by Peter Johnson

“The wee yin fell right on his bahookie.” At first glance, this appears to be a sentence constructed using the English language. It has the definite article, ‘the’, the verb ‘fell’, the preposition ‘on’, but what about the rest?  It translates as “The little one fell on his bum”.

Bill Bryson, in his 1990 publication ‘The Mother Tongue’, wrote ‘More than 300 million people in the world speak English, and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to.’  From there, he cited examples of various attempts by those not so familiar with the language.  Consider this hearty announcement in a Yugoslavian hotel, “The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chamber-maid. Turn to her straightaway.“

“For non-English speakers everywhere, English has become the common tongue.  Even in France, the most determinedly non-English-speaking nation in the world, the war against English encroachment has been lost.”

New words are added all the time.  Some last, some do not.  Many are just downright wonderful. Like ‘bahookie’. Where on earth did the Scots come up with that one?  Another gem is ‘cockwomble’. That one is interesting; I’ll come back to that momentarily.

Consider this–sounds like R.E.M., singing ‘Losing My Religion’, doesn’t it?  “Dunna be blate; glaep yun down.”  Translation: “Don’t be shy; eat up.”  Or, “It’s a braw day for a dauner” is, “It’s a lovely day for a walk”. “Dreak” is dreary, gloomy or dull; “fankle” can mean tangled, but….what, on the cobbled High Street of Linlithgow, does “cockwomble” mean?  Ah well, let me help you here.

“ Cockwomble, noun, a person, usually male, prone to making outrageously stupid statements, and/or inappropriate behaviour while generally having a very high opinion of their own wisdom and importance.”

I first came across this word on Facebook…a place some call ‘the home of cowardly character assassination’. If the word ‘cock’ originally came to us from French for a rooster, and if roosters appear to strut, then perhaps the origin of the word begins there. Sadly, these words on the oft-times slanderous broadsheet were used below a picture of Pierre Poilievre.

The Conservative Party of Canada, in its infinite wisdom, decided that he was the man best suited to be their leader. I am no fan of Mr. Poilievre. Going back to the time that he was Stephen Harper’s hitman, and Mr. Harper was doing everything he could to bi-pass the parliamentary process, thus undermining our form of democracy, Pierre was happy to help. Some have compared his language and politics to the nefarious and possibly criminal former U.S. President, good old #45. I think that this is insulting.

When we look south of our border, we see a broken country, fractured. They can’t even talk to each other. Are we headed that way too?  Not just with the evolution of our ever-changing language, but with our thinking–with our lack of tolerance for each other?  The tone and intolerance that we see with Americans is finding its way right here into our small community.

The attacks on civic officials is one example. The people writing for this paper have targets on their backs as well. In a month celebrating Gay Pride, everyone has to watch every single little thing that they say.  ‘I am offended’, or ‘That offends me’, has brought about a new level of censorship to almost all discourse.  They don’t let a bit of truth or civility get in the way of their crusade to a place called ‘Politically-Correct-Purgatory’. I am tempted to say, ‘kiss my bahookie’ but that would be crass as well as impolite, so I shan’t. Instead, I should say, ‘Let’s talk. Let’s be more tolerant and less judgmental.’

Everyone has the right to be offended. Of course, but those rights do not pre-empt or negate the rights of others to freedom of speech and the freedom to express their own opinions. Thoughtfulness, civility and compassion should be part of the discourse. In short, ‘Dinna fash yersel…dinna be a numpty nor a nugget.’


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