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Yuh Using?

Tell me honestly. What would you think if someone asked you that out of the blue?

Well…perhaps not out of the blue…but at a fast food restaurant, after you’ve placed your order.

When I first came to Guyana, I was staying at a hotel-type place until I found a place to live. I didn’t fancy cooking in the little kitchenette, so I did indulge in some fried chicken and whatnot. Popeye’s was my grease of choice – the one Popeye’s in Guyana is halal and I was briefly enticed by their seasoned fries and spicy chicken strips. But I digress. The first time I gave my order, I was waiting to be told the total, but instead I was asked:

“Yuh using?”

I think I stared. I know I didn’t respond right away. She couldn’t be asking me if I was on drugs right? But that was all I could think of. She repeated the question to my blank face. And so I started to think of what else the question could mean. Was she asking me if I wanted to use a fork with my meal? Maybe she wanted to know if I planned on using my credit card and this was an idiomatic Guyanese shorthand that I should learn. My possibly lengthy internal discussions were cut short when she asked again:

“Yuh using or is take away?”

Ahhhh. I still had no idea what the question meant, but at least I was given an option I recognised. I quickly chose “take away” and left, wondering if my hearing was so bad that I kept hearing “Dine In” or “Eat In” as “Using“.

I soon found out that Guyanese “use” food. Now, I know Trinis probably have equally weird expressions that are incomprehensible to foreigners, but I still haven’t quite come to terms with this expression. To me using implies some kind of continuity of action or to use for a purpose. How can eating food be using? What are you using it for?? I suppose you do use food for nutrition when you eat it…  Does it refer to the temporary nature of eating, which leads me to wonder why would people make such a subtle reference to the…uhm…digestive and excretion process…but I’m overthinking this. It’s not like that other Guyanese expression, “drinking tablets” which makes eminent logical sense, when most people take tablets with a drink.

I am just immensely curious as to how this term arose. I had stopped thinking about it, but while my family was visiting Guyana last week, my brother and sister-in-law heard the term and had the same reaction – “what did they say? what does that mean?” – and I was reminded how you can get used to a foreign language after 5 years:)

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12 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. LOL I was completely confused as well reading your post. Thats a good one.
    I guess after some thought it makes sense in that you
    are “using ” the food on the premises!

    1. Nicole on August 5th, 2010 at 11:22 pm
  2. I never heard of that one!

    2. Nan on August 6th, 2010 at 3:38 am
  3. Nicole – I think I could, like you, accept the use of the term use, for dining in, “using food on the premises” but they really use the word interchangeably with EAT – I’ve been told “if you not using the food now, put in the fridge” etc or “I doh use sweet things for breakfast”.

    3. Chennette on August 6th, 2010 at 2:36 pm
  4. chicken curry is all i can say

    4. bandi on August 6th, 2010 at 3:24 pm
  5. “yuh using?” yup drugs comes first to mind on hearing the question… in a fast food eating establishment? ketchup or cutlery would be a close second… but ‘dining’ or ‘having here’ would have been the last thing on my mind, I would have been hungry, confused and lost in translation at the cash register if that happened to me in Guyana! Talk about a cultural conundrum!

    5. Tamarind Ball on August 6th, 2010 at 9:40 pm
  6. I always let the guyanese do the calls and interaction with the food servers in guyana

    my hearing can’t contend

    6. Lilandra on August 13th, 2010 at 12:19 am
  7. Ramadhaan Mubaarak to you and your family.Special salaams to your parents too.

    Well my old primary school friend smile I really am down and out with the virus but reading your post ‘yuh using’ really made me laugh.
    I guess being around you in primary school and then in high school I was thinking along the same lines as you were.

    Love the posts especially the ones on the food stuff for ramadhaan so tell mom to provide some more recipes Inshaa Allaah.

    7. nellie on August 17th, 2010 at 4:23 pm
  8. assalamu ‘alaikum Nellie – good to see you commenting :-) sorry to hear you down with the virus during Ramadan! Insha Allah either Lilandra or I will probably get some of Mom’s recipes up during the month.

    8. Chennette on August 17th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
  9. LOL!

    The first time I went to a fried chicken joint in the US I told the cashier ‘take away’ and got a blank look. I repeated it, and got another blank look. Then a light went on in my head. ‘To go’, I told the mystified man. ‘Ahh’, he said, finally understanding, and proceeded with the transaction.

    I would’ve thought ‘take away’ was self-explanatory, but was wrong. But ‘yuh using’? Wow.

    9. Liane on August 29th, 2010 at 11:03 pm
  10. never thought about how take away might not be universally understood – it is British? they get takeaway all the time.

    10. Chennette on August 29th, 2010 at 11:33 pm
  11. My father had a Guyanese friend and he picked up this “using” food thing. Used to drive me nuts!

    And I seemed to have picked up the “to go” thing cus whenever I order any kind of fast food – even doubles – I say “3 with slight to go dey soldier”

    11. Sherwin on September 2nd, 2010 at 7:48 pm
  12. I love how English to an English speaker can sometimes be a foreign language. lol

    13. Fazia on February 16th, 2011 at 11:02 am

One Trackback

  1. By   Language Problems — Lifespan of a Chennette on February 8, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    […] living in Guyana, even though the two countries are so close and share alot of common history. That was a difference of fast food lingo, but today I tried to give instructions over the phone, to essentially make bake. And I don’t […]

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