Bruce Golding, Man of the Year/Man a di Ier

Rudyard Kipling, that apologist for British imperialism, wrote a famous poem, “If,” which many of us were forced to memorise in primary school.  It’s a rousing celebration of single-minded, macho warrior-hood.  I adapt it here in ironic tribute to my “Man of the Year,” Bruce Golding:

If you can keep your head when all around you

Are blaming you for bringing disgrace upon the nation;

If you can press along without resigning

When all men, women, children doubt your word;

If you can linger and not be tired of lingering,

Or, having lied, pretend to be lied about,

Or, being caught, don’t give way to retribution

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can be delusional and not see truth;

If you can think that no one else is thinking;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the lies you’ve spoken

Repeated by honest men to make a trap for you,

Or watch the errors you have repeated,

Mount into a heap of tired failures;

If you can take a chance on Brady, Dudus and Manatt

And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and yet refuse to call it a day

And never breathe a word of shame about your loss

Even when ‘Wikileaks’ unleashes a new flood of deceit;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To stay in office after respect is dead and gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to you: “Hold on”;

If you can talk in circles and never see straight,

Or walk with dons – nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can help you;

If all men count you down and out

And still 
you feel entitled to be PM

And keep on shadowboxing in the ring

Yours is the next election victory, that’s for sure,

And – which is more – you’ll be my ‘Man of the Year’!

Bruce Golding, Man a di Ier

Rudyard Kipling, im a wan a dem man fram Ingglan we did difen di British govament wen dem dida waak aal bout kriyieshan a tiif ada piipl lan an fuos dem fi gi op fi dem uona liviti an tek aan Ingglish kolcha.  Im rait wan big-taim poem we im kaal “If.” Plenti a wi did ha fi laan an memba it wen wi did de ina praimeri skuul. Dem de liriks a fi mek di macho man dem biit op dem ches wen dem a go a waar.  Mi chienj op di liriks fi ‘big op’ fi mi “Man a di Ier,” Bruce Golding.

If yu kyan kip yu hed wen evribadi roun yu

A bliem yu fi bring dong disgries pan di nieshan;

If yu can pres alang an no rizain

Wen man, uman, pikni no biliiv a wod yu se;

If yu kyan lingga an no taiyad a lingga,

Ar tel lai an gwaan laik se a dem a tel lai pan yu,

Ar dem kech yu an yu gwaan laik a notn

An stil far aal, yu no luk so gud,

An yu no taak so sensibl;

If yu kyan fuul op yuself an no si di chruut;

If yu kyan tink se nobadi els naa tink;

If yu kyan bok op vikchri an kraasiz

An gwaan laik di tuu impasta dem a di sed siem ting;

If yu hab strang stomok fi hier anes piipl chrap yu

Tel yu bak di lai dem we yu tel

Ar yu wach di huol hiip a mistiek yu kip aan mekin

A mount op ina wan big dongl a fielya;

If yu kyan tek chaans pon Brady, Dudus an Manatt

An bet yu laas dala pan dem chriis haas

An laas yu bet, an naa gi op

An neva admit se yu shiem bout aal a wa yu luuz

Aal wen ‘Wikileaks’ let aaf a neks set a lai;

If yu kyan fuos yu haat an suol an badi

Fi tan iina afis lang aafta rispek ded an gaan,

An yu a heng aan wen di ongl ting a kip yu op

A chruu yu mek op yu main fi “Heng aan”;

If yu kyan go roun an roun an neva si chriet,

Ar waak wid dan – an stil muov roun puor piipl

If niida yu enemi nar yu gud fren kyaan help yu

If aal a di refarii dem kount yu doun an out

An stil far aal yu fiil yu mos an boun fi bi PM

An kip aan a baks baks iina di ring;

A yu a go win di neks ilekshan, chros mi

An – pan tap a dat – a yu a fi mi ‘Man a di Ier!


