Tue | Jul 16, 2019

Gordon Robinson | Verbal abuse

Published:Tuesday | June 25, 2019 | 12:15 AM

I take my responsibilities as first recipient of a new national honour (a grade higher than O.M.) seriously.

Some may say too seriously. As first awardee of the G.O.M. (Grumpy Old Man) Honour for relentless protection of the English language, I conceded in my acceptance speech (carried live nowhere) that language must evolve and has evolved. I understand that, although English is an international language and Jamaican Patwa isn’t, many of our children will never grasp the complexities of several academic subjects, including English Language, unless taught in Patwa.

Speaking of children, unless you’re an American colonial subject, please stop referring to our children as baby goats. Our Patwa (British colonisers would insist on ‘Patois’) has a perfectly good slang word for child. It’s ‘pickney’.

So, I agree language must evolve. But, not every evolution is useful. For example, viruses also evolve. So, for example, despite my steadfast support for what has become known as ‘gay rights’, I still have bones to pick with LGBTQ+ communities regarding their hostile takeover of the word ‘gay’. My ‘gay rights’ support doesn’t rely on this linguistic abomination (oops, sorry, ‘aberration’), but is born of my insistence on respect for human rights AND my stubborn refusal to obfuscate my belief that LGBTQ+ persons are human.

But, why oh why must these humans, vilified and victimised though they may be, distort and forever pigeonhole the perfectly good English word ‘gay’? Why sexualise that word? Isn’t that verbal abuse?

Linguistically, what’s wrong with ‘homosexual’? It accurately describes a sexual orientation towards the same gender. And, while I’m on this particular rant, why do we equate ‘sex’ with ‘gender’? I thought ‘sex’ was intimate physical intercourse, while ‘gender’ was the social (NOT biological) definition of male or female. Now, modern political correctness has bullied dictionaries into portraying these words as synonyms but, as part of my G.O.M responsibilities, I still respond to ‘sex?’ on forms with “twice per year”.

I keep reminiscing about 1969’s iconic rom-com Hello Dolly in which Walter Matthau, as was his wont (no apostrophe please), plays a G.O.M who owns and operates a shop in a small town near New York City. He employs two young clerks who live in the shop’s basement, never essaying beyond town limits. One day they learn they’ll be ‘travelling’ to the city. One clerk, played by an almost unrecognisable, youthful incarnation of Michael Crawford, exults “I feel so gay!” Try THAT line today.

NO SUCH WORD

Verbal abuse isn’t restricted to ‘gays’. Recently, PAAC member Mikael Phillips, quizzing CMU CEO Fritz Pinnock about CMU’s refusal to cooperate with police fraud investigations:

“Why was there a reluctancy?”

Pinnock responded that CMU was served with a court order without an affidavit. Mikael interrupted:

“That’s because there was a reluctancy ... .”

Apparently none of his fellow members knew the ‘word’ didn’t exist or maybe they had a reluctance to tell him.

Politicians aren’t alone. Lawyers, whose name evolved to ‘attorney-at-law’ perhaps because ‘lawyer’ provides fodder for myriad ‘lawyer/liar’ jokes, are the worst offenders because their profession is supposed to be built on language.

Attorney-at law Able Don Foote, commenting on new US Embassy policy to ask for social media information:

“I don’t think they would use that adversely against you.”

Nah! It’s sure to be used favourably against you. Sigh.

But the worst verbal abuse these days comes from media. With the proliferation of mass communication these days, it seems old media pickneys (auditions and apprenticeships before being allowed on the air or in print) have been thrown out with the mannish water.

In this regard, my all-time favourite is TVJ’s Kirk Wright, whose lessons in modern language offer much-needed comic relief to Prime Time News’ otherwise mundane fare. But this one took the cake, ice cream and coffee.

Reporting live from Tivoli Gardens on its ‘nine night’ for Edward Seaga, Kirk delivered himself of this gem:

“Already, nothing has happened...”

Brilliant!

Peace and Love!

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com