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What Does I and I Mean In Jamaica?

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rasta_farm_in_jamaicaWhat Does I and I Mean In Jamaica?

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

One phrase you may have heard from Jamaicans, especially Rastafarians, is I and I, but what does it mean and where did it come from?

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What does I and I mean?

I and I (also spelt I&I, InI, I-n-I or Ihi yahnh Ihi) is a complex term, referring to the oneness of Jah (God) and every human. I and I is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness. So God is within all of us and we're one people.

The bond of Ras Tafari is the bond of God and man. The term is often used in place of "you and I" or "we" among Rastafari, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah. Also in the Ghanaian language, Twi, from which many Patois words were borrowed, โ€œMe ne meโ€ is said, which literally translates to "I and I."

The phrase โ€œI and Iโ€ is a part of the Iyaric dialect.

What is Iyaric?

Iyaric, commonly known as Dread Talk, is a Rastafari movement member-created pseudo-dialect of English. Africans who were taken into captivity as part of the slave trade lost their native languages, and followers of Rastafari teachings consider English to be an imposed colonial language.

In order to (re-)build an independent, black identity, the Rastafari language evolved from the shadow cast by slavery and these types of behaviours starting in the late 1930s. Iyaric, as that language is known, developed in a setting where speaking "Oxbridge English" was a means of escaping poverty for the working and lower classes, even if doing so resulted in their alienation from and alienation from their contemporaries.

To address this issue, they have developed a modified vocabulary and dialect that reflects their goal to advance language and combat what they perceive to be the confusion of a corrupt and decadent culture they refer to as "Babylon."

This is achieved by avoiding negative sounds and words, such as "back," and replacing them with positive ones. Iyaric sometimes also has a liturgical function among Rastafarians.

Iyaric is made up of the languages Iya (upper) and Amharic, which Haile Selassie I spoke. Iyaric is also known as I-talk, Livalect, and Wordsound.

The "law" to avoid using the term "back" in the meaning of "back to Africa" is another significant (and frequent) aspect of Iyaric. Instead, Rastafari refers to Africa as their spiritual motherland, or Zion, which is a centre of advancement in both philosophy and spirituality.

Even the preferred name of their religion, Rastafari, rather than Rastafarian(s) or Rastafarianism, shows progress: the last two names are fastened and bound, their ends rendered motionless and pinned like butterflies, making them lovely yet helpless.

On the other hand, Rastafari is both single and plural, a noun and a verb, with the final "I" floating above any enclosing full stop. You would often hear rastas say they donโ€™t believe in โ€œisms and schismsโ€ and this is where that stems from.

Common Terms and Phrases:

I-tal or Di food fula itality- is food that has received spiritual blessings and has not been exposed to modern chemicals. It is eaten without seasonings, condiments, or salts. People generally think alcohol, coffee, milk, and flavourings are not I-tal.

Rastafarians primarily adhere to the I-tal precepts, and many are vegetarians or vegans. Because pigs, like crabs, lobsters, and shrimp, are scavengers of the dead, even meat-eating Rastafarians avoid eating pork (whose banning coincides with the restrictions of Kashrut).

  • I man- is each Rastafari adherent's inner self.

  • Irie- is a term for happy sentiments, emotions, or other things. It specifically alludes to strong feelings and tranquil vibes. This is how the word "all okay" sounds on the phone.

  • โ€œItesโ€ - a derivative of the English word "heights," denotes both "pleasure" and the colour "red." It may also be used as the shortened form of Israelites.

  • "Earthquake" is now "itesquake".

  • "Creation" is replaced by "Iration" and by Creator by "Irator."

  • Idren, Bredren, and Sistren are terms for one's peers that refer to the oneness of Rastafari (male โ€“ "bredren", female โ€“ "sistren").

  • Itinually replaces continuously and perpetually. It implies that I have always existed and will continue to do so.

  • โ€œInityโ€ replaces "unity," displaying a broad pattern of substituting "I" for "you" and other related sounds.

  • Iya (higher): The Rastafari language is replete with expressions like "stepping higher and higher," "the iya guy," etc. It refers to entering higher dimensions of reality, or heightened awareness, rather than the "high" that is typically associated with cannabis. Iya is another name for a friend. as in "Cool (no) Iya" or "Yes Iya."

  • "Inna this ya iwa" means "time" or, more precisely, "hour."

  • โ€œIโ€ takes the place of "me," which is used far more frequently in Jamaican English than in the more formal varieties. While โ€œIโ€ emphasises a person's subjectivity, โ€œMeโ€ is perceived as turning them into objects.

Rastafari beliefs very strict and some things that for others are quite trivial, are actually prohibited by the religion. What are some things Rastafarians can't do?

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References & Sources For What Does I and I Mean In Jamaica?

  1. Iyaric (2022) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at:,under%20the%20love%20of%20Jah (Accessed: November 25, 2022).
  2. Sobers, S.-N. (2016) Language and resistance: Memories of slavery and Rastafari language, openDemocracy. Available at: (Accessed: November 25, 2022).

What Does I and I Mean In Jamaica | Written: November 25, 2022

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