By Tony Deyal
As a youngster living near a Baptist Church, I used to sing along with my favourite hymn, “I have a sword in my hand, Help me to use it now.” Now, I have a sod in my hand and if I don’t use it well, the great judgement day will drop on my head so soddenly, it will be Sodom and Gomorrah for me. Here’s why. However, before we go there, here are some points to pun-der. Why did Trump hold his press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping? Because America told him to sod off. Why did the grass cross the road?
To get to the other sod. Here’s one a bit longer, “My friend Ray just passed away. He was on the donor list. Apparently, they used his eyes to give some poor blind sod his eyesight back. Its a miracle really, now he’s got ex-Ray vision.” Now here’s one that helps to put it in perspective, “What weapon do British people use to make their enemies go away? A sod off shotgun …” Finally, for total understanding of where I’m heading next, “Someone has been adding better grass to my yard!” What a sod!
The English word “sod” has several meanings many of which are taboo, offensive or just slang. “Sod” is also an insult because, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is an abbreviation of “sodomite” or “One who practices sodomy.” It can also be used as a vulgar term of abuse for a male person. Even though the “sod” is the surface of the earth, with the grass and roots growing in it, when people say “sod it”, “sod you”, “sod that” and even “sod off” they are angry and making it clear what they think about something or, most times, somebody. “Sod off” is a baddie because it is an extremely rude way of telling someone to go away or leave them alone. If you say about a friend, “The poor sod hasn’t been out for weeks”, it is a joke of sorts. The person who said it might be a “cheeky” sod.
The question then is whether the Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) media and some of the others in the region and beyond are merely cheeky sods who are trying a double entendre on a national leader, or are so conscientious of their role as the employees of a respected national newspaper that they try to use the most appropriate word either for the event, the main protagonist in a major national occasion, or both.
At first, I thought it was merely Trinidad and Tobago and they had it in for their prime ministers. First, they published that the present prime minister had turned sod for a government development and then turned sod again for a fishing facility and was it again at a police station, a Pan Theatre and an Interchange. It was then my Trini friend called me on WhatsApp from New York and sounded very upset and concerned. “Tony,” he asked, “What is this I’m reading? The prime minister turning sod? And it seems that he doing it at major national events, choosing public functions to get on at his worse.”
Even though I found his take on the word and events initially very funny, I stopped him right there. “Wait! Hold on!” I demanded. “You have it wrong. The sod they’re writing about is dirt and the prime minister is digging up dirt for major constructions that will improve our nation.” At that point, my friend changed his tactics, “But you eh think he dig up enough dirt on the opposition already and now he digging up on the fishermen, the police, the Steelband people and even government buildings? What wrong with he? You think that they have something in the soil that send him off?”
I did not answer my friend immediately, giving him a minute to settle down and then I explained, “Well, for the record, the previous prime minister, Kamla Persad, turned sod with the Chinese ambassador.” My friend did not take this well. “She as bad as he! She have a temper too! I don’t know why they eh turn sod on one-another.” I stirred and fanned the fire a bit more. “Not just them,” I explained. “The former head of CARICOM with the former PM of Guyana turned sod together. In Grenada, PM, the Keith Mitchell, turned sod in Beausejour.” My friend interrupted, “That kind of behaviour proves he might be right but he definitely not honourable.”
That was going too far. I had to stop him in his tracks. I told him, slowly and softly, that “sod” is “dirt” and turning sod just means they are digging up a spot where they are promising to build something so they could get some early coverage and show off a little about how much they are doing for their people. It doesn’t matter if the project never comes off, they get their kudos up front. “You have to understand that while the PM’s of Guyana, Jamaica and even Barbados do that ‘sod’ business,” I added, “they’re not alone in the show-offing. The British, Canadians and even as far away as Australia they do that for publicity.”
My friend paused and then said: “But Tony that is not all that I read about the Trinidad politicians. They have this thing where instead of doing the job they getting paid for, they let their mothers take over the business while they spreading joy somewhere else.” Reminding him that he also had a girl-friend named Joy, I set him right on this one as well.
“It is not the mothers of the politicians the media people are referring to; it is their silence on certain issues that are important to the public.” “Tony,” he angrily shouted, “stop trying to fool me. I read in the papers that the PM mum on the attorney-general’s role in the Ocean Pelican matter and I ask myself why, if we paying him to do his work, he have his mum doing it. The Express say that Rowley mum on medical charges and given all the work she doing, that is expected. He even have she on a reshuffle. The Guardian say so.”
I stopped him immediately. “My friend, this was a hard-working lady who even came to Trinidad to work and she did everything possible to make sure her children grew up well. The PM is a good example of the kind of mum she was. However, you are not the only person who raise this ‘mum’ business with me. One of them said if the present minister of national security mum on everything, why we paying him and not his mum?
Now I see Al-Rawi mum on cabinet’s knowledge of the indemnity deal. She was a member of parliament and I sure she is doing a better job than her son.” I added, “Let me say again that the word ‘mum’ also means when you stay silent about something and you say ‘mum’s the word’ to mean shut up.” He responded quickly, “I have to go. My son crying and his mum not here. Dad’s the word he shouting.”
*Tony Deyal was last seen saying the worst thing is when a PM turns sod and then mum and then sod again when questions are asked about the cost and the contractor.