Letters & Opinion

Of Dis and Dat – Part 5

Image of Nahdjla Bailey
By Nahdjla Bailey

ON dis islan, the English language is ever under siege, but surely, it is more than ever so during the season of the House. There are those in there whom I avoid like the Zika, purely in the interest of both my mental and physical health, and those to whom I listen because someone has told me, “You must listen to so and so this time,” for one reason or another. There are of course the few to whom I listen because I want to, even look forward to doing so. Generally though, my feeling is that if you’re going to continuously butcher the language, then at least redeem yourself by having something substantial and logical to deliver to those who put you where you are. Or, at the very least, if it is beyond your ability to edify us, then give us something of amusement perhaps, something to generate a few good, genuine belly laughs – not the sort of stuff which may very well produce a ‘laugh’, if not exactly the kind which does a body – or soul – any good.

But this does not happen only in the House. So, in that vein, and sticking with pronunciation for now, the examples come from media people, the police, the legal guys, the politicians, and sadly, the teachers (include principals!); well, let’s say, just about everyone who does not value correct pronunciation and who continues to indulge in their own language (which admittedly, every now and then, does bear some semblance to English), while swearing that English is their mother tongue (um, not ‘mother’s tongue’ as some offenders are wont to say).

No, it’s not, and that’s no crime, given Helen’s history, and the sooner that is understood, the better for the young ones when they enter the school system. I dared to voice this truth 37 years ago when I returned home from the East, and to encourage a second language approach to the teaching of English for the majority of our school entrants, managing to upset my small audience, comprising mainly teachers, (incidentally, no ‘of’ after ‘comprising’!) many of whom became movers and shakers in education through the intervening years. I sometimes wonder whether they have, nearly four decades on, ever had even the slightest change of heart.

So here goes: words ending in ‘nd’ preceded by a vowel, such as island, grind, find, friend, depend, husband, brigand, diamond, ground and the thousands of others are more often than not, when employed in a sentence, sounded without the terminal ‘d’. Similarly, with product, exact, react, eject, impact, affect, deduct and the thousands of others which end in ‘ct’. They are deprived of their ’t’ sound. Then there are those which end in ‘st’: therapist, tourist, must, dust, lest, cyst, best, least, waist, worst, dentist, protest, contest, overcast, finalist, cost, motorist and the thousands of others. Again, when sounded on their own, and certainly when employed within a spoken sentence, the terminal ‘t’ is omitted. What’s more, in the case of the nouns, more often than not they are written in their plural form minus the necessary ‘s’, and this in particular is also done by those who, one would have thought, should know better.

These are just a small sample of the many widespread infringements of which a whole lot of Saint Lucians are guilty, when it comes to the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue. I have a theory that, in many instances, it is due to pure laziness, because in a good number of cases, I don’t believe it to be a question of ignorance. They know, but continue to say bof and wif, faif and free, frough, youf and the big one ‘birfday’, and all the other ‘f’ sounds where a ‘th’ is called for, but totally ignored. Too lazy to change to the correct thing. Just can’t be bothered. Pretend it’s ‘cultural’… Once again, it’s the kids I feel for. I can’t help but think about those little innocents who are being infected through no fault of their own.

Finally, I think you, Mr Wayne, were being far too generous to “A Bat at Pelvis”. His really infamous language infraction, among others such as the one you spotted, has got to be his Malapropism. He is the biggest (sorry, Mr Sheridan) Mr Malaprop there is. And, as I end, just to make it altogether clear to the fans out there: Gadébyen. Mwen pa té di ‘malpwòp’, paskimwen pa konnètanyenasouzafèmisyé. Mwen pa konnètsiisémalpwòp o pa! Es zot tannsamwenka di? Alò, gadébyen. Bon!

2 Comments

  1. This topic is very apropos. Phonetics on the whole need to be taken seriously in Saint Lucia, even use of prepositions like “in” and “from”. It is customary to hear our folks tell children “move in the road” when they actually mean “move from the road”.

    I am happy that my first stepping stone to USA was College of the Virgin Islands where all students irrespective of discipline had to take a Speech course. I recall most of students from the British West Indies did not see the use of this but after the course were happy. All students at US tertiary institutions must take a speech course.

    I recall when I returned from USA a draftsman (use the American version of the word here) of mine labelled a drawer (the object we pull from our desks or dressers) as “draw”. I told him the proper word is “drawer” ; he flipped; said he never new this; i sent him to the dictionary.

    There are many other words which are not pronounced properly such as “potable” as in the water we drink. The accepted phonetics is “po-terble” not “pot-able” . The latter implies the water is placed in a pot for boiling, but this is not what the word means. The word means “drinkable”, came from the Latin “potare”, to drink.

    These are just a few examples. I do hope that our educational directors take phonetics seriously in reviewing our school curriculum at all levels.

    We must admit that the English language is replete with inconsistencies but it is the most universal language, hence we must get familiar with its nuances.

  2. Why don you 2 liv de peeple alone. Y’ll wil go krazie if yu liv in Jamaka
    or de east end London or any were in de u.s.a. you 2 alredy sendin me krazy.

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