So the other day, I had the tv on, and this commercial was playing:
I can’t speak to the product (though it doesn’t look good), but the video is a fine piece of marketing. What really peaked my interest was a lyric of which I was unfamiliar, “Karamu.” Since I didn’t know its spelling, I googled the lyrics, found it, and then headed to wikipedia. As it turns out, Karamu is most likely the feast of feasts that is part of Kwanzaa. That mystery solved, and then turned my attention to another lyric I was unfamiliar with: liming. As it turns out, liming is another word for what my people call loafing (can you detect a pejorative aspect to this term used by no nonsense mountain people?), and what in college, Diddle and I fondly called foononing. Liming is not just relaxing or socializing though, there are some parameters:
The concept of liming encompasses any leisure activity entailing the sharing of food and drink, the exchange of tall stories, jokes and anecdotes etc., provided the activity has no explicit purpose beyond itself.
A Deeper Cut:
The etymology of the word liming is obscure. It is a Trinidadian word, probably of recent origin since English has been a popular language in Trinidad for less than a century. It means, roughly, “hanging around” – but as we shall see, there is no exact linguistic or cultural equivalent to liming in the cultural contexts with which most of us are familiar.
The concept of liming encompasses any leisure activity entailing the sharing of food and drink, the exchange of tall stories, jokes and anecdotes etc., provided the activity has no explicit purpose beyond itself. As such, it may seem as though liming occurs in most societies. But whereas idling and inactivity are frequently seen unequivocally as shameful and slightly immoral kinds of social situations, liming is in Trinidad acknowledged as a form of performing art; it is a kind of activity one wouldn’t hesitate to indulge in proudly. In liming contexts, verbal improvisation, ingenuity and straightforward aimlessness are highly regarded, provided one follows the rules, which, however, are nearly all implicit. For my own part, it took me a great deal of time and effort to learn how to lime; many of my Trinidadian acquaintances would doubtless be of the opinion that I never really mastered it, despite a large number of determined attempts.
Liming is, in other words, an activity not subjected to a formal set of rules. Its value to the participants is entirely contingent on the shared meaning that can be established spontaneously. A typical lime begins when two or several acquaintances (neighbours, colleagues, relatives or simply friends) meet more or less by chance; in the street, at the grocer’s, outside somebody’s home, or in the rumshop. For it is impossible to lime alone: liming is inherently a social activity; it is constituted by the (minimally) dyadic relationship and cannot be reduced to the individual agent. A second necessary condition for a lime is the presence of an ambience of relaxation and leisure. Both (or all) limers should relax physically (recline in chairs, lean against walls etc.) in a manner enabling them to converse at their ease. Thirdly, the situation should assume an air of openness: a lime is in principle open to others who might want to join. Liming is, in other words, a social and public activity.
The term liming is nowadays used locally for almost any kind of unspecified leisure activity; in this analysis, I opt to restrict it conceptually to the kind of contexts outlined. Groups of people meeting in each others’ living-rooms are therefore not true limers unless the context allows for the intrusion of gatecrashers.
Its my opinion, and as far as Americans go, I am an expert limer. I certainly take my liming very seriously. However, and unfortunately for Americans, it seems that an essential part of liming is providing the opportunity for passers-by, whom you probably know (at least have seen around) in a small community, to join the festivities. In college, I lived in the party house (unofficial frat house), and we were the liming headquarters 24 hours a day. But now, in modern American suburbia, nobody just stops by. Not even when invited. Busy are busy and keep to themselves. Might as well be New York City (though hopefully this will change as the neighborhood gets younger, I get older, and I make friends with my kids’ parents). Its definitely not like Mayberry (though I do think of Falls Church City as the Mayberry to Mount Pilot’s DC). I do still get to enjoy some real liming on occasion. For instance, we always have a pig roast in the fall in the Northern Neck, and neighbors from all over hear the music, smell the hog, and just come down. I’m going to think on how I can increase my opportunities to lime, as its definitely something in which I believe.
Now that I’ve inspired you to lime, how about an end of summer playlist that may get the neighbors in a festive mood, and want to join you for a drink this weekend:
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