Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Gordon Robinson | The essence of language

Published:Tuesday | March 19, 2019 | 12:00 AM

In Apocrypha, a fantasy land where politicians are friends and Oma D’unn solves political dilemmas by parable, the nation was all a twitter over a recently called by-election.

The election was keenly contested because the winner would control a vital eastern port. Apocrypha’s political parties fielded their best. Just Lazy People (JLP) nominated Marryann Vas, wife of Darelaw Vas, MP for a neighbouring constituency, while Idaman Crawfresh (not Crawfish) was Promises Not Performance’s (PNP) standard-bearer.

The campaigns were hostile.

“Mrs Vas don’t know di deferens … ,” Idaman began addressing a mass rally. The crowd interrupted.

‘Yu mean DIFFERENCE … ,” they shouted in unison.

“No. Me is a educated yute,” Idaman rejoined. “When mi sey deferens, mi mean deferens. Mrs Vas mus’ know di deferens between har husband and me. If har husband sey go, she sey ‘where?’ Mi nah tell har fi go no wey excep’ back to di kitchen where she belong, barefoot an’ prignant.”

On the other side of the constituency, Marryann held her own rally.

“Dem sey mi ongle tek instruction from Darelaw,” she told the faithful “but is lie dem a tell. Is him marry me not me married him. Sometimes, mi no see him fi days. Mi no even know wey him dey much less to tek instruction!”

With apologies to Kenny Rogers, songwriters Billy Ed Wheeler and Roger Dale Bowling for the lyrical butchery about to be perpetrated:

In Portieland, Apocrypha,

on a cool autumn evening,

Darelaw lay in love with Marryann.

She was a coal miner’s daughter.

He was a son of a rich judge.

But that night their love was more than they

could stand.

The judge said to his son

‘That daughter of that miner

is someone you’d do well to leave alone.’

He knew his dad so well.

He knew he couldn’t tell.

But the truth was bound to show before

too long.

Their love had started growing on its own.

You can’t outrun the long arm of Darelaw.

Regardless, Darelaw was proud to be known as ‘Marryann’s husband’. Soon the entire family loved her, too.

The judge smiled at his grandson.

Then his eyes cut back to Darelaw

and said ‘I think this time

the law will understand.

Son, I sentence you to life with Marryann.’

You can’t outrun the long arm of Darelaw.


Hostilities escalated, so Marryann and Idaman asked Oma for advice. Regular readers know Oma well. He held a PhD in logic but was mostly like a moon (bright only in the dark). Oma told them they needed to hire a lion tamer.

They responded simultaneously “What?”

Oma told the story of the biker and the little girl:

On a visit to the zoo, a little girl leans into a lion’s cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the collar and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her in front of her screaming parents.

A biker jumps off his Kawasaki, runs to the cage and hits the lion on the nose. The lion lets go of the girl, and the biker delivers her to her terrified parents, who thank him profusely.

A nearby reporter says to the biker ,‘That’s the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.’

The biker replies, ‘It was nothing. The lion was behind bars. I just saw this child in danger, and acted without thinking.’

The reporter says, ‘Well, I’ll make sure tomorrow’s front page has this story. What do you do for a living?’

The biker replies ‘I’m a soldier’

The following morning’s headline:

Soldier assaults African immigrant & steals his lunch.”

They still didn’t get it, so Oma told them to be careful with language, because whatever they said would be sensationalised by the media. Speaking carelessly on a political platform, Oma warned, was like disturbing an untamed lion on a feeding frenzy.

He counselled Idaman that ‘deferens’ wasn’t the same as ‘difference’, and Marryann that marriage was a two-way street.

Peace and Love!

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to