As a young girl growing up in Jamaica — and later in Brooklyn, NY — I often heard the poetry of Louise Bennett (Jamaicans affectionately call her “Miss Lou”) permeate the air. One of my earliest recollections of Miss Lou’s lyricism was hearing the term mout amassi (big mouth). The term comes from the title of one of her most popular poems about a young lady, Liza, who loves to gossip and chat.
To be called a “mout amassi” was far from a compliment and the nickname could follow one around for a lifetime. Adults used it on adults and children alike. Children used it on each other, often eliciting uncontrollable laughter.
I have more fond memories of how Miss Lou’s poetry reverberated throughout my youth and the many phrases that I—as well as my fellow islanders—eagerly adapted to tease as well as to assert my identity.