Patwa Grammar

Today’s a big day in Jamaica. The People’s National Party (PNP) which held power from 1989 to 2007 is undergoing a power struggle which culminates today when party delegates will decide whether the incumbent party leader, Portia Simpson-Miller, continues to lead them or if contender Peter Phillips will get a chance to take the helm. An unbelievable amount rides on the outcome of this race for each candidate is seen as representing a different class. what we’re seeing is nothing less than a class war though there’s a lot of resistance on the ground to calling a spade a spade. Much of this class struggle expresses itself linguistically and Carolyn Cooper had a boss article called “Nuff tings a go gwaan” on the subject in last Sunday’s Gleaner (see below). Read it; i’ll be back at the end of the day when the results are announced to add my two paisa worth. till soon!

Nuff tings a go gwaan?

Prime Minister Golding spoke straight from his heart when he was asked how the nation was going to honour our Olympic champions: ‘Nuff tings a go gwaan.’ Then in response to Jacques Rogge’s reprimanding of Usain Bolt for celebrating victory in typical Jamaican style, the PM’s passionate assessment was: “Is pure red eye and ‘grudgefulness’.”

In classic dancehall fashion, our prime minister dismissively sent a message to all bad-mind people: “Tell dem to tek weh demself.” Incidentally, that’s ungrammatical Jamaican. It should have been ‘fi’ instead of ‘to’. And in the sentence above it should have been ‘a’ instead of ‘is.’ And then ‘grudgefulness’ adds an over-correct English ‘ness’ which wouldn’t usually be there in Jamaican. These are good examples of English interference in Jamaican grammar. Bilingual speakers sometimes get their languages mixed up, especially when they are in a highly emotional state.

8.10 pm

Yessssss! Portia prevails! by 350 votes–

Photo credit: Pepper swimps by Varun Baker (who happens to be my sun and a great photographer, check out his website)

When a picture is worth a 1000 words…

This is the work of Zina Saunders–talk about illustration with an edge…The reference in the Hunter image is to Palin’s fondness for aerial hunting of wolves, bears and other hapless creatures.

‘Pronounced Dead’ Resurrected Three Years Later…

It may interest you to know that in 12 years of writing for a Jamaican newspaper, the only time i was censored was when i sent in a column mocking the execrable language used in both print and broadcast media here. That column mysteriously never made it to print and i knew better than to make a fuss about it at the time. There is nothing though to prevent me from publishing it here three years later–just keep in mind that the dates referred to in this piece pertain to the year 2005. Oh and i should mention that i was reminded of the existence of this column when i read the Coffeewallah’s latest post on hoof-in the mouth journalism in Trinidad and Tobago. Coffeewallah! great name that–

‘Pronounced Dead’

What I wanted to talk about this week were the distortions of the English language one frequently hears and reads in local media reports starting with the much abused phrase “pronounced dead”. This term often appears in radio newscasts recounting police shoot outs where “shots were fired”, “the fire was returned” and then “the injured men” (rarely members of the police force) are taken to hospital, where “upon arrival” they are invariably “pronounced dead”.

In fact “reports have revealed” that those lucky enough to somehow survive such encounters are often left “nursing gunshot wounds” while hapless “motorists” in the vicinity “are urged to exercise caution”. In less deadly encounters we hear that a grade 10 student allegedly “traded blows” with her principal; naturally “a tussle ensued”.

I don’t know how many of you have been “pounced upon” by a duppy or a gunman yet but no doubt we have all been exposed to situations where knives are “brought into play”. The best story I ever heard though was actually in a TV newscast some years ago; it seems two cars had collided and the policeman who took the reports was then himself involved in an accident when on leaving “the scene” he was “pounced upon by a number of cows” apparently intent on colliding with his car. Fortunately for the policeman in question his injuries were minor and he escaped being pronounced dead “upon arrival” at a nearby hospital.

