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Some Reflections Over Easter


The Catholic Bishop and the Word ‘Dotish’

During the Holy Week period, I heard briefly, courtesy Nice Radio, part of what I assumed were some reflections on Easter by the Catholic Bishop. After addressing a particular issue, he told the congregation that in Trinidad they called such people (a reference to the issue he was speaking about) ‘dotish’. He then asked if they knew the word ‘dotish’ and what it meant. I am referring to this simply to make a small comment about a matter that has always caught my attention.{{more}}

Caribbean people somehow seem to think that words used in their particular country are unique to that country, but most of them are commonly used in most parts of the region. In the case of Trinidad, because of the large migration that had been taking place from countries of the Eastern Caribbean, some of these words and also songs/calypsoes had originated elsewhere and taken there by migrants to that country.

The Oxford English Dictionary drew reference to the West Indian meaning of ‘dotish’, which is ‘stupid ‘ or ‘silly’. So, of course this is a word commonly used in our discourse, sometimes simply to put down an opponent or an opposing point of view.

Having said all of that, it is true that many Trinidadian words, songs and cultural practices came to our countries. There was a period when the Trinidadian Radio Stations dominated the airwaves. In fact, those were all we listened to, so that many of the slangs from Trinidad crept into our vocabulary. Even the evolution of our Carnival owed a lot to Trinidad, with our Road March tunes coming from that country. Changes in our timing of Carnival and also changes in technology which made it difficult for us to access Trinidad Radio stations have changed a lot of this. I remember the days when young men patterned themselves after Trinidadians carrying wash rags hanging from their pockets. I believe also that the uncomfortable pointed tip shoes that we used to wear was a result of the Trinidadian influence. How can one forget the gold teeth in our mouths!

There were two gentlemen from Barrouallie who had gained a reputation in Trinidad as ‘badjohns’. Whenever they came to St Vincent, in particular to Barrouallie, they not only had admiring fans but young persons who were willing to ape them in every way possible. The fact that two young men from our yard could gain such a reputation in Trinidad meant something and made some people proud. While on this issue, I must also mention that many of the same fruits, plants and foods abound throughout the region, although called in some places by different names. So in Jamaica, golden apples are called june plums, sapodillas naseberries, and plumrose otaheite apples. In the same way that the Trinidad radio stations helped to populate our vocabularies with Trinidad slangs and terms, so today the popularity of Jamaican music is doing the same thing.

The Christian Council’s Easter Message

The Council’s Easter Message captioned “Easter speaks to ‘the now’…today” appeared in last weekend’s newspapers. The message ends by calling on all persons to acknowledge their true purpose, “…which is to serve God and contribute to human wellbeing by: being instruments of reconciliation; being more charitable in our public discourse; in daily life and work pursuing standards of integrity and credibility that supersede the law: and working to transform our nation and by extension the world that all people may have a meaningful existence.” I have singled this out because it corresponds to some thinking within the Atheist community. Nicholas D Kristof in an article in the New York Times claims to have detected a “grudging admiration for religion as an ethical and cohesive force”. He quoted from a book by Alain de Botton; “One can be left cold by the doctrines of the Christian

Trinity and the Buddhist Eightfold Path and yet at the same time be interested in the ways in which religions deliver sermons, promote morality, engender a spirit of community, make use of art and architecture, inspire travels, train minds and encourage gratitude at the beauty of spring,” The author points to one of the errors of modern atheism – “to overlook how many aspects of the faiths remain relevant even after their central tenets have been dismissed…” They might not agree on the existence of God or on the hereafter but aspects of the Christian philosophy of life have some meaning for them. It is unfortunate that for many Christians Easter is simply a ritual, nothing more.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.