Of ‘pokers’ and ‘stokers’

Cameron Duodu Comlumnist Cameron Duodu

Mon, 2 Dec 2019 Source: Cameron Duodu

K1 – Ei, congrats, Koo!

K2 – Why, have you married someone for me?

Ho, is it only nuptials that attract congratulations? I would personally rate that event as a source of commiseration rather than congratulation!

Imagine asking two people from different backgrounds – two people who went to different schools; grew up in towns/villages/ghettos with diverse cultures –being condemned to cherish each other till death do them part, all because they’ve signed a piece of paper?

I see your cynicism keeps reproducing itself.

Charlie, I see the world as I see it. Or rather, as my father saw it. The guy was the first person I saw who had hair on his chest! He also had a gun! And whenever he travelled and came back, his briefcase contained at least one hundred pounds, which subsequently made its way into the pockets of grateful cocoa farmers!

And he had a gramophone?

How – did you know?

And he married women other than your mother?

This is either clairvoyance or witchcraft! You’ve nailed the guy firmly to his mast!

Chum, your language betrays you. Ships no longer have masts of the type on which miscreants could be nailed!

Listen – I didn’t mean to start a ‘Thesaurus-of-The-English-Language-War of-The-Roses’, do you mind? I just wanted to congratulate you on being among the 39 people to whom the Ghana Journalists’ Association gave awards to mark its 70th birthday!

Oh that! Thank you! Thank you! It was very nice of them. Talking of a Thesaurus War, did you notice the title of the award they bestowed on the Chosen 39?

Not the “39-Steps”-Worthy-Conquerors-of-The-Word-Per-John-Buchan?

No! They called those who got the awards “The Pokers and Stokers!”

The what? Hahahahahahaha!

Yes, “Pokers and Stokers!”

Why, were members of the award committee former members of the Ghana Railways Employees Union?

What has the Ghana Railways Employees Union got to do with literary awards?

Poor man! Do you know what “stoking” means?

Tell me.

A railway fireman stokes the coal in the firebox of the boiler…

But trains don’t use coal any longer?

You are being too literal!

Too literal? Hahahahaha! Who started the War of the Thesaurus Verbiage?

Okay so the word “stoke” was appropriated from railway engines…? So what?

I never thought I’d say this to you of all people, Koo, but you sound rather obtuse and dim-witted today. Don’t you know what a “poker” is?

Isn’t it a hooked piece of iron used to – oh, I see – stoke the fire in the fireplace during winter in a cold country? But that’s been replaced with central heating?

I see you are brightening up! Fireplaces have changed, but the language remains, my friend! We too use the English language, but

If you want to give awards to people in the tropics…

Yes, yes, yes!

Oh, but you can poke a Government and stop harassing journalists?

Yes! But stoke?

Why not? “Stoke the embers of press freedom?”

Ho, do you expect your ordinary Kofi Brokeman to recognise heroism by way of a scribe who is about “stoking” embers…?

Journalists are supposed to teach the rest of the populace about all manner of things, are they not?

All right, Mr Stoker-With-the Poker! I doff my hat…

Hey! Are you sure the guys naming the awards were not being naughty? I remember that when we were about to go to Senior School, we heard that when you reached Standard Six, a lot of “poking” occurred! The Standard Six girls had to study catechism classes in the evenings, together with the boys, preparatory to their being “confirmed”, and after “Confirmation Studies”…!

Yieee!! Did you believe those rumours?

No smoke without fire, Charlie!

Actually, those confirmation classes gave birth to so many stories…!

You’re not thinking of the boys who were mocked to the point of distraction if they did not go to be circumcised before Confirmation Day? -Not being brave enough to indulge in the unavoidable cult practice of their peers: I mean the type of pain which only the rusty knife of a wansam could inflict?

Yes! Cutting— to use a simpler word. Being cut and not yelling out in pain!

Even when you were afraid you’d be bleeding to death!!

Ai… Ai!!… Ai!!!!

I hear that such painful practices still go on in parts of South Africa, Lesotho and even Kenya! They’re called “initiation”!

Charlie, I prefer to think of the more pleasant aspects of the words…!

Well, I hope they change the name of the award in the coming years. You cannot be careless with words when you apply them to wordsmiths of all people.

The trouble with some of us who study the English language in foreign countries is that once we get through the educational curriculum, we think we have got what it takes to use English, whereas our journey has only just begun! Who is to tell us that the London Times (for instance) uses one type of English, while the Magazine, Private Eye, uses a completely different type? Do you know what Private Eye means when it writes about “Uganda affairs”?

Idi Amin-type dictatorship?

Hahahahaha! Let’s leave it at that!

OK! Let’s see what the GJA comes up with, at its 80th anniversary!

Hahahahahahaha. Pity we may not be here to see it. Just as it’s a pity we shall never know what Carl Mutt [Henry Ofori] would have made of “Pokers and Stokers”!

Hahahahaha! Let’s dedicate this conversation to him! You’ll never know what is in Dodowa Forest!



Columnist: Cameron Duodu