Clearly, on the global stage, there is a risk that the General Election in Saint Lucia will overshadow the sideshow going on in the USA this coming November, so earth shattering are the events that transpire on that speck of dust set in the Caribbean Sea, but somehow, from the other side of the world, I don’t think so. I mean take Panama for example. Who would have imagined that in poor little Panama there would even be 12 million documents in total, let alone 12 million to be leaked? Suddenly the whole world is talking about Panama.
Imagine the free advertising the country is getting and just consider what a boon to Saint Lucia’s tourist industry the release of all our leaders’ secret documents and deals might eventually turn out to be! For this reason alone, for the sake of our tourist industry, the government should hang out its, and that of previous governments, dirty washing to find out how many big fish it could trawl – sorry, just wanted to see how many mixed metaphors I could squeeze in.
Sorry again, just a linguistic observation I can’t resist: Saint Lucians do not hang out their washing, they “open it”, and in any case, who would “hang out” or “open” their washing before they laundered it, which is of course what governments try to do: “launder” the information they give us – they call it “spin” today, and boy do we have a great set of launderers, laundresses and spinners in our washroom!
Actually, in Scandinavia, small island developing states (SIDS) like Saint Lucia are enjoying their moments of fame in the limelight as more and more is being revealed about how Swedish Aid funds, which were meant to help the poor of the world, have in fact been used to wine and dine, transport and entertain U.N. dignitaries and others from these SIDS in an apparent attempt to gain their support for a Swedish seat on the U.N. Security Council. The Swedes are denying that they attempted to bribe these ambassadors – no names mentioned, but we know who we mean – but flew them all to Sweden in Business Class or First Class just to give them a bag of innocent goodies and share a meal or two. No mention has as yet been made of any Panamanian connection though to some it might seem highly likely that one or two at least of these “fat cats” might indeed be Panamanian Pussies (PeePees). The whole world, it might appear, is waiting with bated breath to find out if and how many prominent Saint Lucians in and out of politics turn out to be PeePees with millions stashed away in companies whose whole existence is in a mailbox.
Gosh, sorry yet again, but I can’t help it: The correct spelling really is “bated breath” but “baited breath” is so common that there’s every chance that it will soon become the accepted norm. “Bated” is a contraction of abated through loss of the unstressed first vowel, a process called aphesis. We no longer use the verb “bate” but abate means “reduced, lessened, lowered in force”. So to do something with “bated breath” means you almost stop breathing because of some strong emotion such as terror, awe, fear or prurient anticipation.
In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice Shylock says to Antonio, “Shall I bend low and, in a bondman’s key, With bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness, Say this . . .” About 300 years later, Mark Twain in Tom Sawyer writes, “Every eye fixed itself upon him; with parted lips and bated breath the audience hung upon his words, taking no note of time, rapt in the ghastly fascinations of the tale.”
“Baited” might of course mean the use of bait to catch a fish or other prey. Geoffrey Phibbs Basil Taylor, who used the word in his poem Cruel Clever Cat in his collection A Dash of Garlic, is primarily remembered, if remembered at all, as a poet but his interests included archaeology, horticulture, botany and zoology. He grew up at Lisheen on Ireland’s Ballysadare Bay and at the family hunting lodge at Carradoo on the shores of Lough Arrow. He was an interesting chap whom you might like to research one of these days; he lived his life in a faraway, unreal time. Here’s his ditty:
Sally, having swallowed cheese,
Directs down holes the scented breeze,
Enticing thus with baited breath
Nice mice to an untimely death.
Lordy lordy! No space left. Well, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to write about anyway. It was something to do with politicians and leaders coming clean – ah, well, too late now! It always is! They never cease fooling us with their cheesy baited breath, especially at election time! 100,000 new jobs? No problem! Give me your vote and I’ll fix it! Transparently, of course!
Readers who enjoy Michael Walker’s regular A-Musings column are assured that it will return in next Saturday’s edition of the STAR, on page 2 as usual.