Portrait of John Maxwell by Valerie Bloomfield from the website of the National Gallery of Jamaica

John Maxwell certainly knew how to get under people’s skin and rub them the wrong way.  And he was quite right to do so.  Jamaicans of all social classes tend to be completely self-satisfied.  We need irritants like John Maxwell to stir us out of complacency.

Flourishing his pen like a machete, John cut and cleared left, right and centre with his piercing wit and uncompromising opinions. Journalism for John was more than a job.  It was a jab; a prick of conscience.

Indeed, journalism was a priestly calling for John.  He thoroughly enjoyed the moral authority he wielded as he called down judgement on a whole host of miscreants posturing as respectable leaders of state and industry.

‘Miscreant’ is the kind of word John took delight in using.  Not because it was a ‘big’ word and he liked to show off; but simply because it was the absolutely right word for the context.  ‘Depraved’, ‘villainous’ and ‘base’ don’t quite have the same condemnatory ring as ‘miscreant.’

The Oxford English Dictionary claims that the word is archaic – like many of the values John embodied, I suppose.  But archaic or not, John himself knew that journalism is a profession that demands fearless integrity of its practitioners.

Feckless (yes, ‘e’ not ‘u’) ‘journalists’ – as much as politicians – who only cared about self-aggrandisement were often the butt of John’s ridicule.

Maxwell could smell political corruption at a great distance and took pleasure in “calling a spade a bloody shovel.” We will all miss John Maxwell’s relentless digging up of our ‘folly’ ground.


Photo of John Maxwell from the Go-Jamaica web site

John Maxwell did wel an nuo ou fi provuok wi.  Im rob kou iiich pan wi, an fuos wi fi sidong iina ans nes.  An im did rait fi dwiit. Jamieka piipl, di huol a wi – hai, migl an luo, wi fiil se notn no rang wid wi.  An wi no waan nobadi kom tel wi we fi du. A it mek we du niid piipl laka John fi shiek wi op.

John tek op im pen an gwaan laik se a wan mashet.  An im kot an klier lef, rait an senta.  No maka no juk hat laka John wikid langgwij.  Im no taak wid no waata iina im mout.  Dis nyuuspiepa raitn a no suo-suo wok fi John.  A sinting fi wok op yu kanshens.

It kom iin laik se John a wan Faada.  An it swiit im wen taim im a kaal dong jojment pan di huol hiip a ‘miscreant’ dem we a gwaan laik se dem a nais an diistant smadi iina govament an bizniz an soch di laik.

Yu si ‘miscreant:’ a dem kaina wod John did lov fi brandish.  A no shuo-aaf im a shuo-aaf yu nuo, a yuuz dem de big wod.  Nuo, sa!  A chruu im nuo se dat a di ongl wod fi fit di shituashan. ‘Depraved’, ‘villainous’ an ‘base’ no soun so trang laka ‘miscreant.’

Di Oxford English Dictionary kliems se dat de wod gaan out a stail – siem laka aal a prinsipl wa John stan fa, mi ges.  Bot weda im uol-fashin ar nat, John did nuo se wen yu a rait fi nyuuspiepa yu ha fi tel di chruut.  Yu kyaan friedi-friedi.

Yu si dem so-kaal ‘jornalis’ huu naa no korij! John wuda kaal dem ‘feckless’! (Yes, ‘e’ no ‘u’).  Siem laka di palitishan dem uu no kier bout notn bot big op dem stietos. John mek a makri a dem.

Maxwell kuda smel koropshan wie dong di ruod.  An it did swiit im fi ‘call a spade a bloody shovel.’ John Maxwell neva stap dig op wi ‘fali’ grong.  Di huol a wi a go mis im.


Dear David,

Nuff thanks for the positive vibes.  The basic answer to your question about why we carry on so bad about accepting our Jamaican language is plain old “mental slavery,” as Marcus Garvey put it so eloquently.  We just can’t deal with the fact that speakers of various African languages who were forced to learn various dialects of English adapted the new language to suit their African tongues.

