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Posted by on Jul 4, 2015 in W.I. Word of the Week | 0 comments

West Indian Word of the Week: Eye Pass

Growing up in a Caribbean family it is understood that Thou Shalt Not Show Any Form of Disrespect to Your Elders. Ever. I had no problem with this mandate. Until I hit my teens. Then the usual mix of hormones, teen angst, eagerness to assert my independence and the confidence that I just plain old knew more than my parents on most topics, kicked in. Combined with a sense of boundary pushing that American culture deemed as acceptable for teens resulted in many clashes that end with my mother or father yelling ‘Don’ tek you eyes an pass me!”

At first I was like “Wha? My eyes are passing you? What are you talking about?” (Mind you, these questions are all in my head. I valued my life so didn’t dare say them out loud.) I understood that it was a Guyanese way of saying don’t disrespect me, but I didn’t really understand the phrase. I quickly came up with the following explanation:

Eyes passing a person = Rolling your eyes = Being dismissive of the person = Disrespect

It can either be a noun: “This is blasted eye pass!” Or a verb: “Hmph! Like he eye passin’ she.”

And, of course, there are levels to this. As Kaieteur.com, a site dedicated to “keeping significant elements of Guyanese culture ‘front and center'”, indicates in their definition of eye pass:

So watch yourself when you dealing with people eh? The last thing you want is to catch a case with someone over perceived eye pass. Now if the eye pass is not just perceived but intended, well, me cyan’t help you. You gonna have to deal with those consequences yourself.

Do you have another explanation as to how eye pass came to mean disrespect? As far as I know eye pass is a Guyanese phrase. Do any other of the Caribbean nations use it? Or are there other words / phrases used  to indicate disrespect? Tell me nuh!

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