Re­spect­fully, Your Ejus­dem Generis Is Use­less, Dr. John

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Neville Cenac

In your at­tempt to re­ply to my bona fides ar­ti­cle “Re­cur­rent Stu­pid­ity” Or “That Re­cur­rent Stu­pid­ity” in The Voice and The Star of even date, 30th July last, you sought refuge in that im­por­tant rule in the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of statutes, ejus­dem generis, which means: “where spe­cific words are fol­lowed by gen­eral words then the lat­ter must be in­ter­preted in the light of the for­mer”. I humbly sug­gest, that in so far as it is in­tended to aid in in­ter­pret­ing Sec­tion 36 (1) of our con­sti­tu­tion, it is help­less. You could, as well, have thrown in all other rules of con­struc­tion, in­clud­ing, nosc­i­tur a sociis and ex­pres­sio unius est ex­clu­sio al­terius, and earn your­self the well-de­served ti­tle of ob­scu­rum per ob­scurius, mean­ing ob­scure by the even more ob­scure.

As a Doc­tor of Laws you are bound to know that in us­ing the ex­pres­sion as “a sword and shield”, your first obli­ga­tion is to im­me­di­ately iden­tify the “spe­cific words” in Sec­tion 36 (1) that “are fol­lowed by gen­eral words”. So lit­tle faith had you in your own ar­gu­ment that you made no men­tion of them in sacri­fic­ing your rep­u­ta­tion in “The Sac­ri­fi­cial Lamb” for the lion of a govern­ment you have been sup­port­ing.

I was very un­happy that you did not en­ter­tain us with your usual heavy­duty jaw-bone-break­ing, tongue-swal­low­ing words, so char­ac­ter­is­tic of you. At the same time, I must give you credit for the soft-on-the-mouth phrase, “tem­po­ral tem­plate”. You see how fair I am!

As I do not in­tend to mis­lead you, I wish to re­mind you that just as “the ap­parel oft pro­claims the man” so do heavy-duty words. In other words, a man who is con­stantly gaudily and fan­ci­fully dressed is as ridicu­lous as one who never fails to adorn his lan­guage with heavy-duty words. Per­haps you should, there­fore try hard to ob­serve this ad­vice of Som­er­set Maugham to the pon­der­ous: “The un­in­tel­li­gent re­quire plain­ness of lan­guage, and the truly wise are the last to de­spise sim­plic­ity". Should you wish to carry on with your old hard ways, I would be de­lighted to send you a load of dis­carded words of sound, march­ing in search of ideas.

My at­tempt to con­trib­ute an idea to the present im­passe was not, how­ever, lost on the Editor of The Voice in his rather bal­anced editorial of the same, 6 Au­gust. There he said: “Neville Cenac in an ar­ti­cle in this news­pa­per made an in­ter­est­ing point that it is the House, by sim­ple ma­jor­ity of the quo­rum present, that makes the appointment. He con­tends that the con­sti­tu­tion does not re­quire that an appointment be made by and with the con­sent of the Op­po­si­tion.” The Editor wished that “the in­ter­est­ing ob­ser­va­tion” be tested in a Court of Law and con­curred that the en­tire mat­ter is a case of “Re­cur­rent Stu­pid­ity” and “child­ish games be­ing played out by grown men”.

Is there any­thing “assi­nine” about that Dr. John? That base ad­jec­tive, Dr. John, “de­val­ues your doc­toral robes” an ex­pres­sion used by my daugh­ter, Cy­belle, to rep­ri­mand Dr. An­thony when he sought to act like you. So in fu­ture, “what­ever you do, do it nicely” was her part­ing ad­vice to him. Please, do take it. For my part I would rec­om­mend to you what is, for me, the most im­por­tant nurs­ery rhyme ever com­posed, though it be of three lines only. From our first days at school it in­structs us thus: “A was an ap­ple-pie; B bit it; C cut it.” (John Eachard, 1671).

To this I would add the Apos­tle Paul’s in­junc­tion to us: “Let all things be done de­cently and in or­der.”

The author (right) served un­der Sir John Comp­ton as for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter.

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