Seaga put 'goat mouth' on Bruce

Published: Sunday | December 27, 2009

Carolyn Cooper, Contributor

Over a decade ago, Edward Seaga authoritatively decla-red that Bruce Golding was not fit to lead the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). I have a feeling that these days he would add, "or the country."

At the time, it sounded wicked and spiteful. But now you have to wonder what, exactly, Eddie saw - or didn't see - in Mr Golding to incite that terrible judgment.

Eddie put 'goat mouth' on poor Bruce. The Dictionary of Jamaican English defines 'goat mouth' as "a mouth like a goat's, believed to indicate the possession of prophetic powers and the power to inflict bad luck, disease, etc." Seaga's mouth is not literally shaped like a goat's, of course. But his prophetic power to inflict bad luck is unquestionable.

I don't know if it's his intimate association with the revivalist, Kapo, that gave him vision. Or, if it's just the scholarly insight that comes from his training as an anthropologist. Whatever the source, Eddie's words have come to pass. I recently overheard two middle-aged men conversing. One of them said, "Misa Seaga mussi laugh every time Bruce open im mouth."

Thought provoking

Our prime minister just doesn't seem to be handling the affairs of state efficiently. In the middle of an already dread Christmas season, he announces an alarming new tax regime. I was appalled to hear that even sanitary pads and tampons were going to attract GCT. The thought of girls having to resort to washing menstrual cloths to save money provoked a very bloody bad word.

The fearful IMF negotiations are stretching out longer and longer. Only God and the Government know what the fund has in store for us. There has been no public debate on the 'conditionalities.' If this first round of taxation is any indicator, we're heading right back to the 1970s:

Rich people shopping in Miami and poor people fighting in supermarkets for scarce goods; or, worse, settling for next to nothing. And now "is definitely not Manley fault."

Then there's that gruesome extradition matter dangling over our collective heads like a hangman's noose. The prime minister is bobbing and weaving. All in all, is pure worries for Bruce. As proverbial wisdom puts it, 'uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.' Bruce's crown of thorns must be 'jooking' him. And no one is likely to see him as the Messiah.

(W)uman Tong(ue)

In the 1990s I used to write an innovative bilingual column, (w)uman tong(ue), for another newspaper: one week in English, the other in Jamaican. Despite its small size, the newspaper, then, was trying to act like a broadsheet - a quality paper. Nowadays, it seems to be living up to the sleazy reputation of its tabloid format. Its recent coverage of the blinding crime of passion committed by a gay man against his lover was pure sensationalism. Like a once-appealing woman who has fallen on hard times, the paper seems to be resorting to titillation to attract attention.

In 1995, I wrote a piece in Jamaican headlined 'Dem a put goat mout pon Bruce.' Here's an excerpt in which I use what I call a 'chaka-chaka' writing system, rather than the specialist one developed by the Jamaican linguist Frederick Cassidy and updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona, under the leadership of Professor Hubert Devonish.

Incidentally, I got an interesting email last week from a reader who wanted to know if Jamaican is a 'real-real' language. I gave him the standard answer of the linguists which I first heard at a lecture by Dr Pauline Christie, who has written an excellent book, Language in Jamaica, put out by Arawak Publications: 'A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.' It's all about power. Our strength is not military might: it's culture. So here's my version: a language is a dialect spoken by Bob Marley and Usain Bolt.

Eddie get run out

Mi do understand seh Maas Eddie woulda ha fi a put goat mout pon Bredda Bruce. After Maas Eddie have im in training fi so long, Bruce get tired a wait fi captain di team. Im can't linger-linger fi Eddie mek im century. So im dis walk off di field. Im mash up di game an a force Maas Eddie fi get run out. Look how di whole JLP side a collapse. Dem naa score no runs.

An Maas Eddie all a call Bruce "tief". Im seh im "tief" di JLP plan. Dem put i dong careless an Bruce walk off wid i. It sound bad ee? If me was Maas Eddie me wouldna did mek tings get so bad. Mi woulda did call Bruce one side long time an gi im a lickle prips. Hear wa mi woulda did seh:

"Brucie, bwoy, a no yu mi a talk bout when mi gi out seh nobody no deh ya fi tek over, yu know. A dem other one mi a talk bout. But mi no waan dem jealous yu. So mi can't mek dem know. Just hold yu corner yaa, boss."

But Seaga couldn't bring himself to have that conversation of equals with Golding. So the New Democratic Movement was formed and then turned back into the Old Jamaica Labour Party. New wine in old bottles. Or maybe it's really old wine in old bottles. And the whole nation is now suffering from Edward Seaga's error of judgment. "Is high time fi tek goat mout offa Bruce." After all, it's Christmas.

Carolyn Cooper is professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Send feedback to: or

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