‘Hortense Pretentious, Chairwoman of the Black Coloureds Conservative Royal National Party and Head of Human Resources’, played by the magnificent Llewella_Gideon, youtube.com, represents a parody of black affluence and aspiration; a figure of fun from ‘The Real McCoy’, a black BBC sketch show that aired from 1991 to 1996 (gone too soon, but not forgotten).
Even before ‘Hortense Pretentious’ spoke, there was the assumption that we knew who ‘she’ was, and what better way to drag her ‘back home’, than through the machinations of linguistical jiggery-pokery. When we have endured a miseducation, ‘“[is] everything everything?”’
As a daughter of St Lucia, I love the intellectual stature of the ‘small island’ that ‘“gave [me] birth”’. Land of the Pitons, Sir Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott, your roots are my foundation. ‘“I am domiciled at Gadette”’, my maternal grandmother said; a seamstress and baker, her words were apt in context.
At Gadette, I was ‘“born and raised”’ [The-Fresh-Prince-of-Bel-Air]. I came into this world in my mother’s four-bedroomed, ‘verandahed’ wooden house, colonial and modest in frame. Those were the days. On my ‘“island home”’, kitchens, ovens, bathrooms, and toilets, existed in common isolation. Yet, each key component was bound by the essence of ‘home’. The sentence structure of our life was set.
In that rural environment, in the Mabouya Valley, I was handcrafted; taught to read and write. My mother, a former secondary school English teacher, deputy principal and examiner, told me that when I was born, she would pronounce, spell and define words from the Oxford Dictionary to me. Codes of the English Language are embedded in my DNA!
Therefore, when I write, or speak, how are my words contrived? The way I write is part of my genetic peasant lineage; how can I not be proud? Gadette made me! The way I write and speak is intrinsically part of my cultural upbringing; nothing about my persona is affected. Consequently, asking me to ‘cancel [my] culture’, the very bedrock of my being, is discriminatory in its assertion. To ask me to modify my ‘“academic”’ tone, other than to suit established practice, is to discredit the melanin within my fabric. I ‘“bless the land that gave [me] birth!”’
At university, in the United Kingdom, I was condemned for reading ‘“too widely”’ and penalised accordingly. To this day, the grade of my dissertation, An Analysis of the Success of Ebony Magazine, remains unknown to me. What_has_the_author_Jhana_Ruth_Arnold_written? ‘“Everything!”’
In primary school, in the United Kingdom, I remember one of my teachers, ‘Mr. S’, insisting that I ‘“stop writing with loops”’. Prior to that, as a country bumpkin in Saint Lucia, writing in a cursive style was my societal norm. My ‘“everything”’ was never a miseducation.
Within the publishing industry, the clamour for change has reached a crescendo; rightly so. But what about my song? I do not belong under the shade of the ‘Hortense Pretentious’ tree. My linguistic ancestry is ‘The Real McCoy’.