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The English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago.

Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago,


Published 2009, is a carry-on suitcase-sized thing of exquisite beauty (the thing, not s'much the cover, let's be real). Jhanjat is in there, hassikarah is in there, as are panchayat, j’ouvert, cokey-eye, bazodee, magga and boof. One day in 2010 we spent most of a linguistics class shouting words and looking for them in the Dictionary. The professor had the book and would do the search. He was, simultaneously, trying to remember to hold on to his pants. Excited as any of us students were, he’d rushed to class with his copy of the dictionary but without troubling to stop for a belt. The danger of gravity intervening in his dignity and our sensibilities was as real as the almost ten-pound dictionary he was leafing through.

Larger than the physical book is the idea of a dictionary. Imagine deciding to make a dictionary. Lise Winer is named as the editor of the Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago. Lise Winer is a hero. Also a lexicographer. A lone, live, living breathing person who decided to collect the living magic of the language of this place and put it in print.

Dr Lise Winer, PhD Professor Emerita McGill, started collecting words in the way many lexicographers used to before Shoebox (software that it is only alleged some folk other than lexicographers have used) was a thing. Shoebox (software) is called shoebox because lexicographers would stack index cards with words, word definition and cross-references in shoeboxes. Imagine the stacks of shoeboxes.

There is a team of people and an entire machine behind many dictionaries. Sometimes entire presses spring up around the curation and management of one dictionary. Many, many people vetted words, gave examples and pitched in to make the idea a possibility, but the driving force behind the final result is one human person, so enamoured with the language that she met here, that she persevered from shoebox to finished book. A to Z.

My copy of Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago goes where I go. It lives on my desk. I packed it in one side of my carry-on when I moved for school. That, my birth certificate, immunization cards, diplomas and a family photo. Things that tell a story of me.


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