Let Me Be More Pacific

By Rogan Smith |
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Poor Grammar

Why we is talk so bad? Nothing kills me more than people who don’t speak properly but always want to act cute and say words that make absolutely no sense.

They pronounce every syllable in that word and then look at you like you’re dumb when you’re looking at them like they’re dumb.

I’ve sat in hundreds of meetings throughout my career. If you’ve ever sat in a meeting that you didn’t want to attend, you know how boring it can get. So, to relieve the tedium, I listen out for grammatical errors.

One thing I have concluded is that Bahamians like to talk about oceans.

During a meeting, a former colleague told our boss that she wasn’t able to do her job properly because he wasn’t pacific about what he wanted. My boss’ eyes immediately locked with mine because he knows how I go. He then stressed that he had been very specific about what he wanted. To which she responded, “well, maybe you need to be more pacific about the pacifics.” After that meeting, he and I shared the biggest joke.

I get irritated when I see grammatical errors and have no qualms correcting people. I don’t do it because I want to show people up. I do it because I want them to speak better and not embarrass themselves in public.

Fire Distinguisher. A relative of mine called me to find out if I were going to AID on the weekend because she wanted a fire distinguisher. I wasn’t sure if she wanted a fire extinguisher or a device that would help her distinguish one fire from another. Every time I corrected her, she defaulted to her original word. You can’t save ‘em all.

But, You’re A School. During one of my early morning commutes through an inner-city area, I got stuck in traffic. With nothing to do and not in the mood to listen to the radio, I started looking around. That’s when I spotted a school’s billboard that read, “We’ll help you master procrastination.” I had to read it again. I don’t know that anyone is really interested in mastering procrastination. Conquering it, yes. But, mastering . . . I don’t know. I can just imagine the enrollees signing up because all their lives their teachers and bosses told them they had to be decisive and stop procrastinating. But, here’s a school that is charging tuition to help students master it. Every time I pass that sign I want to call the administrator to tell him to pull it down. But, it gives me jokes, so I don’t bother. Besides, they should know better.

Gone To Soon. Bahamians seem to have a thing for printing T-shirts when someone dies and apparently, they don’t believe in proofreading before going to print. Now, I will blame this error on the fact that the T-shirt designer may have been grieving and was not in his or her right state of mind. Either that or “soon” is a destination and that’s where the deceased went. I’ve also had the privilege of wearing a shirt that said, “Ress in peace, bro.” I couldn’t attend the funeral in good conscience without wearing the shirt. So, me and the “ress” of the people wore the shirts. I was smart, though. I hid behind the tall person so no one would see me.

Would Have. This is another one that Bahamians of a certain ilk seem to be in love with. I once sat through an entire presentation where a woman felt the need to utter this phrase repeatedly, incorrectly and with such authority. I won’t repeat her exact phrasing because that will identify her, but it was something like this:

“As you can see, we would have put this amount in your account and you would have taken out $500 and we would have made the adjustments to your statement.” The whole time she was talking, I wondered, well, why didn’t you? The phrase “would have” suggests that you didn’t do it. Like, “I would have gone to Miami, but I didn’t have the money.” So, please people, stop saying this. It sounds ridiculous and it is incredibly incorrect in this context.

I always travel with a pen, just in case I have an idea and need to write it down. But, my pen came in handy a few days ago while in a local clothing store.

While in the changing room I noticed a sign that said, “You are responsible for all damage to close.” I knew what I had to do. I quietly unzipped my purse, pulled out my pen and started making corrections to the sign. I guess I got too quiet because the salesgirl kept asking me if I were ok. I later snuck inside the other changing room and noticed that the other stall had the same sign. I corrected that one, too.

Expired. You’ve got to love police officers. One would think an officer would reference the word expired in the context of a person’s driver’s license or a registration. But, alas, nothing is ever that simple. Listen to the crime report, It’s the same script.

“At approximately 6:45 a.m. in the morning (by the way, this is redundant. If you use a.m. there’s no need for morning) police officers were called to West Bay Street after residents reported gunshots being fired. When we arrived on the scene, we met a male lying in a pool of blood. He expired at the scene.”

Expired conjures up thoughts of expired milk. It would have been simpler and perhaps a little more sensitive to the deceased person’s relatives to just say he died at the scene.

I hope no nobody was offended by this column. I wrote this to help you, not hurt you. If you still have questions or need further clarification please feel free to send me an email me so that I can be more pacific.

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7 Replies to “Let Me Be More Pacific”

  1. While listening online to Guardian Radio during the crisis of Hurricane Dorian, I could not help but be taken aback by the speech impediments and poor grammar spoken by so many people, not only by the callers phoning in to the talk shows, but–worst of all–by some of the presumably educated guests behind the studio microphone, particularly stuttering and stammering such as “let…let…let me say that…”, and “I…I…I…should mention that…”, etc. It even seemed as if each guest along with the hosts could not help but reinforce each other’s stuttering and stammering as if it was somehow the normal or “quaint” or “colloquial” way of expressing oneself. Inexplicably, it was more men than women who suffered these faults. What is the reason for this unprofessional phenomenon? Are children in school not taught proper grammar or how to express themselves without stuttering and stammering? Voice coaches could make a fortune with an endless supply of patients. Strangely, even many of the commercial on Guardian Radio feature people speaking “pigeon English” to promote Bahamian services and products. To some it may sound amusing, but, to my ears at least, I cringe.