And you know that with our colonised mentality some of us still feel that “notn black no good.” A related explanation is that those people who managed to learn English feel that they are superior to those who didn’t. English speakers have a ‘language’ and other people have nothing but a ‘sub-standard’, ‘broken’, ‘corrupt’ piece of foolishness. And people who speak this ‘sub-standard’ language are, obviously, ‘sub-standard’ too! Is pure class prejudice.

Anyhow, me an di Gleaner fall out again; they keep ‘fixing up’ what I write for no good reason.  They cut out a whole section from last week’s column with the word ‘jook’ – claiming that it was inappropriate for a family newspaper.  As if little children don’t know about sex.  I guess it would be OK for The Star.  Such hypocrisy!  Funnily enough, they kept ‘slam.’  Now you tell me what’s the difference between ‘slam’ and ‘jook’?  They are both Jamaican metaphors for sex.  I was writing about ‘Gender-biased condoms’ and making the point about the high cost of the female condom:

If it’s the female condom you’re depending on

Women can’t go on like men

Let me tell you the truth

I’m not going to lie

Women don’t fizzle like men

Women don’t flop like men

Women last longer than men

But if it’s the female condom you’re depending on

Women can’t go on like men.

Now listen to me!

3 male condoms, 60 dollars

3 female condoms, 400 dollars

What kind of wicked division is that?

Let’s turn it around.

600  dollars – 4 female condoms

600  dollars – 30 male condoms

No wonder the men are slamming all about

They have the money to back up their mouth:

1 jook – 20 dollars

2 jook – 40 dollars

3 jook – 60 dollars

If it’s the female condom you’re depending on

Women can’t jook like men

1 jook – 120 dollars

2 jook – 240  dollars

Jook, jook, jook – money’s done!

The money for the female condom

Finishes quick, quick, quick

The money for the male condom

The man can’t finish it

The man is finished long before

The supply of condoms

Anyhow, I’m fed up of the facetiness and high-handedness of the Opinion page editor, so I’m now writing for my blog instead.



Jacket . . . Or Full Suit? Paternity Testing From a Jamaican Perspective

Mrs. Sonia King, retired Head of the Paternity Testing Unit at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, has written a wicked little book in which she reveals some of the truly entertaining cases she worked on for more than three decades.  This is edutainment at its best!

In Jamaica, the term ‘jacket’ is used to describe a child whose alleged father is not, in fact, the biological father.  Surprisingly, given the extent of false paternity in the society, the Dictionary of Jamaican English does not have an entry on this colourful term.

I’m not sure of the origin of the image of the ‘jacket.’  But it does suggest the straitjacket that many a man is forced to wear when a woman fingers him as the father of her child.  ‘Jacket’ also suggests the formal dress code of British ‘respectability’ that the man is required to submit to.

Of course, in some instances, men who consistently ‘fire blank’ are quite proud to claim children they could not possibly have fathered. So, in this instance, the jacket allows the man to ‘brandish’ sexual potency. There are jackets and jackets.

In the very first chapter, “Whose Jacket?,” Mrs King tells the sad, but also very funny, story of how she got the title of the book.  It came from a man who had done a paternity test to prove to his doubting wife that his ‘outside’ child was really his.  She had had a child before they had married but her husband had not been able to impregnate her.  So she had long wondered about his fertility.  They lived in  England and she couldn’t understand how he suddenly became fertile after a holiday in Jamaica.

Mrs. King relates the story of giving the man and his wife the test results:  “I explained that each child inherited exactly 50% of his or her genetic material from each parent.  So although we did not test the mother (because she refused), our test system was still reliable in determining paternity.  The biological father must give a match at each genetic point examined.  The mother would have provided the other marker observed at each point.  A man who did not match at even one point would be excluded as the father, even if all other genetic points showed a match.  There must be a match at every single point.

“I then proceeded to point out the different genetic points on my worksheet and there were many ‘no match’ areas.  All of a sudden I became aware that the silence had become deafening.  Before this stage there had been a lot of animated chatter.  Needless to say, this man was devastated, as he had spent quite a lot of money over the years caring for ‘his’ child.  The child had attended prep school (not primary) and all his financial needs had been taken care of.  As I turned to look at the couple, the husband remarked, ‘Miss King, dat a no jacket! Dat a full suit!!!’”

