Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wappy and Philip

Its very funny how much we go through our days using sayings and slang that seem so commonplace but in fact are so far from it. Recently I had the pleasure of traveling with a group of classy ladies who were not only fun but also a wealth of knowledge regarding Caribbean culture. On our journey to the thanksgiving of the life of a hero who was also a great person I learnt two things about our very common sayings I now wish to share.
Every day you hear it “Him a build him house from Wappy kill Fillop!”
“a whe she a go inna dat, de frock ol she mussi have it from Wappy kill Fillop.”

So who are this Wappy and Fillop? Well apparently they were real people. Wappy was the first gunman ever in Jamaica. Wappy predates Natty Morgan, Jim Brown and every bad man in Jamaica. He was the original shotta. Now apparently Wappy and Philip lived in Kingston because that’s where all the real gun-hawks live. Why did Wappy kill Philip I didn’t hear but he did kill him, and he killed Philip in a time where the only time people know death is by natural causes and freak accidents. Therefore a murder and a murder with a gun was the biggest news, ever. So big that it became a landmark in the annals of Jamaican time. Persons started using this statement to show time. Hence from Wappy Kill Philip.
Now true to form Jamaicans have a strange way of messing up, or let me rephrase that, putting a new spin on birth names. Somewhere along the line Phillip became Fillop and hence, Wappy kill Fillop.

Now being the badass that he was, Wappy was on the run from the police for some time. And in the age before the C. S.I.s and the Law and Orders it took the police some time to find him. Well that’s to say if they ever found him at all. So another much used slang developed in our collective culture and that is to say “Wappy back”. This speaks to the quickness and shrewdness in which an action was taken.

Now there is something to be said about how colourful our language is and I find myself loving so much of our dialect. We can’t just say it was big or huge, no emphasis has to be placed in order for persons to understand how big the thing was. Should one need to describe with some degree of disgust someone that their age or size should tell them that they cannot act in a manner smaller people do then you might hear something along the line of;
“Dis big auss tearin man nuh wah leff de likkle school gal dem alone!”
“Auss tearing” derives from the English “horse staring” which speaks to height. And the act of actually looking a horse in its face. Seeing as horses are such huge creatures standing over 6ft tall to look one directly in the face is no small feat. Any one able to do so comfortably was obviously some kind of giant hence the reference was used to describe what one can call an “over grown person”. Who knew?
Jack Mandora Mi nuh choose none.

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  1. thank you for this article this is something i wondered about for years

  2. I've long been curious about this Wappy and Phillop business. I did a search and your article came up, so thank you. Now do me a favour and explain this Jack Mandora stuff now - i don't get it, never did.

  3. LMAO!!!!

    I used to say that all the time... I finally had a friend say, "Why are you always gauging time by this murder??"

    Thank you for such a precise explanation of this phrase, lol.

  4. true to form jamaicans have a way of messing up...???? it's all abt dialect and pronunciation, happens in every culture. and true to form?????

  5. Finally, I have been looking for this a long time now from Wappy kill Phillip! :-)

  6. thanx much!!! these defintions were well needed!!

  7. Jack Mandora - is just a way to start or end a story. The Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverly ended her Anansi stories in that way. I've seen similarities in the Haitian community when they preface their stories with Kric-Krac. Edwidge Danticat actually has a book with that title.

  8. This was so good thanks so much for writing it. We are to say the least, a colorful sort of people aren't we.

  9. Gosh Bwoy, ur my saviour, for yeaaarrrrrssss, i have been wondering about this thing, and finally decided to google it. Thanks

  10. Thanks for this - entertaining & enlightening. Nice to have context.

  11. Love your explanation of Wappy and Phillop. Can't believe I spent so much time Googling it!!! I am thinking back to the times I heard the reference but can't seem to remember the time of the alleded crime.
    Jack Mandora was definitely a Louise Bennetism...maybe someone can explain why she ended her stories that way. Possibly not unlike Carol Burnett tugging her ear at the end of her show....

  12. Thank you so much for this. I grew up hearing my grandmother (God rest her soul) saying this all the time, and without having a clue what it meant, it became a part of my language. I partially grew up in Jamaica and when I came back, through osmosis my mother and I passed on a lot of these sayings to my European bred brothers and sisters, who now also use it as part of their everyday language. I only decided to look it up when I used it with a friend of mine, who was completely amused by it and decided to look it up. To finally find out what it means had me in stitches! Thanks for this. Keep up the good work.

  13. awww thank you all for the comments the funny thing is when i wrote it didnt think there would be this much interest in it, past the few friends who requested me to put things like this in writing. For those interested in the Jack Mandora story that was one of the first things i posted. I'm gonna add a few links to other things that you all might be interested in.
    If you have any other burning questions about our culture etc. that you always wanted to get answered feel free to ask. Chances are I'm just too lazy to write it in a full blog post maybe you can get me off my ass ^_^