Respectfully, Your Ejusdem Generis Is Useless, Dr. John

In your attempt to reply to my bona fides article “Recurrent Stupidity” Or “That Recurrent Stupidity” in The Voice and The Star of even date, 30th July last, you sought refuge in that important rule in the interpretation of statutes, ejusdem generis, which means: “where specific words are followed by general words then the latter must be interpreted in the light of the former”. I humbly suggest, that in so far as it is intended to aid in interpreting Section 36 (1) of our constitution, it is helpless. You could, as well, have thrown in all other rules of construction, including, noscitur a sociis and expressio unius est exclusio alterius, and earn yourself the well-deserved title of obscurum per obscurius, meaning obscure by the even more obscure.

As a Doctor of Laws you are bound to know that in using the expression as “a sword and shield”, your first obligation is to immediately identify the “specific words” in Section 36 (1) that “are followed by general words”. So little faith had you in your own argument that you made no mention of them in sacrificing your reputation in “The Sacrificial Lamb” for the lion of a government you have been supporting.

The author (right) served under Sir John Compton as foreign affairs minister.

The author (right) served under Sir John Compton as foreign affairs minister.

I was very unhappy that you did not entertain us with your usual heavy-duty jaw-bone-breaking, tongue-swallowing words, so characteristic of you. At the same time, I must give you credit for the soft-on-the-mouth phrase, “temporal template”. You see how fair I am!

As I do not intend to mislead you, I wish to remind you that just as “the apparel oft proclaims the man” so do heavy-duty words. In other words, a man who is constantly gaudily and fancifully dressed is as ridiculous as one who never fails to adorn his language with heavy-duty words. Perhaps you should, therefore try hard to observe this advice of Somerset Maugham to the ponderous: “The unintelligent require plainness of language, and the truly wise are the last to despise simplicity”. Should you wish to carry on with your old hard ways, I would be delighted to send you a load of discarded words of sound, marching in search of ideas.

My attempt to contribute an idea to the present impasse was not, however, lost on the Editor of The Voice in his rather balanced editorial of the same, 6 August. There he said: “Neville Cenac in an article in this newspaper made an interesting point that it is the House, by simple majority of the quorum present, that makes the appointment. He contends that the constitution does not require that an appointment be made by and with the consent of the Opposition.” The Editor wished that “the interesting observation” be tested in a Court of Law and concurred that the entire matter is a case of “Recurrent Stupidity” and “childish games being played out by grown men”.

Is there anything “assinine” about that Dr. John? That base adjective, Dr. John, “devalues your doctoral robes” an expression used by my daughter, Cybelle, to reprimand Dr. Anthony when he sought to act like you. So in future, “whatever you do, do it nicely” was her parting advice to him.

Please, do take it. For my part I would recommend to you what is, for me, the most important nursery rhyme ever composed, though it be of three lines only. From our first days at school it instructs us thus: “A was an apple-pie; B bit it; C cut it.” (John Eachard, 1671).

To this I would add the Apostle Paul’s injunction to us: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

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