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What’s in a name?

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by Marlon Bute 20.MAR.09

I wouldn’t dare to compete with two of our finest columnists, Bassy and Dr. John, each a “senior citizen” and their belly busting pieces on nicknames, but am “curious” why there is a preponderance of letter writers to the newspapers who hide behind pen names. In this instance, I am like a “man about town”, full of questions and no answers!{{more}}

But, really, as a ‘well-wisher” of freedom of speech, do these readers think that their pieces are so explosive that their identity shouldn’t be revealed? I really don’t know, but it would appear to me that being “Mystic”, after taking time to craft a letter, and asking many to read it, and believe it, is wishing too much. A little openness, like Joel H Jack, and his views on capital punishment, is quite constructive, while “Visionary” shows real short-sightedness in his blind call for Mitchell to re-enter politics.

Still, isn’t it time for us to have the guts to stand by what we write, however divergent the viewpoint. Either way, the least some readers could do is display a little creativity when choosing a name, like, Amos Johnstone, an ardent supporter of Ralph, did. Not so, this “John Smith” who seems to have just pulled his name out a hat, but delivered a fine piece, that touched on Bassy’s humour and sharpness, and his ingenious coinage, “jumbie airport”.

And, then, I guess “Concerned Citizen” doesn’t care enough to come public. Certainly not a Kingsley Defritas, who comes through in a plain, simple and honest way, letting the chips fall where they may. And though I do not intend to disparage those who use pen-names, this “Scrutineer” guy or gal, who so bellicosely called the Leader of the Opposition a coward, should scrutinise himself in the mirror, and see why he didn’t come forward.

Yet, I am having difficulty seeing how “A Patriotic Vincy” wouldn’t love his country to the point of putting his name on paper. So the DPP’s office is understaffed, just say so and put your name, no one is going to prosecute you for it. Some persecution might come your way, though.

Then there is “A Teacher at NUSS”, who took cover and used a pen name, albeit, in an impressive piece in the Searchlight, to slash and burn Israel Bruce and Otto Sam. Two men, by the way, who do seem to have vision and foresight and who when they write, sign their names. I can’t speak for either, but I bet that Israel and Otto want “A Teacher at NUSS” to come out of hiding, and show whose pen is mightier!

We have all sorts of nameless experts. Readers are given a crash course in mixing concrete, and the government gets free advice on how to cut expenditure by an “Ex Road Builder and Bridge Builder”. Maybe next week an “Ex-Police” would instruct us how to slow down the staggering crime rate and rather than the NDP pointing all blame to the ULP, even for the murder of a 14-year-old school boy, an “Ex-ocial worker” would tell us how to find hope in these desperate times and tackle challenges head on. Then what good is a “Community Activist”, who doesn’t want to be known? Maybe, eventually, he would come out, decide to hit the street corners, the alleys and the highways, to mobilise and organise the youth, just like Andrew Simmons has dutifully done for years.

At the end of the day, readers’ pen names will come in all shades, like some of the nicknames of our younger generation. Many of us went to school with an “Animal” or grew up with one. I remember “Fowl”, “Dog”, even a “Mad Dog”, “Horse”, “Goat” and “Monkey”, not a real donkey, but a “Rubber Donkey”, no cats, but a “Puss”, and a “Rat” from Trinidad, and a Barbadian “Manicou”. In our village we didn’t have just an ape; we had a “Queen Ape”. And, there is a case of a boy who became known as “Good Morning Donkey”- after being flogged for not telling an old man riding a donkey good morning – he came to thereafter let out a chirpy: “Good morning donkey, good morning old man,” when they passed by. And, there was no sparing you if you had an oversized body part or an unbridled tendency. I knew more than one “Nose”, a pair of “Legs”, a “Guts” who liked to eat, “Double Ugly” who wasn’t so ugly, “Piece ah man” who was a whole man, and “High Wind” who was indeed swift.

In the end, I remain a “Man on the Ground”, not suspended in air, and appreciate the fact that readers have real fear. Keep writing!

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