Whoops-a-daisy

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Whoops-a-daisy is one of those terms that seem to be used in very dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances and a mul­ti­tude of forms, don't you think? As far as I have been able to as­cer­tain, up-a-daisy, as an en­cour­age­ment to a child who has fallen to stand up, or as an ex­cla­ma­tion upon lift­ing a child, dates back to the early 1700s, and seems to be used to con­sole or amuse a lit­tle one. Vari­ants in­clude upsi-daisy from the 1860s. It's ba­si­cally a non­sense phrase.

The term was short­ened to whoops by 1937, and ap­pears in that form in a let­ter by Ezra Pound, no less. Of course, Dear Read­ers, as ci­ti­zens of such a ‘No­bel' na­tion we all re­call that Ezra was awarded the No­bel Prize for lit­er­a­ture in 1954. How could one for­get? One as­sumes that whoops was re­lated to the ex­pres­sion to whoop, as in giv­ing whoops of joy, a usage that goes back to the early 1600s.

I think, Dear Reader, we should be care­ful not to in­clude whop­ping as a vari­ant at this point in time. Such ex­pres­sions as The An­thony ad­min­is­tra­tion cre­ated whop­ping great deficits or A for­mer prime min­is­ter told whop­ping great lies are scarcely whoops of joy, no mat­ter how you feel about the out­come of the elec­tion, but I do en­joy, I must ad­mit, the phrase He scraped through and re­tained his seat with a whop­ping great re­duc­tion in the votes cast for him – a nicely oxy­moronic way of putting it.

In the1400s whoops was used a verb, as in the fal­coner whooped his hawks. Cry­ing whoop dur­ing a hunt in­di­cated that the an­i­mal be­ing hunted was dead. By 1568 whoop had be­come an ex­cla­ma­tion of sur­prise or de­ri­sion but the mean­ing of the word, as so of­ten is the case, changed dra­mat­i­cally and by 1927 Amer­i­cans were whoop­ing it up, mean­ing they were hav­ing a ri­otous time liv­ing it up. Mak­ing whoopee ap­peared in the US around 1927. Some­what in­con­gru­ously, as Brexit demon­strated, the Bri­tish chose a dif­fer­ent path: a whoop­sie is the name for the ex­cre­ment left in a child's potty.

Whoops-a-daisy ap­peared in a New Yorker car­toon in 1925 as an ex­pres­sion of sur­prise or dis­may, specif­i­cally upon dis­cov­er­ing one's own er­ror, which brings me to the point of to­day's A-mus­ing. The Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs in Tai­wan (MOFA), which is kind enough to keep me abreast of all the lat­est hap­pen­ings of in­ter­est, sent me last month a re­lease on a “do­mes­tic mis­sile in­ci­dent” that must have been one heck of a whoops-a-daisy!

The Re­pub­lic of China (Tai­wan) gov­ern­ment was in­form­ing the world of the ac­ci­den­tal launch­ing of an anti-ship mis­sile on the morn­ing of July 1 by a navy corvette in the south­ern port of Kaoh­si­ung. The mis­sile ev­i­dently passed through a Tai­wanese fish­ing boat with­out ex­plod­ing but killed the Tai­wanese cap­tain and in­jured three crewmem­bers, in­clud­ing a Filipino and a Viet­namese all the same. The boat was about 40 nau­ti­cal miles away, be­tween Tai­wan proper and the outlying county of Penghu. The mis­sile then went into the sea, with­out cross­ing the me­dian line of the Tai­wan Strait, which was a bless­ing. We all know how sen­si­tive the Main­lan­ders can be.

Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen ex­pressed her con­do­lences to the fam­ily of the cap­tain and apol­o­gised to those in­jured. She said her gov­ern­ment took full re­spon­si­bil­ity and all re­lated agen­cies would as­sist the fam­i­lies in seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion. The gov­ern­ment also no­ti­fied neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, mak­ing it clear that the in­ci­dent was a re­sult of hu­man er­ror dur­ing a train­ing drill. MOFA in­formed the Manila Eco­nomic and Cul­tural Of­fice and the Viet­nam Eco­nomic-Cul­ture Of­fice in Taipei that a Filipino and a Viet­namese crewmem­ber aboard the Xiang Li Sheng had been hurt. MOFA also di­rected its rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fices in the Philip­pines and Viet­nam to ex­press the gov­ern­ment's sym­pa­thies to the fam­i­lies of the in­jured crewmem­bers. The min­istry also no­ti­fied the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute in Tai­wan, as well as the Sin­ga­pore Trade Of­fice in Taipei. The Main­land Af­fairs Coun­cil in­formed Bei­jing's Tai­wan Af­fairs Of­fice, while the Straits Ex­change Foundation si­mul­ta­ne­ously ad­vised Main­land China's As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­la­tions Across the Tai­wan Straits of the in­ci­dent. Japan was also later in­formed. ROC over­seas mis­sions in coun­tries in the re­gion have been in­structed to ex­plain this po­si­tion to host gov­ern­ments.

What I find par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing about this whole story is nei­ther the in­ad­ver­tent fir­ing of a mis­sile and its tragic con­se­quences nor the im­me­di­ate apol­ogy by the new Pres­i­dent of Tai­wan who as­sumed full re­spon­si­bil­ity and promised com­pen­sa­tion. What strikes me is the large num­ber of im­por­tant na­tions that have rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Tai­wan even though they play the game of not hav­ing diplo­matic re­la­tions and do not ad­mit to hav­ing em­bassies; The Amer­i­can In­sti­tute in Tai­wan in­deed! Whoops! What am I say­ing!

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