Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Daniel Thwaites | Does 'cyaaaapet' match the drapes?

Published:Sunday | November 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I'm remembering back some 25 years ago when Nigel was kind enough to loan me a necktie while we were both in Barbados competing for the Rhodes Scholarship. He, perfectly prepared, grumbled slightly but assisted me, the ill-equipped upstart. So you see, I account him a gentleman.

Well, I heard this one-time gentleman labrishing from a platform recently. And here is my old pal Nigel Clarke describing the "cyaaaapet" that the administration says it's laying down from Ocho Rios right up to when yuh waan "check Dezzman in Wess Kinstan", and beyond:

Wi goh up pan Washintan Boulevaad ... cyaaapet!

Wi mek a leff pan Canstan Spring ... cyaaapet!

Wi mek a right ... cyaaapet!

Wi goh up ... cyaaapet!

Everyweh yuh look... peer cyaaapet!

Did you hear this? Can you imagine?

This was a special debut of the 'new Nigel' since being kited by PM Holness first into NW St Andrew, and then immediately thereafter into the finance ministry. Previously, when the old Nigel had sat (unconstitutionally) in the Senate, his outbursts were never quite so ... spirited and exuberant. He was, in fact, the model of propriety, even to the point of being described as a "black British".

Now this! Here we have some pretty solid evidence of an evolution of 'Mr Clarke the corporate number-cruncher', through 'Nigel the sedate and serene senatorial intellect', now into 'Andrew's new Clarke's: de hell-raising pallytishan'.

I did note that the full transition isn't quite yet complete. For instance, Nigel did not refer to North-South ("Naat-Sout", he called it) by its proper name: "The Edward Seaga Highway." That's an error after the substantial expenditure of effort to name it after Papa Eddie.

 

'Buzzkill'

 

Anyway, none of the 'rootsing it up' causes me any alarm. In fact, I was enjoying every microsecond of Clarkey's Jamiekan 'accident' when I spotted the problem. Y'know how you can be having a great time and then suddenly it comes to an abrupt end with some awful realisation? I believe the technical term for this phenomenon, at least according to the urban dictionary, is a 'buzzkill'.

It dawned on me that this illustrious past student of UWI was, in fact, failing and failing mightily. Clearly, he doesn't speak Jamiekan! The man is now an embarrassment. I mean to UWI, the country, his family. Sigh! But there's no getting around it.

The problem, in a nutshell, was the 'accident'. To borrow from @Goffeman's tweet, Nigel sounded "like the lead actor in Cool Runnings". To other trained Jamiekan ears, Clarkey sounded like Taye Diggs in How Stella Got Her Groove Back. And all over social media there was this sort of commentary. Jah know!

Ask yourself: What kind of MOF can't speak authentic Jamiekan? I heard the voice and at once I knew that this was not a native speaker. This is a man copying the Jamiekan accent. "Cyaaapet"? Is wah name soh? Ah whaddat?

That would never reach Audley! When Audley gets into it, you hear authentic Jamiekan from Manchester top bush. He might not be so strong on the economics, but by Gawwwwd, the Jamiekan is strong and heavy on his tongue.

Truth is that Audley came to mind not because of the heroics in coffee, or his frank talk about the sugar lands, but because of something PM Holness said recently. The Gleaner reports Holness saying:

"After the 2009 global financial meltdown, Jamaica was forced to confront certain practices inimical to our own development. We thought we could just borrow as much as we want and pay for it later. However, we came close to defaulting and had to pay our debts ... . We have to recognise, also, that we cannot continue to depend on overseas development assistance."

I don't know if the reference to 2009 when Audley was galloping with the economy over the edge was meant as a swipe at the Manchesterian. But it's hard to forget those days. On a far more positive note, it's impossible to fault the PM for the sentiments he's expressing here.

A decent Clarke's, even if it can't talk Jamiekan so well, is a welcome infusion. The relatively steady stream of positive economic news is due, I believe, to the continued fiscal discipline over administrations, so it is heartening to hear the PM articulating this as a core commitment once again.

 

Elocution Lessons

 

The scandal is that Nigel seems to be perfectly capable of speaking English, like a likkle ol' colonialist. But up to de time, him can't talk nuh Jamiekan. De man need some elocution lessons. Or is that hellokyuushan?

Of course, big roadworks are the subject of political tug-of-wars. The question is always about who is the legitimate father or mother of the asphalt, when, in fact, we know that it's China. At this point, local satraps are mere midwives for the expansion.

A bigger question for me is whether the cyaaapet matches the drapes? And that's what I need Nigel to explain in English or Jamiekan. Normally what we see is the drapery, and you have to wait to discover if the cyaaapet conforms. In these days of so much deception, make-up, hair-colouring, weaves and implants, just because you see blond drapery doesn't mean much.

Permit me to explain. The drapes refer to what is obvious to the eye, namely, the hairstyle. Really and truly, you ought not to be seeing the carpet until you've made some investment of time and resources and proven your seriousness, although nowadays, anything goes.

It's no different with the economy. Here we're seeing some positive signs, but questions linger about the elusiveness of growth, and then there's that nagging issue raised by the IMF about how the low unemployment numbers aren't translating because it's low-level work. So let's hope that when we find what's going on underneath it all, it looks good, too.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.