Mon | Jun 14, 2021

Honour thy mayor

Published:Saturday | June 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Tony Deyal, Contributor

How do I go about starting my own country? Why is 'Peggy' the nickname for 'Margaret'? What's the difference between a boat and a ship? If you shove a potato in a car's tailpipe, will the car explode? How do they get the sperm used in artificial insemination of animals?

These are all questions that were asked of the newspaper column 'The Straight Dope', written by Cecil Adams, which has been running since 1973 and is now carried by about 30 newspapers in the United States and Canada. The Straight Dope takes all questions in its stride, including, "What came first, Dick or 'dick'?"

According to Adams and his crew, the name came first. Then, because everything was written by hand, 'Richard' was shortened to 'Rick'. Rhyming names (e.g., Tony Baloney) and nicknames were also fairly common, so we had 'Dick' from 'Rick'. This led to the use of 'Dick' to mean the ordinary person or 'Every Tom, Dick and Harry'. In 1847, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) cites a 'dick' as meaning a type of hard cheese which led to 'spotted dick', which is not a venereal disease but a type of British pudding.

The term 'dick' was also used to mean a riding whip, an apron, the mound around a ditch, and an abbreviation for 'dictionary' around 1860. Dick also meant a declaration, in which sense the OED cites someone writing in 1878 'I'd take my dying dick' to mean 'I'd swear a dying declaration'. The term 'dick' came to mean policeman around 1908, and then detective. The use of 'dick' as coarse slang for penis first arises around 1890. How 'dick' came to be associated with penis is not known, although the riding whip may have pointed the way.

Taken for a ride

You, dear reader, might be wondering why I have gone into this 'dick' business at such great length. I'd take my dying dick to say it was not in any sense sexually motivated. It was because of Dick Whittington, the poor boy who became lord mayor of London.

I have been driving around Port-of-Spain for the last few weeks, and when I come to a particular street where the traffic is almost gridlocked on some mornings, there is the same City Council gang busy attacking a short yardage of pavement outside a cemetery. There are large metal barrels linked by crime scene tape. If you hit one of the barrels with your car, the damage will be very costly. If the barrel hits a 'worker', whether he is sitting in his customary place against the wall enjoying a cigarette and cellphone conversation, or on the rare occasion he is trying to make an impression on the seemingly unyielding pavement, he will be severely injured.

Many motorists wonder why plastic drums are not being used instead, and why the pavement repair seems to be a never-ending story. Some even link it with a 'park-and-ride system' that the mayor plans to introduce from next month in that particular area. As one of my friends commented, "It is obvious we are being taken for a ride."

One good thing about this mayor is that he is not a 'Dick', he is a 'Louis'. But then, other mayors with last names that are not connected in any way with Richard or its derivatives have done some things that make you wonder if there was some kind of hanky-panky with their birth certificates.

David Dinkins, former mayor of New York, said, "I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law." Washington, DC, Mayor Marion Berry insisted, "Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country." Berry claimed, "The laws in this city are clearly racist. All laws are racist. The law of gravity is racist." When confronted about his nocturnal activities, Berry explained, "First, it was not a strip bar, it was an erotic club. And second, what can I say? I'm a night owl."

Clearly he, like some other mayors, don't give a hoot. In fact, he was videotaped smoking crack cocaine and sentenced to six months in prison. He is now serving as a member of the Columbia District Council. Sue Mills, the 50-year-old mayor of Torrington (UK), posted on Facebook, "Illegal immigrants are like sperm - millions of them come in but only one works."

The right fit for the job?

There is a story about when Berry was campaigning for a second term. A seedy-looking man was sitting in the first row at a town meeting, heckling Berry as he delivered a lengthy speech. Finally, Berry decided to confront the heckler and said, "Will that (gentleman) who differs with me please stand up and tell the audience what he has ever done for the good of the city?" "Well, Mr Berry," the man said in a firm voice, "I voted against you in the last election."

This is still the first term of the mayor of Port-of-Spain and, like the priest in this story, may not be totally aware of the nuances of this particular parish. An old priest got sick of everyone in his parish confessing to affairs. He warned, "If one more person confesses to extramarital liaisons, I'll quit!" Since everyone liked him, they decided to use a code word, 'fallen'. From then on, anyone who had an affair said they had 'fallen'.

This satisfied everyone and things were fine for years until the old priest passed away. Shortly after the new young priest settled in, he paid a call on the mayor and expressed his concern, "You have to do something about the sidewalks in this town, Mayor. You can't believe how many people come into the confessional talking about having fallen!"

The mayor started to laugh, realising that no one had explained their code word to the new priest. But before the mayor could explain, the priest shook his finger at the mayor and said, "I don't know why you're laughing; your wife fell three times last week!"

I doubt that the expectations were so high that the mayor has fallen in anyone's esteem, but my friends are not quite sure and one even sent me this story. A pastor went to his church office on Monday morning and discovered a dead mule in the churchyard. He called the police. Since there did not appear to be any foul play, the police referred the pastor to the health department. The health department said since there was no health threat, he should call the sanitation department, which said he could not pick up the mule without authorisation from the mayor.

The pastor knew that the mayor had a bad temper and was hard to deal with but called him anyway. The mayor shouted, "Why did you call me? Isn't it your job to bury the dead?" The pastor replied, "Yes, Mayor, but I always like to notify the next of kin first!"

Tony Deyal was last seen quoting Marion Berry and wondering when the Port-of-Spain mayor would echo Berry's, "I am a great mayor; I am an upstanding Christian man; I am an intelligent man; I am a deeply educated man; I am a humble man."