were self-taught and their proximity to the language awoke inherent affinity for languages. It is true that accents and fluency are separate constructs.

However, could it be that we as a Vincentian nation have retained our ancestral and, are I say, genetic affinity for linguistic appropriation? Hear me out. A chameleon changes its colours based on its environment. It does this in order to blend in. This mechanism is one for survival. Can it be that Vincentians are the chameleons of the Caribbean? Can it be that our national identity is our ability to adapt in order to ensure our survival?

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Please do not misunderstand. While one can adopt to adapt, it does not change the fundamental nature of the individual. Callaloo soup is made with many ingredients. These all combine to add a rich flavour to the soup but that does not change the base of the soup — callaloo.

Teaching national history, taking pride in our cultural, art, artifacts, dances and food, will assist us as a nation in understanding what makes us who we are. That is the only way that we can embrace our nuances and stand with pride alongside other cultural giants as chameleons in the zoo that is this world.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

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3 replies on “Vincies — the chameleons of the Caribbean”

  1. I agree with that also , I used to be critical of of people whom had a change in accent but what I realise is that I have to slow down how I talk for others to understand me so even my accent has changed but I still talk my vincy twang when I meet my country folk

  2. Very interesting view but if the change was used so that Vincentians could blend in, thus ensuring survival, how then do you explain the continued use of the accent etc.when those individuals return home after just 6 months away? After all that ned for survival and to blend in is no more. Lots of food for thought indeed.

  3. They say if you are proud of your homeland you will never ever lose your accent. As I have travelled the world I have met Scots and Australians who have lived outside of their birth country for sometime fifty years and never lost their accents.

    Loss of accent is to do with wanting to hide your true origin and being ashamed of who you are.

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