A Brief History of the Word ‘Pree’

ISIS SEMAJ-HALL

On the face of it, pree is not a Caribbean word. Pree is a Jamaican word. Press play on any dancehall song and you’ll hear a boastful deejay chatting about which ‘hot gyal ah pree him’ or how ‘im a pree di money’ or how ‘im nuh pree badmind people.’ Eavesdrop on any sidewalk conversation, rum shop debate, or single-sided phone call in Kingston and you are likely to hear the word pree often followed by ‘yuh zimme?’ This is because in Jamaica, to pree is to take a long, deliberate look or a careful, focused listen. When someone says pree, it is not a request; it is a gentle command that the listener take notice of something or someone new, important, significant. Listen to a song: ‘pree dis.’ Look at a prospective lover: ‘pree dat.’ Hear this story: ‘pree wah me a seh.’ And when Jamaicans encounter an amazing new online literary magazine: ‘my dawg, yuh affi pree di ting deh’ (OK, that last one nuh set yet, but it will!)

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