Weather reports are little better and we often hear that one island or another is “being lashed by” wind and rain. To make matters worse weather reporters seem to specialize in weird accents so that in the height of the hurricane season I’m sure I heard a headline that said “American Golf Course braces for Category 4 hurricane”. Another one announced that “Hurricane Rita is heading straight for the American Golf Course” while “Part of Spain” was also “preparing for a possible hurricane hit”. Fortunately my Trini friends in Part-of-Spain were spared the worst of that storm…(of course now, three years later, we’re about to be beset by Hurricane Hike).

The newspapers, all three of them, are some of the worst offenders in terms of purveying bad English, not merely circulating quaint or hackneyed language mind you, but the most egregious errors. Let’s start with this paper (Sunday Herald) which on December 4 informed readers that “the case lied dormant for four years…” A columnist in the October 16 edition averred that “In the face of Rita, 20 senior citizens similarly infirmed perished in a bus, as it burned, caught in a gridlock outside Houston caused by those trying to flee the possibility of Katrina par two”.

If you think that’s bad check out these bloopers in the Observer; their proofreader must have called in sick the week of August 14 if one is to judge by the following howlers: “There has been an expulsion in the number of providers of such services over the past 15 years. From the days of one television and two radio stations.” Another column urging people not to distort the facts of the Air Jamaica hub didn’t hesitate to distort the English language. If the airline continued to “loose money” in a period of prosperity asserted the writer it would probably have lost money even under the best management. “It is even more sad that a hotelier who clearly benefited from the extraordinary growth of the airline and more importantly an airline that gained the confidence of the tour operators and travel agents. A hotelier who new first hand that…”

A Gleaner writer, not to be outdone, wondered in a November 6 article why we couldn’t be like Japan,“Why did your ancestors turn a blind eye to the plight of my ancestors and did nothing to help?” he beseeched. Well, probably because the Japanese would commit hara-kiri before allowing a blunder like that into print. The Gleaner’s proofreader was definitely out to lunch that week for in the same edition an article on ‘Ritchie Poo’ Tyndale claimed that the fugitive, considering himself safe in the remote village of Black Shop, “soon adopted to rural life”.

If only the Gleaner and the other papers would adopt a proofreader or two…in all these cases its hard to blame the writers, for depending on the pressure under which stories are written errors are bound to creep in. That is why the humble proofreader exists and for a small fee she or he will keep such errors to a minimum. Proofreading and copy editing are standard practice in newspapers all over the world so it is not clear why the local media is trying to economize in this essential area. One can only hope that this habit of not proofreading the news will soon be pronounced dead. Upon arrival, of course.

PS: The Bitter Bean’s critique of the current Gully mania, Hurricane Gustav and the Politics of Hot Air, is worth reading. Check it out…

Gustav takes region by storm!

I was reading Janine Mendes-Franco’s blog on Global Voices online earlier today; she did a round-up of blogs in the region about Gustav and you get a sudden sense of being part of a community–the Caribbean. I suddenly realized for instance that if we had been paying attention to what was going on in Haiti and the DR during Gustav’s onslaught there we really should have been better prepared and known what to expect when he changed course and came here.

But no, in the first place we were lulled into thinking that like the PNP last year Gustav would definitely “nah change no course” and then when he did we still thought oh its just a storm, not even a hurricane and so on. For instance i first thought he was a pussycat rather than a roaring lion and if i had been paying any attention at all to what went down in Haiti, if i’d read their blogs for instance, i should have known better.

We suffer from insularity at the best of times, but to continue to be insular in the worst of times is asking for trouble. I for one am going to think regionally in addition to locally and globally from now on…

ok now for something completely different: Check out these videos of my co-workers at the University of the West Indies watching the Olympic 4x100m final on that glorious day, was it just last week? Just call us the SALISES screamers…it was the second best thing to being in Half Way Tree…

Such a Natural Mystic…

There is something so newborn and fresh in the air after a hurricane leaves—don’t tell me Gustav wasn’t a hurricane when he visited here; it’s like insisting someone is 19 when they’re turning 20 tomorrow. The atmosphere seems to have been cleansed, purged of all the humid, hot and evil vapours that have been oppressing us for months now. A zephyr-like breeze whispers idle threats and the sun sparkles as it shines on the moist landscape. The riddim track to Marley’s Natural Mystic is blowing through the air.

