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Haiti Six Months Later

Shaken but Not Deterred, Haitians Still Laughing

Jul 13, 2010 – 11:00 PM
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Emily Troutman

Emily Troutman Contributor

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (July 14) -- Americans all knew Bill Clinton had a weakness for women and George W. Bush had a problem with vocabulary. In Haiti, the same humor rules apply: If you're going to tell a joke about the president, everyone knows how it starts, "So, Preval walks into a bar ..."

Though of course, in Haiti, people don't generally walk into bars, they walk outside to get a drink from one of the many street-side stands and sellers of "kleren," homemade rum.

So really, the jokes start like this: "President Preval goes out with a few dollars to buy a small bottle of rum ..."

Haitian girls giggle after telling jokes about president
Emily Troutman for AOL News
Haitian girls Stephanie, Nadia and Naomi hide behind a towel, giggling, as they tell jokes about President Rene Preval.

One of the first signs of Haiti's recovery after the Jan. 12 earthquake was a return to humor. Haitians covet their sense of humor; making fun of each other is a favorite pastime. Post-disaster humor may not seem appropriate, but of course, the dark truth has long been the material for truly successful comics.

After the earthquake, Radio Horizon 2000 began setting new trends with their disaster-related on-air skits. In one popular bit, Eric Laguerre, AKA "Tom Malé," jokes that President Rene Preval has finally managed to wrest control of his country by drugging the many world leaders who show up at his house for meetings.

Radio Caraibes, the most popular station in Haiti, has spurred an entirely new vocabulary. Directly after the earthquake, the station set up its equipment in the camps in Champ de Mars Plaza, on the cutting edge of language. The station quickly popularized some new post-earthquake words and phrases that were cultivated by people in the camps. Such as:

Screen print for Goudou Goudou T-shirt
Emily Troutman for AOL News
This is the original screen print for a T-shirt that became an underground hit. "Goudou Goudou" is Haiti's new name for the earthquake.

Goudou Goudou (pronounced "goo DOO goo DOO') n. Haiti's new word for the earthquake. It's an onomatopoeia. If you say it 10 times fast, it recreates the sound of buildings shaking in the earthquake. Goudou Goudou is as much a character as an event, and it gave the quake a funny and vengeful personality. Life in Haiti can be roughly divided into "before Goudou Goudou" and "after Goudou Goudou." Every region and economic class has universally adopted this word.

Sample use: "We've been sleeping outside since Goudou Goudou was here."

Zoe blood (pronounced "ZO bluhd") n., adj. The term literally means bone marrow but was appropriated a few years ago by a Haitian gang in Miami and made its way into local rap music. A Zoe blood can be a "brother" or someone really cool. But since the earthquake, it's come to mean a Haitian person who is so laid back that they do absolutely nothing. It's the punch line to a lot of jokes about Preval.

Sample use: "We're all Zoe blood now, but that's because we're watching the World Cup."

Shaken but Not Deterred, Haitians Still Laughing
Emily Troutman for AOL News
The "I Survived" T-shirt was not intended as a joke, but as a badge of honor.

Sakalakawé (pronounced "SA ka LA ka WAY") v. This word is actually an entire phrase that has been scrunched down by slang. It is short for "Sa ka la kapab wé," which means, "Those who will be there will be able to see." It is a way of saying that the real action is yet to come, or the #*&* is about to hit the fan; and it became popular in hip-hop. In practice, the phrase rides that fine line between a promise and a threat. It is essentially a rallying cry, and for American English speakers, might be closest to "Geronimo!"

Sample use: "As soon as it rains, and all these tents fall apart, then we'll go protest ... Sakalakawé!"
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