Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 5th 2013 Contents B7
May 5, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
In answer to the usual greeting: "How are
you?" or "How re you doing?" I often reply: "I m
carrying on regardless!"
Some people are quite mystified, but other, more
self-confident enquirers laughingly respond, "You
mean irregardless," and we both laugh happily,
sharing the joke.
I know that my friend knows it s a joke because
that s what "irregardless" is---a joke! It is a play
on the two words "irrespective" and "regardless,"
making them one word---a clever conjunction of
two words of similar meaning. It was bandied
about as a clever piece of word play, but has always
been known to be incorrect.
So those who use it seriously have missed the
joke---the joke is on them.
Talking about jokes on words, there are many
that Trinis make, eg, "Give me a Cokes." Most
people know that that s a joke (unfortunately not
everyone knows that it is) but many say words
that are funny, like "Back in times" instead of
"Back in time".
I guess it has to do with the Trini propensity
for adding an "s" to words, such as currants rolls.
I put God out of my thoughts one day and cor-
rected a vendor on Frederick Street, telling her:
"It s not currants rolls---it s currant rolls," to which
she replied, "Is not one currant ah does put in it.
Is plenty, plenty currant ah does put in it."
Served me right!
Seriously, though, there are some noteworthy
words to which Trinis add an "s," making it no
joke and one of them that springs to mind is the
demonstrative pronoun "mine." They say "This
is mines," instead of "This is mine."
Why mines? I guess they don t realise that the
only mines are in the book King Solomon s Mines
(I couldn t resist that jibe, which I heard a teacher
tell a child one day) and that the trap among the
demonstrative pronouns is that one of those pro-
nouns is not like the others---and that one is "mine."
The others all end with "s"---yours (singular), his,
hers, its, ours, yours (plural), theirs.
Mine is the exception and please, "mines" is
I was speaking to someone this week, someone
who disappointed me greatly by saying, "The green
ones are yours; the red ones are mines." My heart
flipped and my shoulders dropped, but there was
nothing I could say without embarrassing her. It
was to me as bad as saying "sheeps" or" deers"
for sheep or deer.
Some time ago in one of my courses, I included
"furniture" among words (collective nouns, really)
to which "s" is not added to form the plural and
could hardly restrain my mirth when one of the
course participants, a mature lady, put up her
hand and asked seriously, "So, if you have a room
with a lot of desks and chairs, stools and tables,
you will still call them furniture?"
Her face fell when I nodded and said, "Yes! Fur-
niture. That s it. Never furnitures."
The English language rides again with its idio-
syncrasies and exceptions to the rule. In English,
one must know not only the rule but the exception
to the rule---as in most of these cases.
So, to sum up there are words that, like sheep,
have no "s" added in the plural: deer, mine, a
Coke, furniture, equipment.
Am I omitting any? Please let me know.
Not one currant
Following the lead of its social-network
owner, Instagram introduced a new photo-
tagging feature to let members add people,
things, and brands to the photos they upload
and share on the service.
The new feature, called Photos of You, is
essentially the photo-sharing service s colourful
interpretation on tagging.
App users can tag any Instagram account in
their shots---be it a friend, cat, or burger joint---
during the photo upload process.
Those tagged in photos receive notifications
and can choose whether to publicly display the
images on their own Instagram profiles in a
new section aptly titled, Photos of You.
"When you upload a photo to Instagram,
you re now able to add people as easily as you
add hashtags," the company wrote in a blog
"Only you can add people to your photos, so
you have control over the images you share.
And it doesn t stop at people---you can add any
account on Instagram, whether it s your best
friend, favourite coffee shop or even that adorable
dog you follow."
The feature adds a highly personal dimension
to Instagram as it turns photo-sharing into more
of a group activity. (CNet)
brand tags with
Recently, a young man came to fix my
computer and when he came upon my
writings and the subject that currently
holds my attention, he told me that he
would be "frighten" to speak to me now.
That gave me pause because there he
was, adept at his job, doing wonders with
the computer and there was I, all thumbs.
I told him so and I realised that I must
make my intentions clear to all who read
my column. My intention is not to embar-
rass or to be judgemental, but to em-
power readers and lift their standards in
speech and writing and make them feel
confident and capable of understanding
and expressing themselves in English, the
language that our tortuous history has by
chance made our own.
Standard English language has to be
learned and practised; the rules can be
daunting and difficult, though not impos-
sible to master. I want to help to make
users of the language confident and reas-
sured, as I know the difference it makes to
be so uplifted. I am sympathetic because I
was brought up by a very strict aunt who
would not brook "slackness" with written
or spoken language. I am also sympa-
thetic because I know, looking back, that I
was fortunate to learn more English later
at tertiary level. Furthermore, I had to
learn it and continue to do so in order to
teach the thousands whom I have taught.
I wish everyone well and, if I hear or see
a mistake, I feel sorry that I had not inter-
vened earlier. I realise how difficult it is
verbally to correct anyone who is now
part of the workforce, dressed impeccably
and in high heels or a jacketed executive
or CEO. There's no other way, apart from
this silent outreach medium, to mention
that you just don't say or write this or
that. Through this medium, one word to
the wise or even the not-so-wise should
It is important for me to add this: I love
the dialect or Creole, as it is called nowa-
days. I learned to love it when I was
abroad studying in Canada and later living
in England and would hear it by chance
and be warmed and comforted by its fa-
miliar sing-song nuance and rhythm.
Every language has a home language that
we learn with mother's milk. There is no
restraining set of rules to confine us, but
that is the challenge that we face with our
Standard English language. There are
some gaps we need to fill. I am willing and
able to bring these to our readers' atten-
tion and to ask them to seek my help if
they need to do so. The English language
is the international language and we are
very lucky that our knotty history has
made us heir to it. Trust me, with time
and with learned power over its vagaries,
we can learn to love it, too.
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