Among the more telling indicators of a man’s nature—not to say the quality of his education—is, to my mind, whether he cares enough first to research the meaning of words and their correct pronunciation before he permits them to fall out of his mouth.
Whatever might legitimately be said at the expense of Velon John, I cannot recall ever having heard him mispronounce pellucid, or salubrious, or any of the other sesquipedalian jaw-breakers that during his time as an MP typically peppered his verbal callaloos.
Today, incurable gluttons for punishment that we’ve become, we swallow without complaint buckets of dee-vah-state in place of devastate; fern-nee-cha (accent on the second syllable) instead of furniture; and U-row-peen (again accent on second syllable) rather than European—with emphasis on the last syllable.
The cited aberrations are tossed with reckless disregard around the House and the nation’s living rooms via TV, with no thought for impressionable young ears in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The presumed bon mots are more often than not accompanied by countless spoonerisms, malaprops and malapropos, enough to jolt even those who have wandered into the public gallery, mainly to kill time.
Indeed, I have often wondered why even the famously fastidious and well-spoken W. St. Clair Daniel (deceased), in all his years as House Speaker, had never admonished a single MP for his or her abuse of the Queen’s English.
Then there is what today passes for House humor. Quite recently one of our self-described orators, desperate to justify his tax-funded over-generous entertainment allowance while requiring his constituents to tighten their already over-tight belts, asserted: “Cocktails are the lubricants of diplomatic intercourse.”
No surprise that he brought the House down. Even the politicians in bras gently tapped the table with their moisturized little hands in dutiful acknowledgement of the demonstrated wit. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help wondering how long it had taken the MP to fine-tune his X-rated thigh slapper.
I mean, cock-tails? Lubricants? Diplomatic intercourse? It couldn’t have been easy, stringing together in one sentence so many (wink-wink) double entendres. At any rate, I think I know now who should get the credit for the “you are what you eat” health minister’s always riveting House contributions.
Speaking of which: was I the only one who noticed the way Wonderboy’s face lit up during the most recent House session, when the Castries Central MP suddenly broke into Don’t Cry For Me Argentina? True, there’s nothing new in politicians singing for their suppers, but that Argentina shtick was a showstopper. I mean, the once upon a time “most frightening prospect” could sound like John Legend. Or should that be Sean Paul?
All of which leads me to wonder why the prime minister—after Didacus Jules deserted in favor of greener pastures—never thought to engage the particularly gifted MP to write his more important addresses, by which I mean the governor general’s
throne speeches and the finance minister’s budget presentations.
Certainly the prime minister and his tool on the hill might’ve been spared having to serve so many meaningless words, too often with forked tongues.
Consider the following that The Gifted One had penned for himself and read out loud before the NTN cameras, with unusual mellifluence, it need be said. The year was 2007, when his party was in opposition.
“Madam Speaker, during the prime minister’s budget presentation last Thursday evening, Madam Speaker, I could not help but remember the words of my predecessor the Honorable Velon Leo John, who in response to a typical budget presentation by this very same prime minister some time during the 1990s noted: ‘Mr. Speaker, if during the prime minister’s budget address a Martian, assuming that there are Martians, Mr. Speaker, a Martian had mysteriously entered this august assembly, he, the Martian, would have come to the seemingly ineluctable conclusion that this prime minister was indeed a virginal prime minister entering his very first term in office, pregnant with the seeds of reorganization and bald intentions.”
A pregnant Jewish virgin, maybe. But a male prime minister who was not only like a virgin but also pregnant—with seeds?
The Gifted One went on: “My predecessor made this remark because year in and year out, he would listen to the prime minister deliver glittering accessories budgets in this House and very little was achieved, Madam Speaker. So, Madam Speaker, I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no better way of judging the future but by the past, and judging by the past, Madam Speaker, what sudden magic has this prime minister emerged with to justify the hopes with which honorable members opposite have found it fit to solace themselves and this Honorable House, Madam Speaker?”
The following tidbit might be especially interesting at this particular time. The prime minister he referred to was Sir John Compton. Remember the year was 2007. April 23, to be more precise. As I say, The Gifted One was then a member of the opposition.
He was reacting to what he considered fresh taxes when the prime minister had earlier promised no new taxes:
“Now you slap another $100 without explanation of whether or not you are going to reduce fuel prices. I must object very strongly to the prime minister’s recommendation of what he intends to do during the financial year.
“Now Madam Speaker, to make matters worse, the prime minister came there and announced Value Added Tax, VAT. And you know Madam Speaker, on top of all of this fuel, cooking gas and all types of things, he came to talk about introducing VAT.
“Madam Speaker, I do not believe the prime minister and his government have the capacity to implement VAT in a fashion that will not further burden the malaway in this country. I want you to just read the experience of Grenada and Belize to prove my point.”
His leader picked up where The Gifted One had left off: “Mr. Speaker this budget is so interesting. So interesting. There is one outstanding feature of this budget. It is that it has decided to postpone Saint Lucia to the future.”
Was it possible to “postpone Saint Lucia” to the past?
The budget had also “condemned Saint Lucia to tomorrow. It has offered to tell us what will be done interestingly about our hills, our valleys. Suddenly the people of Saint Lucia have disappeared from the radar. The Minister for Finance has declined to tell us how he intends to sustain growth after Cricket World Cup which he described as a party . . . What will happen when the party is over . . .?”
Obviously, de party eh done—even with the tax-funded party-givers nearly as hungry as those ever ready to do whatever it takes to “get a pick.”
To end as I started, a word about words that too often bite us in the butt when abused.
The 2007 opposition leader has the floor: “For the record I want to say . . . the SLP government was never convinced VAT was the right way to go. Never! We were never persuaded that VAT was the wisest choice because we believe it is potentially an oppressive tax. It is oppressive to the poor. It is oppressive to workers and wherever VAT has been introduced . . . one thing is certain: retail prices jump, especially the price of food!”
The more things change . . .