This is life reasserting itself after having tossed off a tantrum to remind us who’s in charge. Too many people can’t enjoy the beauty of this moment; they have been storm-wrecked and can’t put the pieces back together again. On the other hand most of them are old hands at navigating hostile weather whether from the elements or the lopsided social system that always has them on the receiving end of bad Karma.

Many more will have to suffer
many more will have to die
don’t ask me why…

And no, we can’t just send them some good Karma, a la Facebook. A helicopter is plying back and forth rescuing people marooned in the middle of Hope River in Gordon Town. Marooned in Hope? Hopefully not Obama’s fate now that McCain has trumped him with Palin. The woman looks like a closet dominatrix, doesn’t she? She almost doesn’t look real. More like something out of The Avengers or Charlie’s Angels. Can you imagine her presiding over the White House were something to happen to McCain?

No Sir, give me Obama any day.

Going back to the Olympics for a moment wasn’t Dayron Robles, the Cuban hurdler great? i wish i could replay the footage of him, headphones on, warming up by rhythmically and effortlessly climbing back and forth over the same hurdle. I thought it was great that he insisted on wearing his usual glasses or spectacles rather than contact lenses or some fancy name-brand pair of racing glasses. A more unlikely looking athlete you could not hope to find. Dayron Robles, the anti-athlete, doing it for the nerds! If you wanted to personify the limber, indomitable, insubordinate, swimming-against-the-current Cuban spirit you couldn’t hope for a better poster boy. Between Robles and Bolt the Caribbean certainly expanded the vocabulary of Olympic stardom!

As you can tell I’m somewhat scattered post-Gustav. Our resourceful Cuban neighbours are probably being besieged by him now. They are far more competent at moving their people out of harm’s way so this creeping hurricane probably won’t damage them too much.

In lieu of having anything worthwhile or truly meaningful to say let me leave you with this inspiring video of Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic fom jahlivejahlove

Gustav Gully Creeps across Jamaica

Gentle soul? couldn’t have been more wrong. Gustav was a killer, insidiously creeping across the country, causing rivers to burst their banks and washing away homes and lives. Not much to choose between Ivan and him.

Tropical storm! you could have fooled me. we’ve just got power back and I’ve been sweeping water out the house all morning. Allegedly he’s now left Jamaica but the rain and wind continue.

The only good Gustav story so far is this one from the Daily Gleaner:

Gustav’s gift to Rae Town:
While some Jamaicans were busy running away from the oncoming Tropical Storm Gustav, some residents of downtown Kingston were running towards it with buckets, scandal bags, pots, pans and everything else they could find. They were hoping to catch fish that were literally jumping out of the water and on to the beach…

A High Wind in Jamaica

He’s been here a few hours now. i don’t mind him; he’s a gentle soul compared to Emily and Dennis. Or Ivan. Ivan was terrible.

It’s been raining and gusting for some hours now, at least four or five. but we’re lucky, we have water and power so i can amuse myself on the internet and watch tv if i want. Barack is to speak shortly and i guess some people are all agog about that.

It’s not all as upbeat as i’m making out. There’ve been a few casualties–motor vehicle accidents some of them. A Police Inspector has been shot in St. Mary. A 50 year old man was killed while belatedly trying to prune a tree. i know all this from Nationwide Radio. Radio in Jamaica is the best. and Nationwide is arguably the best of local radio. Digital radio FM 720 in Kingston. The brainchild of Cliff Hughes, an old hand who has revolutionized local media, N’wide is my lifeline during these disruptive and distressing weather events. There’s something very comforting about having your favourite journalists on duty, keeping you company as it were, through the rough times. Emily Crooks and Hughes babysat us through Ivan the Terrible. Don’t know what we’d have done without them.

everytingkripsy left a hilarious note on the youtube video Hurricane! in my previous post:

I know unu a get prep for the storm and everyting but a wah yu a do wid so much kerosene!! mine unu blow up the yard.. lol.. good luck

Well, everytingkripsy, a kersene a run ting when di power gone; anyway, mi gone a watch Obama do his ting. till soon folks.