By Anthony Deyal
In Guyana, they call it “blow”. In Barbados, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago it is “horn” or “butt” but Saint Lucians add the Kwéyòl or patois word “kòné”. In Jamaica, you get “bun”, a word with several different meanings, at least one of which is identical to those used in the other countries.
According to “Epic Jamaica” which deals with food, culture, and lifestyle, one use of “bun” is in the sentence, “It bun me fi him is. (“I am really bothered by him.”) This expresses contempt, hatred or disgust at, or of, a man. “Mine you bun me up” is about being careful with, or around, a fire. The exclamation, “Peppa a bun me up” is easy to understand especially if the person has been eating “Scotch Bonnet” or “bonney” peppers with a heat rating of between 80,000–400,000 Scoville units.
Then you reach in Bulla territory or Easter time and if you’re visiting their homeland, your homesick Jamaican friends ask, “Cyar one bun fi me when yah come! (Bring me a bun when you’re coming.”) However, heading the list of bun usage is not a slang term for the rear-end of a woman but another that has recently been very much in the news in Jamaica and is also a West Indian problem growing in frequency and concern. It can be delivered as advice, “Bun him! Tek man pon him.”
In this case “bun” is the equivalent of the English word “cuckold” meaning that a man’s wife or partner has a sexual relationship with at least one other man. As Epic Jamaica clarifies “This phrase puts the word ‘bun’ in a whole new context, meaning infidelity – usually when everyone except the other partner knows it is going on. Made popular in the 1990s, the use of the word in this way appears quite often in songs and casual conversations to make fun of the person on the receiving end of the ‘bun’.”
I can understand the Guyana term “blow” because in that country the sex act is also called “lash” or “lashing” and when I first heard the term used in a context that was not as clear as daylight, I immediately translated it into the Trinidadian meaning and was aghast. When you get “lash” in Trinidad it is to be beaten, generally by your parents, teachers or, in the old days, neighbours, with a belt, strap or whip.
Obviously in Guyana, it is perceived as assault with a friendly weapon and if you get a lot of kicks out of a furious lashing you probably are Guyanese by birth, experience, temperament, orientation or all of the above. While “blow” is as violent as “lash”, in some other countries it has an American connotation that associates it with some kind of employment or occupation. “Horn” (as well as “kòné” which has the same meaning), goes back to the English word “cuckold” and comes from the “cuckoo” bird which has a habit of laying its egg in another bird’s nest.
In those days, calling a man a “cuckold” heaped shame and humiliation on him since it implied that he could not control his wife or that he was impotent. The symbol associated with “cuckolding” was a pair of ram’s horns. Since those days, being “horned” was not something that rested lightly on the ego and temper of most men and even those who pleaded with their wives, “Horn me but don’t leave me,” eventually found ways of taking their own revenge for the humiliation.
“Bun” has been very much in the Jamaican news recently. A Jamaica Gleaner headline on Monday (February 24, 2020) stated, “Soldier fires at man accused of sleeping with girlfriend – Commentators urge men not to react violently to ‘bun’.” A 42-year-old female office manager was at her home when her 51-year-old partner, an army private, entered the house and confronted the paramour. An argument then developed between the men. While the woman was in the process of letting her accused lover out the back door, the soldier exited the house, headed for the back of the premises, where he allegedly discharged a round from his licensed Glock pistol.
The fleeing lover narrowly escaped injuries and possibly death by jumping over a wall. Commenting on the issue, Sexologist Dr Shelly-Ann Weeks urged Jamaican men to understand that they do not own women’s bodies and to find non-violent means of coping with sexual infidelity. Weeks expressed concern about the growing trend of men engaging in gun violence after finding out their partners are cheats.
She said, “I want men to take the idea of ownership off the table. They don’t own women. Bounty Killer (Jamaican reggae and dub artist) has the right analogy. He says men only rent some time and space. When the time is up, it’s up!” Dr Weeks made the crucial point that women generally don’t resort to violence when they are victims of infidelity. She accused society of being biased in their views on the issue.
During the last two years, at least 38 Guyanese women were murdered by their husbands, reputed husbands, estranged lovers or boyfriends. On New Year’s Day, a man was stabbed by a woman’s ex-lover. A Google search for “Trinidad woman chopped to death” found 1.09 million results in .49 seconds. In 2018, in Jamaica, a convicted killer who cut his girlfriend’s throat on Christmas Day, 2016, said he was pushed over the edge by her infidelity and was the “laughing stock” of his community. On January 14, a woman was knifed to death by here estranged boyfriend.
Surgeon, Alfred Dawes, writing in the Jamaica Gleaner, puts the situation in perspective. “Bun is not nice. You go through grief, but it’s worse than death because you add anger and damaged egos to the pain. If you can’t handle bun, you will go mad. There is no shame in bun … it is just another hurdle in the race of life. Maybe there will be fewer angry, embarrassed men vowing revenge, and fewer incidents of domestic violence … If you don’t get bun yet, bredda, just hold it when it comes and remember that this too shall pass.
“Stay with her if you like, or just hol yuh bun and move on with your life.” Attorney-at-Law, Daniel Thwaites, commented, “… one thing is for certain: if we continue along the path we’re on, the bloodcurdling headlines won’t be in short supply and the murder numbers will have a steady supply based on the prevalence of death by ‘bun’.”
In other words, regardless of what country you live in or what word you use, the key is not to blow the situation out of proportion. Just pull in your horns and move on.
*Tony Deyal was last seen quoting comic Rodney Dangerfield on tolerance, “With my wife, I don’t get no respect. I made a toast on her birthday to ‘the best woman a man ever had.’ The waiter joined me.”