By Tony Deyal
In Trinidad, unlike the other Caribbean countries, a “mopper” is not “a person employed to clean surfaces with an implement consisting of a bundle of thick loose strings or a sponge attached to a handle.” Lise Winer in her Dictionary of English/Creole of Trinidad and Tobago, says that a Trinidadian mopper is “a person who likes to get free drinks”. What other English-speaking countries know as a scrounger, bum, mooch or cadger is a “mopper” in Trinidad because he begs for free liquor and then wipes or cleans out the last drop of rum in the bottle and when he arrives home “drunk and disorderly”, as the Mighty Sparrow would say, his wife mops the floor with him.
In fact, it is Sparrow who, in his Calypso, “Well-Spoken Moppers” led me into the language of “mopping” and its global consequences. He sang, “Half the trouble in the world today / Comes from people who don’t know what to say / They like to use words that big and long/ And they ain’t know when they using it wrong.” For example, having enjoyed the hospitality of their host and mopped up all the liquor, the Mopper ends his farewell thanks with this parting blessing and intended praise, “May his friends bring him joy and frustration/ Impose on him and lift him to degradation / He’s a jolly good fellow and a kind reprobate/ Unscrupulous and always inconsiderate.”
In his own way, even though (one hopes) there is a huge gap between what he sings and what he means, the “mopper” is a “sesquipedalianist” or a person who is such a lover of very long words that he or she uses them instead of small, more understandable and, most times, more appropriate words. There is a theological joke by a Jesuit priest who was teaching a University New Testament class. He said, “Jesus was walking alongside the Sea of Galilee when he turned to Simon Peter and asked him, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered him, “Why you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus was so pleased with Peter’s answer that he promoted Peter to lead the disciples. Then Jesus turned to the modern-day theologians and asked, “Who do you say I am?” And they replied, “Why you are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma which finds its fulfillment in interpersonal relationships.” And a stunned Jesus responded, “What?”
Fortunately, unlike me and others of my ilk, Jesus stuck to one four-letter word. I would definitely have used more, not like a drunken mopper when the rum runs out but because I love the English language. For me, the best example of its power is the King James Bible which exemplifies what in the communication business we call the “KISS” principle – Keep It Short and Simple. Unfortunately, new stresses on the language, political correctness and political obfuscation, are changing it way beyond recognition and even logic.
In the new world of political correctness, “a person of colour” is someone who is not considered “white”. It is wrong to say “fat” unless it comes from beef, pork or edible animal. The politically correct term when applied to people of substantial substance is not even “corpulent”, it is “horizontally disadvantaged.” “Ladies and Gentlemen” is now “Everybody”; “lost” is “geographically disorientated”; a “man in the street” is an “average person”; and “manpower” is “workforce”. What used to be a problem is now an “opportunity”, a “challenge” or both, and a “sex change” is “Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS).” Even if you disagree with me, what I have just stated here is not “wrong”, it is just “differently logical.” I can no longer scratch the few strands of hair left on my balding head until I come to terms with the fact that I am now “folically challenged” and if I thank the Almighty at all it is not as an “elderly person” but as a senior citizen.
Not everyone has taken to, or accepts, this new environment of political correctness. English actor and comedian, John Cleese, believes, “The idea that you have to be protected from any kind of uncomfortable emotion is what I absolutely do not subscribe to.” Lee Kuan Yew, the former president of Singapore, seems to think, like we in the Caribbean, that “correct is not always right.” He acknowledges that he always tried to be correct but not politically correct. Chris Rock, in an interview with Vulture magazine, explained why he stopped doing shows at colleges, He considered them “too conservative” not in their political views but “in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody” He stressed, “You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.”
I believe that pretty soon we will have to resort to obfuscation even when telling tales out of school. For example, a human female, extremely captious and prone to opposed and ambivalent behaviour, was interrogated as to the dynamic state of her cultivated tract of land used for the production of various types of flora. The tract components were enumerated as argentous tone-producing agents, a rare species of oceanic growth, and pulchritudinous young females situated in linear orientation. All it comes down to is the answer to the question posed in the Nursery Rhyme, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary / How does your garden grow? / With silver bells and cockleshells / And pretty maids all in a row.”
These changes, demands and insecurity in plain English remind me of a story I once read in my first year at Elementary School and then, 40 later, saw this politically correct version. A triumvirate of murine rodents totally devoid of opthalmic acuity was observed in a state of rapid locomotion in pursuit of an agriculturalist’s uxorial adjunct. Said adjunct consequently performed a triple caudectomy utilizing an acutely honed bladed instrument generally used for subdivision of edible tissue. In other words, “Three Blind Mice/ See how they run / They all ran after the farmer’s wife, / Who cut off their tails with a carving knife, / Did you ever see such a thing in your life, / As three blind mice?”
*Tony Deyal was last seen saying that political correctness reminds him of Three Blind Mice looking for Three Wise Monkeys to teach them how to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.