Tony Deyal, Contributor
If you speak English, you are likely to save less for your old age, smoke more and get less exercise than if you speak a language like Mandarin, Yoruba or Malay.
This is what Yale University professor Keith Chen has found from his extensive research into language and behaviour. In essence, Professor Chen's research validates the truth of the saying attributed to Thomas Jefferson, "Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today." In other words, your future can end up tense if you have a future tense.
For example, if instead of saying, "I will save money for the future" you say, "I save money," you are more likely to save instead of spend.
Professor Chen has opened up a new avenue in the highways and byways of the English language that we should explore. Are all our other aphorisms accurate? Are the sayings well said? On that basis, instead of procrastinating, I follow the professor and I write now right now.
Let's start with 'pie in the sky'. It means a future reward after death for something you did not receive here on earth. It can also be sacrificing excessively in the hope that it will all be worth it at some time.
All too often, pie in the sky is replaced in real time by pie in the face - an embarrassing ending like the light at the end of the tunnel which is more likely to be a train coming straight at you instead of the bright future you hoped for.
The same thing happens when, like the West Indies cricket team, you 'turn the corner', time and time again. You get whitewashed. I had a pie-in-the-sky incident last Sunday when I flew Caribbean Airlines from Port-of-Spain to my home in Antigua. One of my suitcases, full of Trini goodies to share with my family, contained a batch of 'dhal puris' (a.k.a. roti 'blanks' or 'skins'). Essentially, the puri is a split-pea pie.
Everybody else on the flight got their luggage. I did not get mine. A very friendly and efficient airline employee, Junior Angus, took charge and tried to get the handlers to check the hold, but he was tersely told that the cargo hatch was already shut. The plane took off with my pie in the sky. Even though I believe that Junior deserves promotion for his efforts on my behalf, that would be pie in the sky. Even more, thinking that Caribbean Airlines would improve its performance or deal with the baggage handlers is more pie in the sky.
Let's take 'paying through the nose'. Nobody knows for sure how it started. One suggestion is that when the tax on snuff was raised (as we do now for tobacco), people complained about having to pay through the nose. Cocaine addicts have the same experience. Another explanation is that the Greek word for 'nose' is 'rhinos', while 'rhino' is British slang for money, so you pay through your rhinos.
Last week in Trinidad, I went to the doctor to whom I had paid US$2,000 for a CPAP machine and mask to help me deal with my sleep apnea. After just a few months, the tube and the mask had parted company and I felt this was truly shoddy work for something that had literally caused me to pay through the nose.
Perhaps my nose is broader and bigger than it looks, for the doctor tried to charge me US$150 for a replacement mask which turned out to be a 'sample' for display and not for use. The explanation conveyed to me was that the doctor's supplier charged him for the mask so I should pay, too.
When I went to return the mask, his attendants demanded the damaged plastic bag in which the mask came, claiming that the doctor had "done me a favour" by trying to sell me the display mask. The problem is that my hope of doing anything about the doctor and seeing him get his just desserts is pure pie in the sky.
The saying that seems most timely right now is 'By hook or by crook'. Wikipedia says, "By hook or by crook is an English phrase meaning 'by any means necessary', suggesting that one need not be concerned with morality or other considerations when accomplishing some goal."
The battle for the presidency of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has given rise to the accusation that some people are intent on winning by hook or by crook - 'hook' being the curved blade or sickle used to cut grass, and 'crook', the curved stick that shepherds use to immobilise errant sheep.
The talk is that Julien Hunte, the present WICB president, had given the impression to other board members that he would not seek a fourth two-year term. Now, they say, he seems 'hooked' on the job. Former West Indies captain, Clive Lloyd, did not get any of the territorial boards (the owners of the WICB) to second his nomination and his goose is cooked.
Incredibly, the Windward Islands Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) is not with Hunte this time around, but is supporting its president, Emmanuel Nanthan, as vice-president in the WICB elections. Hunte is credited with masterminding the coup of having three St Lucians simultaneously president, CEO and captain of the WICB team. Dave Cameron, whose name was mentioned in the Justice Lucky Report on the WICB's first Digicel contract, is expected to win.
To expect any change in the way the WICB conducts its affairs is pure pie in the sky. There will be no changes in the composition of the board or forensic audit of the use of its credit cards to see whether they have been used for personal business, including 'television services' and 'non-food' room service at hotels, the awards of contracts, especially where no tendering process is involved,
Directors not disclosing their interest in matters that come before the board or their roles in awarding contracts, even though no director, including the president, has executive authority, or the use of the players' pension funds for recurrent expenditure. In other words, whoever wins, whether by hook or by crook, it will be business as usual.
Tony Deyal was last seen saying that Barbadians have slightly changed an old adage to "a friend in need is a Freundel indeed". It also sent a message to the Barbados Labour Party not to count its chickens before they are hatched and how to eat humble pie.