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Ignorant of the correct use of English Language

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22.FEB.08

Editor: The discussion that has been going on in our society over the last few months about the word “poky” really has me disappointed. It seems to me that those persons who feel that the Prime Minister’s use of the word was disrespectful can be grouped into two categories: (1) the ignorant (2) the intellectually dishonest.{{more}}

Different arguments are being proffered to support the view that the Prime Minister was being disrespectful. I will try to address the two main arguments.

  • Argument #1: It is a vulgar word and should not be used.

A caller to We FM on Wednesday gave the analogy of the four-letter word which begins with the letter c. She said the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines that word as “an unpleasant or stupid person”. The caller said that even if that is the meaning of the word, decent people don’t go around using that word to describe a person. She is right. But she then went on to say that the same thing applies to the word poky. That is intellectual dishonesty. Firstly, she conveniently forgot to say that the Concise Oxford Dictionary clearly notes that the “c” word is vulgar. In some editions, it says “A highly taboo word”. There is no decent usage of that “c” word in the English Language. There is no such annotation for poky in any of the dictionary’s editions.

  • Argument #2: The word “poky” has a particular meaning in the Vincentian context. It should therefore not be used.

“Poky” is defined by the same Concise Oxford Dictionary as small and cramped (of a room). Just because 100,000 Vincentians understand one of the meanings of the word to be “vagina”, does that mean that poky cannot be used with its standard English interpretation? Tell that to the 375 million other people around the world for whom English is their first language. To them, poky only has one meaning. Some of us speak to a wider audience than the 10 guys on the block.

It all has to do with the context in which the word is used. The word “ass” can be used in a derogatory manner, or it can be used quite decently. Is there anything wrong is saying “Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass?”

Take again the word “malicious”. To some people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it means inquisitive, a person prone to gossip, etc. The Concise Oxford Dictionary, however, defines that word as “intending or intended to do harm”. So just because I live in St. Vincent, I am not allowed to use the word with its standard English meaning? Think about it. It is all about context.

Therefore, describing the Kingstown Public Library as being situated in a poky hole was quite in order and not at all indecent.

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