Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sycophants and yardfowls


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I GREW UP among yard fowls. I benefited from the nutrition in their eggs and their flesh.

I used to feel sorry for them the way my grandmother wrung their necks, picked their feathers – which filled her soft pillows – and disembowelled them in preparation for many a Sunday lunch.

I preferred yard fowls to ducks, though. Try walking across a yard at midnight on your way to the external toilet without a strong searchlight!

Then, suddenly, sometime around the early 1960s, the yard fowl found her way into the local political lexicon: she became a metaphor. I first heard that figure of speech by the late Right Excellent Sir Frank Walcott, whose large contribution to our social and political life we have been celebrating this week. Few handled Bajan political vernacular as colourfully as Sir Frank.

As the presence of yard fowls dwindled as some Barbadians moved into the heights and terraces, they assumed a new position (but with less respect) in the realm of our polarised partisan politics.

Ever the connoisseur of language, our Prime Minister has suddenly, publicly, taken issue with that metaphor, even though he knows that not all supporters of political parties – no matter how devoted – can be considered yard fowls.

All right, let’s change the name, but I doubt if the creature will suddenly disappear.

If Mr Stuart keeps his promise to stamp out the sordid practice of vote buying and selling, by killing two yard fowls with one stone, he might begin the process of weeding them out . . . but I suspect, in name only.

He might have to settle for “hacks” or “hangers-on” or some other more palatable word.

Of one thing I am sure: as long as there is scratch grain, there will be yard fowls.

What about “sycophants”, Prime Minister? That’s your type of word!




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