Jacket . . . Or Full Suit?  Paternity Testing From a Jamaican Perspective will be launched this Tuesday, December 7, at 6:30 p.m.  at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.  The venue is the Undercroft of the Senate Building.  The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

Jamiekan Vorzhan: Jakit . . . Ar Ful Suut?

Mrs. Sonia King, shi did hed op di Paternity Testing Unit a UC.  Shi ritaiya nou.  An shi rait wan wikid likl buk bout som a di ded-wid-laaf kies dem shi wok pan fi uova torti ier.   Dis a miks op an blenda fi chruu:  edikieshan pan tap a plenti bos-beli juok.

Ina Jamieka, ‘jakit’ a wan pikni huufa riel-riel faada niem no kaal.  A wan neks man get di pikni.  Wi ha so moch jakit ina disya konchri, mi soprais fi si se Dictionary of Jamaican English no ha notn fi se bout dis ya bouns-aal-roun wod.

Mi no nuo a huu kom op wid di jakit pikcha.  It soun laik di striet-jakit wid di lang sliev, we dem tai bak a mad piipl fi huoI dem doun.  A so di uman dem tai doun di man dem wen dem paint finga pan dem, se a fi dem pikni.

Pan tap a dat, jakit soun laik jres op kluoz – jakit an tai.  Yu nuo ou di Ingglish piipl dem lov fi wier jakit an tai – aal ina son hat – chruu dem fiil se di jakit mek dem luk laka smadi.

Stil far aal, som a di man dem we a faiya blank, dem wel an glad fi kliemz di pikni dem.  Di man kyan gu a striit go brandish im jakit.  Mek piipl nuo se im a lik shat.  So a no aal jakit no fit dem uona.

Ina di fos-fos chapta, “Huufa Jakit?,” Mrs King tel wan sad stuori – bot i foni tu – bout ou shi get di taikl fi di buk.  A wan man we du wan patorniti tes fi pruov tu im waif se a im a di faada a im ‘outsaid’ pikni.  Di waif neva biliiv se a fi im pikni. Shii did av wan pikni bifuor dem did marid.  An aal di taim dem marid, shi no get pregnant. So a lang taim shi a wonda bout di man.  Dem did liv iina Ingglan a shi kudn andastan ou im go get pikni aal af a sodn aafta im kom a Jamieka im wan pon halidie.

Hier ou Mrs. King tel di stuori bout wapn wen shi gi di man an im waif di tes risolt:  “Mi eksplien tu dem dat pikni get haaf a dem strokcha fram dem muma an di neks haaf fram dem pupa.  Wi neva tes di muma  (caa shi se shi naa dwiit).  Stil far aal, di tes a go tel di chruut.  Di riil-riil faada ha fi mach pan evri wan a di paint dem pon di tes.  Di mada uda mach pan di res a di paint dem.  If di man no mach pan wan dege-dege paint – no mata omoch ada paint im mach pan – a no im a di pupa.

“Mi staat fi paint out aal a di paint dem pon di piepa, an nof a dem no match. Aal af a sodn, di plies kwaiyat, kwaiyat.  Nobadi naa chat, chat.  Di puor man haat sink.  Aafta im spen so moch moni a luk aafta di pikni so lang, a no fi im.  Di pikni go a prep skuul – no praimeri skuul.  Evriting di pikni niid, di ‘pupa’ gi im.  Wen mi tun an luk pan di man an di uman, di man dis gi out se, ‘Miss King, dat a no jakit! Dat a ful suut!!!’”

Jacket . . . Or Full Suit?  Paternity Testing From a Jamaican Perspective a go laanch disya Chuusde, Disemba 7, a 6:30 p.m.  op a Yuunivorsiti a di Wes Indiiz, Muona, Jamieka.  Di venyu a di Aandakraaft a di Senit Bildin.  Di huol a unu fi kom.   An unu no ha fi pie notn fi kom iin.