It was Doing Floors day at our apartment, and the temps were in the humid 90s. I was trying to do the Swiffer Wet part, but I kept dripping sweat onto the clean floor. “This is as bad as trying to sweep on North Caicos, when you just keep making dustmud,” I complained.
And just like that the word was coined. It’s not terribly creative, but dustmud describes a cleaning problem for anyone with an island home. (Except the wimps who insist on central air!)
My “creation” got me thinking about other words—real words, not makeups—that I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t spent time in the islands. So here is the beginning of a vocabulary list for North Caicos, starting with some relatives of dustmud.
Muddy: Used to describe seawater that has been churned up and made cloudy. “I couldn’t get any lobster today. It’s too muddy.”
Mud: Mortar for stonework. “We’ll put the patio here. Can we use that spot to mix the mud?”
Potcake: Island dog of non-breed heritage; what dogs are when humans don’t intervene in their breeding. “Potcakes won’t chase balls, but they’ll eat just about anything.”
Crawfish: Another reference to rock lobster, or spiny lobster. “When Dar started fishing, she concentrated on crawfish.”
Jumby: A ghost or spirit who is in between life and the afterlife. “In Jamaica, they call them duppies, but here we say jumby.”
Gullywash: A delicious drink of fresh coconut water, gin and sweetened condensed milk, with a little nutmeg, named for its milky color reminiscent of a flooded limestone wash. “Welcome! Have some rum punch, or some gullywash.”
Paw-paw: Papaya. “Mama said to pick some paw-paw for her.”
Monkeybag: Rum of inferior or questionable quality. “Gimme some real rum, not that monkeybag!”
Curry: Not a spice, but limestone dust and small rocks from a quarry. “I have a gravel yard, but my driveway is curry.” (Yes, David, it is just a local pronunciation of “quarry,” but just think of the strange looks you get when you actually say “quarry” instead!)
Reach: Not an actual vocabulary word, but an idiom that uses the word in a particular way. “I thought I’d get my order today, but the boat didn’t reach.” Also, “I soon reach,” both a common promise and the name of another delicious drink, the light lager of Turks Head Brewing.
Are there any more? Please add your own “words I never heard or used before North Caicos,” and maybe we’ll put together our own dictionary!