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HomeEducation / CultureThis, that and your mother

This, that and your mother

By Tony Deyal

First, there is “this”. The English philosopher, John Hobbes, said that there are moments which mark your life when you realise nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this and after this. Then there is “that” which usually comes after “this”. Generally, “This” is near and “That” is far. “This” is here and “That” is there. “This” is good and “That” is bad. “This” is me and “That” is she.

In fact, as an English teacher, trying to get my students to know “That” English can be fun, I made them try making sense of this: that that is is that that is that that is not is that that is not that that is is not that that is not that that is not is not that that is that that is is that that is not is not. (The answer is at the end of this column).

In addition to “this” and “that” in most countries of the world, and almost every language spoken or written, “this” and “that” are followed by the “other thing” or just “the other”. However, in many of the same countries, especially the Caribbean, “This, that and the other” give way to “This, that and your mother.”

The “Mama” or “mother” jokes go back to Babylon in 3500 BC where the first one was found inscribed on a tablet. Based on what was left, it was clearly a joke about a man’s mother because when translated into English it read, “…of your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What or who is it?” While these jokes are almost everywhere now, one of the best known from the early days came in Shakespeare’s play, “Titus Adronicus”: “ Demetrius: Villain, what hast thou done?/ Aaron: That which thou canst not undo./ Chiron: Thou hast undone our mother./ Aaron: Villain, I have done thy mother.”

Since then, the US took it over and “Your Mama” (or Yo Mama) jokes became very popular and, like what happened to us as schoolboys and still continues, is what we call “fight” and “licks”, if not from the other person but from our teachers. The Irish principal and teachers in the school I went to could not understand why “cussing your mother” was such a big deal especially since all women had the same body part and it was not like the mothers were there at the school when the statement was made.

These jokes are tough. Here are some examples that would have cost us our lives or our schooling. “You mama so fat when she tried to weigh herself the scales said, ‘One at a time please’. “Your mama’s so fat and old that when God said ‘Let there be light’ he was just asking her to move out of the way.” “Your mama’s so stupid when they said ‘Order in court’ she asked for fries and a shake.”

“Your momma’s so ugly when she was born the doctor slapped her parents.” – “Your mama so poor she can’t even pay attention.” – “Your mama so ugly that her portraits hang themselves,” and “Your mama so dumb she went to the movies, and it said ‘Under 17 not admitted’ so she went home and got 16 of her friends.”

The fact is that we all love and care very much for our mothers. In Greek mythology, Gaia or Mother Earth, was the first goddess. Worldwide there are over two billion mothers with approximately 4 being born every second. In other words, the average mother will have changed 7,300 diapers by the time her baby is two years old. The first sound a baby vocalises is the “ma” sound. This is why in almost every language, the word for mother starts with “M” or some version of the “ma” sound. The fetal heart races faster when hearing its mother’s voice. A mother’s voice also eases older children’s stress just as much as a real-life hug. The sound of mom’s voice lowers a child’s stress hormone, cortisol, and raises their level of oxytocin, a hormone linked with love and bonding. 

Approximately 122 million calls are made on the second Sunday of May, and Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for restaurants. Interestingly, I got all this from “HABA”, the “Holiday Shop” which claims that “everything it does is based on child’s growth…and everything they create is designed to make a child’s eyes light up…”

I suppose this is why some mothers don’t always feel special. One mother said, “Being a mother of a teenager is finally understanding why some animals eat their young”. Another complained, “There’s nothing quite like being told I’m wrong by someone who depends on me for food, clothier and shelter.” What is worse is when one of your daughters shows they are way ahead of you in some things. A mother who saw her little daughter playing with Barbie and GI Joe. Perplexed she said, “I thought Barbie came with Ken?” The youngster replied, “No mom. Barbie comes with GI Joe. She only fakes it with Ken.” This is why one of my friends asked me, “Why is a computer so smart?” and then replied “Because it listens to its motherboard”, I told him this story about motherboards and some of the problems they have.

The worst of all was the complaint by one mother whose young daughter, Maria, came home one evening boasting that she had earned twenty dollars by climbing a tree. The mother tried to let her daughter know why that happened and explained to her, “Maria, they just wanted to see your panties.” Maria replied, “Mom. I am smarter than that. I took them off!”

However, despite knowing that our mothers try really hard to make us the best we can be and we love them very much for all they have done for us, this does not stop the jokes, even on Mother’s Day. One man quipped, “This Mother’s Day my dad got a new car for my mom. He said it was the best trade he’s ever made.” Or the response of the police recruit who got this exam question, “What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother?” He said, “Call for backup.” A friend asked me, “What’s the difference between a Rottweiler and a Caribbean mother?” Then he quickly gave me the answer, “Eventually a Rottweiler will let go.” In a way that is true but the bite springs from love. Like the little boy who asked his mother for twenty dollars. She replied, “Does it look like I’m made of money?” He answered with a smile, “Well isn’t that was M-O-M stands for?” He got the twenty without another word from his mom. Unlike his sister who asked, “Mom, what’s it like to have the greatest daughter in the world?” Her mom replied, “I don’t know dear. Ask your grandma.”

*Tony Deyal was last seen teaching, “That that is, is that that is. That that is not, is that that is not. That that is, is not that that is not. That, that is not, is not that that is. That that is, is. That, that is not, is not.”

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