The Big Bahamian Debate: BEY? BUI? BEI?
Some would say that this is the most ultimate, longest standing, intense Bahamian debate in the history of Bahamian debates —the word “BEY”. Now, depending on your age, the island you’re from and your influences, either seeing me spell ”BEY” as B-E-Y, by this point has your skin berlin’, ya probably cussing me out, you are cancelling my Bahamian citizenship and you probably think “I ain’t got no sense”. Or your amongst the group of individuals that spell bey as B-E-Y, like me.
THE BIG BAHAMIAN DEBATE— how do you spell the word “BEY”. Some Bahamians spell it: B-U-I, other spell it B-E-I. It can be spelled a number of ways, the options are endless and quite controversial.
Before we dive into this sacred Bahamian word, let’s first dive into the meaning, origins, history and documentation of this word. For all intents and purposes, I will be spelling the word “B-E-Y” for convenience. This by no means invalidates your spelling, pronunciation or annoyance.
the Bahamian vernacular for ‘boy’ —but can be used to reference any person
the opening or ending of a sentence
to express excitement
displaying shock or disbelief
The word bey is probably the most commonly used word in Bahamian language, followed by “ya ma”, “mudda sick” and “i ain‘t ga lie right” (chances are they lie).
For a word that carries so much Bahamian pride, weight and usage, one would assume that this word has been passed down from generation to generation, however that’s not the case.
For starters, did y’all know that there is an official Dictionary of Bahamian English? I didn’t either bruh. Well, in 1982 linguists Dr. John Holm and Dr. Alison Watt Shilling published this dictionary that features over 5,000 Bahamian words.
The word BEY is referenced here in the 1982 dictionary, however, the spelling that is used is:
Bahamians responses: BUNCHA— or Vell Mudda—
So I know ya wondering, okayyy well what that mean? Well this is the first spelling reference to our beloved word, however, much like everything in the world, Bahamian creole, words, pronunciation and accents evolve. The word evolved from “BEYEH” to many different spellings such as bey, bui, bei, beh and so much more. According to Dr. Raymond Oenbring from the University of The Bahamas, there is no correct spelling, which means there is no wrong spelling either.
I sure this ain‘t gone stop the debates, disagreements or eradicate what you consider the correct word to be, however I do hope this show how important our Bahamian language is to our culture and identity. It isn’t as important how different we spell the word bey, as much as how important it is to keep sharing Bahamian vernacular, validating our language and education each other about its role in The Bahamas.
Click the link below to watch iisabahamianbey new series called "Kaché say", where our founder Kaché Knowles will dive into the history, definition, spellings and social responses to the word "BEY".
Here’s another link to one of the most iconic what Bahamians say videos from 2012 by amazing Bahamian vlogger Tap from ‘theycallmetap’:
Let’s keep empowerin‘ Bahamian culture.
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