Haitian Creole, one of Haiti’s two official languages (the other is French), is the most widely spoken creole in the world today. Commonly known as Creole or Kreyòl, it is French-based with borrowed elements from African languages, as well as Spanish and English. It is considered part of the Romance family of languages.
What is a creole? It’s a language that evolves from a mixture of languages. Sometimes creoles come from pidgins, simplified languages used between two groups of people who don’t speak a common language. Pidgins, unlike creoles, are not native to the people speaking them—they’re a second language for both parties. And because they can be made up on the fly, pidgins don’t follow standard usage patterns. (Spanglish is sometimes described as a pidgin.)
Here’s what makes creoles tricky: A single creole, or the pidgin from which it originated, could have been influenced by other creoles. That can make documenting a creole’s sources difficult. One thing we do know about contemporary Haitian Creole is that is includes a number of genericized trademarks, or brand names that have become common nouns. In the same way that American English uses “band-aid” for all adhesive bandages, Haitian Creole contains the following terms:
chiklèt (from Chiclets): “gum”
dèlko (from Delco): “generator”
djip (from Jeep): “SUV”
frijidè (from Frigidaire): “refrigerator”
iglou (from Igloo) or tèmòs (from Thermos): “cooler”
jilèt (from Gillette): “razor”
kitèks (from Cutex): “nail polish”
kodak (from Kodak): “camera”
kòlgat (from Colgate): “toothpaste”
panpèz (from Pampers): “diaper”
Dedicated to the people of Haiti.
Originally published February 2010.