I wouldn’t expect anyone without Jamaican roots to understand “Tan deh!”; it means stay there. But, it’s not just stay there for no reason, but for many reasons. For instance: 

  • stay, if you want to defy my request to leave (and see what wrath I’ll bring on you)
  • stay, when I’ve told you I am leaving (and I’m not waiting for you) 
  • stay right there; don’t move (command)

The difference is communicated through the tone of the phrase. You need to hear the expression in several settings to get this. As with many Jamaican expressions, repeating part of it gives (h)emphasis. So, something very big is ‘big big’; something very small is ‘likkle likkle’ (little little). So, if you’re told to ‘Tan deh deh’, you really must (or, really, you ought to go, for your own good). 

Watch this episode from The Ity and Fancy Cat Show, about a ‘country helper. You get it? No? Tan deh!  

 

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