THE co-authors of a Jèrriais phrase book, launched less than a month ago, are ‘absolutely delighted and surprised’ by the numbers of people wanting a copy.
Tchi Pitchi (pronounced ‘chip ee chee’), which means ‘what a pity’, sold out within an hour of being on the shelves at The Old Sail Loft in Gorey and since then about 300 books have been sold through Amazon.
Tracy Peters, who researched and co-wrote the pocket guide with Jo Olszewski, said: ‘To be honest, we are surprised because the book is about a very niche topic.’
About three years ago the two friends were looking for something to do one rainy evening and they decided to join Geraint Jennings at The Adelphi Lounge for some Jèrriais conversation.
‘Jo’s a fabulous linguist so I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist and what’s not to like about an evening in a warm pub?’ said Tracy.
Both women soon realised that language and identity went hand-in-hand and they wanted more people to be able to express their feelings and spot Jèrriais words in their everyday lives.
Jo grew up in Cornwall where she passed the home of Dolly Pentree, the last native Cornish speaker, daily on her way to school.
‘I always felt sad, wondering who it was she spoke with,’ said Jo.
Tracy grew up in East London with rhyming slang a regular feature of her speech.
‘When I moved to the South West I had to modify my language for people to understand me: Teachers made clear their disapproval. The slang went and, looking back, I think I lost a part of myself,’ she said.
However, Tchi Pitchi isn’t about preserving the Jersey’s indigenous language because it still exists in the Island, describing its geography and culture.
‘Jèrriais is still out there, it’s still alive,’ said Tracy, ‘people use the language all of the time – “Les Mielles” actually means “sand dunes” and “Les Quennevais” means “hemp field” so it’s no surprise that hemp grows well here!’
The book, which has been published independently, features lots of ‘earthy descriptive words’.
Tracy laughed as she declined to reveal her favourite saying as ‘probably to rude to share’ but one that always makes her smile is ‘eune minne dé cat rôti’ which means ‘to have a face like roasted cats’.
She said researching and writing the book with Jo had been a joyful experience.
‘To have your own indigenous language is amazing. I lived here for five years before I realised it existed and it is an absolute joy to learn about the Island. I’ve been here 15 years and Jèrriais is a massive part of it.’
Tchi Pitchi can be bought from Amazon for £5.99 and it will be stocked at the Société Jersiaise when it reopens as well as in some independent shops.