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.
Somebody asked me the other day what it meant when I said I was 'limin.'