SATURDAY CHILD: Mamma look a boo-boo
by TONY DEYAL
I KNEW WHAT a “boo-boo” was long before I knew how to boo. I was a boy when Lord Melody sang his classic self-mocking calypso about ugliness, Mamma Look Ah Boo-boo Dey.
Its chorus is perhaps the best known of all calypsos:
“Mamma look ah boo-boo/Dey shout/
Dey mother tell dem/ Shut up your mouth/
Dat is you daddy/Oh no, my daddy can’t be ugly so/
Shut your mouth/ Go away/ Mamma look
ah boo-boo dey…”
In Guyana “bubu” has a different meaning – it is essentially dry mucus around the eyes or what Barbadians and Jamaicans call “bugaboo”. It was not until later in life I learnt that a mistake or error could also be a “boo-boo”.
Although I have a lot of acquaintances who would easily pass with flying colours whatever test Lord Melody had for boo-boos, my deteriorating sight and looks make me much more tolerant of deficiencies in human physiognomies than I was when in my youth I heckled people mercilessly (as Melody did) with shouted epithets like, “The Creature From The Black Lagoon is your father!” or “When God was giving out good looks you went outside to play with Melody”.
Now, while any bubus or bugaboos are inadvertent and directly due to my increasing age, the boo-boos in which I generally evince an interest are embarrassing mistakes or blunders. I especially like those made by sports, particularly cricket, commentators.
My favourite commentator who, like Lord Melody, was always full of self-deprecating humour was Brian Johnston. Describing one of his boo-boos, he wrote: “1974 at Old Trafford – England vs India. It was raining heavily on Saturday morning. The covers were on, everyone with umbrellas or macintoshes, the Indian spectators sitting huddled up looking miserable and cold.
“Test Match Special came over to me at 11:25 a.m. – ‘Any chance of play, Brian?’ ‘No, I’m afraid not,’ I said, ‘it’s raining hard, it’s cold and miserable, the covers are still on. It doesn’t look as if it will get any better either . . . ‘ (and here I meant to say, ‘There’s a dirty black cloud’) . . . ‘There’s a dirty, black crowd here!'”
“At Trent Bridge in 1950,” Johnston recounted, “England vs West Indies – Worrell and Weekes put on 283 for the fourth wicket for West Indies and on the Friday evening were hitting the English bowlers all over the field. We got a bit tired of showing four after four so as to vary things I said: ‘I wonder what Norman Yardley (England’s captain) is going to do to separate the two batsmen’.
“The camera obediently panned round to Yardley at mid-on, but unfortunately he was scratching himself in a very awkward place! To cover up this I had to say something quickly and came out with “Obviously a very ticklish problem.”
This is my cue for another boo-boo or bu-bu or even vu-vu. It is the bubuzela or vuvuzela, also known as a “lepatata” or a stadium horn. It is an instrument blown by South African football fans. It emits a loud monotone like a foghorn or an elephant. It is supposedly extremely distracting and may also damage hearing.
From what I heard during the Confederation Cup in South Africa and the warm-up World Cup matches, a Caribbean conch-shell is soothing compared to a bubuzela.
We cricket fans who are occasionally forced to listen to the matches on radio have to put up with a lot of booboos and bubuzelas. I cannot forget the commentator who said that a player “elongated himself to the left”, and the problems of pronunciation – Is it Chandrapaul or Chanderpaul?, Kai-sweater or Keys-wetter?
During the two One Day Internationals in Dominica, I heard Key-run and Kai-Ron Pollard, as well as Dinner-rine and Dee-Onarine. Couldn’t the commentators ask the players how they pronounce their names?
During Day 2, the argument was about who was the better candidate for the captaincy – Bravo or Sammy. One commentator, and the show’s producer, insisted and repeated several times that Sammy is per capita better than Bravo.
The term per capita translates literally into “for each head” but is used to mean “for each person” or “per person”. Perhaps Sammy and Bravo suffer from multiple-personality disorders (and evidence might be found in their lack of consistency).
The fact is that per capita West Indies cricket fans suffer more from poor quality cricket commentary by bubuzelas than World Cup fans from the incessant vuvuzelas. We have the incomparable Tony Cozier – master of the language, the statistics, and the great and glorious traditions of the game of cricket.
Yet, we hear “forward is Smith” or “Taylor bowls and he hits the ball through the covers for a four.” Taylor has to be like the magistrate in the calypso by the Mighty Spoiler about himself charging himself.
It is therefore not surprising, though sad to say, that the most stilted sentence I have ever heard in almost 60 years of watching and listening to cricket was by West Indian commentator Andrew Mason. Describing a shot by a South African batsman, Mason said: “Not cueing it very well is the batsman Petersen.” Boo-boo or bubuzela? You tell me.
Tony Deyal was last seen repeating a Howard Cosell observation: “There are two professions one can be hired at with little experience. One is prostitution. The other is sportscasting.”