Sure, the shade, the palm trees, the tawny walls, and the bright contrast between sun and shadow make it lovely to behold, especially as the day moves forward and the light begins to soften. But there’s more to the plaza than good looks. Altogether, it is a scene that relaxes, encourages folks to pause and enjoy. Some folks we know have a perfect word for it.
The people who came before us, here on America’s favorite island, had a language that was protected for generations. It took a boat to get here until the first bridge went up in 1956. Most people didn’t bother with that, and so the Gullah families of Hilton Head Island continued to converse in a combination of West African patterns and English words that bear their name, Gullah, or is sometimes called Sea Island Creole.
The blend is musical. The phrasing and choice of words reflects a life that respects human nature, as well as the surprises of the surrounding shores. Gullah bears a strong connection with Krio, the language spoken in Sierra Leone. Its English vocabulary stems from people drawn together by fortune who find a way to communicate.
Often the difference between Gullah and ordinary English is not so much the words, but the way the words are used. One of our favorite examples is the meaning that Gullah gives to “peruse.”