    1. Hello Norman. Thank you for your response. I absolutely agree with you. It’s pretty bad. You asked if children aren’t taught proper grammar. The answer is, it depends on who is teaching them. I have spoken to many teachers at both public and private schools, and you would not believe the way they speak. My niece attends a public primary school and she often tells me how she has to correct the teacher. My entire family speaks properly around her. So, she knows better. The teacher often speaks poorly. I said I am going to go up there and have a little chat, because this is nuts. As for the radio commercials, that’s another story. I enjoy them sometimes, but they often overdo it. Thank you for your comment!

  2. Thanks to you, Rogan, for your quick reply. Regarding the pervasiveness of bad grammar, mispronunciation, and the use of malaprops (deliberately or otherwise) which seem to plague the media just about everywhere, as I continued to monitor Guardian Radio’s coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, I was stupefied this morning to hear one of their normally well-spoken talk-show hosts say the word “ask” but then immediately “correct” himself by saying “axe” instead! What is it about the word “ask” that tangles the tongues of so many? Okay, this may seem like nit-picking on my part, but I hear that particular blunder so often that I almost want to scream. Is it perhaps they are suffering a physical disability with their jaw muscles? While it is understandable that not everyone has the capability to express themselves in the King’s English (and I do not claim to be an expert, either), but I do suspect that some people DELIBERATELY mispronounce some popular words incorrectly in order to “impress” others, somehow proving that they are “cool”, i.e. “Hey…I can speak jive just like YOU, bro! See, I ain’t no pompous stuffed shirt.”. One can only wonder how a bank officer might react to someone sitting in their office “axing” for a loan: “Hey, mon…you gon gimme some cyash or is I got to go axe a loan shark or somting, mon?!”. But, anyway, having conjured up a perhaps overly-cynical scenario, I think that my faith in humanity has not yet been completely eroded–yet. After all, even illiterates may be entitled to a bank loan, so long as they are a good risk. 🙂

    1. Norman, I don’t view your comments as being overly cynical or critical. You are speaking the truth and I thank you for it. It is incredibly frustrating for me as well. As a journalist, I take my job very seriously. I know communication is a huge part of what I do. I, too, sit in my car cringing every single time I hear a “seasoned” journalist make mistakes, particularly to the most basic words. I think you may be on to something. Some people do it to appear more down with the people. Others, simply don’t know better and no one corrects them. I always say you have to be bilingual. There’s a place for Bahamian vernacular and there’s a place for proper English. You have me cracking up over the word, “axe.” Unless they are referring to a tool to chop down a tree, I have no idea why they say it. Thanks again for the commentary! Be safe!

      XOXO,

      Rogan

  3. Today, as expected, there was a lot of “axing” on Juan McCartney’s Revolution program on Guardian Radio.
    His guest who shall remain unnamed, also opined that “…Hurricane Dorian was a catastrophe of magnanimous proportions.”. Arrgh! (eyes rolling yet?) (Poor Juan didn’t correct him, either, by the way, although I must say I do enjoy Juan’s aggressive style). But, good grief, I seriously believe that some of the people I’ve been hearing lately ought to be performing stand-up comedy–or perhaps sent to a boot camp for good grammar. 😉

    1. Ha ha. Some people just don’t want to do better. Actually, I take that back. They just don’t know any better. You’re in for a long ride, my friend. I’m still laughing at “magnanimous.” LOL.

  4. Not to be overly-critical, but I do think that the use of vernacular or colloquial speech in radio and TV advertising (although perhaps unwittingly intended to be humorous or “quaint”) only serves to promote and maintain negative stereotypes. I can only wonder how school children react when hearing those pigeon-English commercials. Do the kids laugh or roll their eyes in dismay, I wonder? More importantly, what do their teachers think? I notice that even Guardian Radio’s Juan McCartney will intentionally blurt out some “jive talk” from time to time but I get the distinct feeling he’s only doing so tongue-in-cheek to appease those listeners who are less intellectually-endowed.

    I’m sure you are aware of how in North America there is ongoing controversy as to how people of various races or nationalities should be presented in a dignified and not detrimental way by the media. That being said, while I for one have no problem enjoying, for example, those wonderful, classic Charlie Chan films of the 1930s and ’40s, some pressure groups can’t resist raising a ruckus whenever any broadcaster dares to air them (sadly, in fact, few do anymore). If such zealots had their way, they’d have those films banned outright (so thank goodness for YouTube!).

    What they fail to understand or rationalize, of course, is that those aforementioned vintage films and others similar of a bygone era were NEVER INTENDED to be “racist”, despite what some conspiracy theorists insist they were–“secretly” or “subliminally”. Furthermore, I have no doubt that character actors like Keye Luke, Victor Sen Young, Mantan Moreland, Willy Best, Stepin Fetchit, et al, were quite happy and comfortable to perform their comedic roles, that they were well-paid for it and could have refused if they’d felt uncomfortable.

    Indeed, some years ago I played a Charlie Chan film to a Chinese friend of mine who had never seen one before, and he broke up laughing. 🙂

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