SATURDAY’S CHILD – Ho goes there?
I entered the dimly lit establishment in Antigua with one purpose in mind. I needed a hoe pretty badly. In the dim light I could barely discern the hoes that were lined up for my viewing pleasure but these days my sight has faded. I blundered around feeling the unresponsive merchandise. When I could take it no more, I shouted to the owner of the hardware store, “How come you selling bulbs and this place so dark?”
I can go on and stretch this out asking questions like, “What came first – the hoe or the fork?” but I will eschew this and call a spade a spade, or in this case, a hoe a hoe.
When I told my wife that the hoes in Antigua cost about US$40 for one, she retorted that at such a price the two-legged ones should cost less and that maybe I should get my friends on Charlotte Street in Trinidad or Tiger Bay in Guyana to get one for me.
It is clear that the decline in agriculture has caused the demand for hoes to diminish and this has affected the production, which is now reflected in the price. There was a time when the hoe was indeed an agricultural implement and every household had its own hoe.
Now that farming is more technology intensive and everybody has a “weed whacker”, only specialists use hoes and the humble tool has ceased to be an implement and has become an instrument.
The price has risen to suit the hoe’s new status and today hoes are increasingly being used by archeologists, especially in connection with mummies. Did anyone say “Tut, Tut”?
This brings us to the unfortunate homophone that has made calling a “hoe” a “hoe” more complex than it should be. Before we continue, please note that homophones are not telecommunication instruments used by gay persons but words that sound alike. One would hope that coincidence alone was responsible for the name of the world’s oldest agricultural implement and the term used to describe a practitioner of the world’s oldest profession sounding the same.
However, Wikipedia does not help when in an article on the implement, and not the other type of “hoe”, one reads that there are many different types and some can perform multiple functions while others are intended for a specific use.
There is the “Dego” (the way Trinidadians pronounce the “Diego” in the town called Diego Martin) with a heavy, broad, delta-shape, and the Dutch hoe (scuffle, action, oscillating, swivel, or Hula-Ho), a design that is pushed or pulled.
People who have been to Amsterdam say that this is indeed an apt description of the capabilities of Dutch hoes and although Amsterdam is not a rural community, there are a lot of them there.
It also does not help when someone quips, “The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.” My wife definitely won’t dig that.
This mix-up between gardening and prostitution leads to considerable confusion. It is true that they both involve beds but consider what happened to this graduate from a university in a small farming community in the United States. Her fiancé had another semester to go to finish his degree and then they planned to marry in the spring.
The young woman decided to get a job until her fiancé finished school but the only job she could find in the town was on a farm doing manual labour using a hoe. Then came the end of the semester and her fiancé graduated, so they decided to get on with the wedding.
They went to the courthouse and requested a marriage licence. The county clerk asked the usual questions like name, place of birth, occupation. The groom-to-be answered everything and, of course, gave his occupation as “student”. The bride-to-be answered everything until the clerk asked her for her occupation. She thought about it a moment and then answered: “I’m a hoer.”
The clerk looked at her soon-to-be-husband and then back at the woman with a dumbfounded look on his face and then spoke up, “Well, at least it’s honest work.”
Tony Deyal was last seen saying that you have to blame Santa Claus for the confusion. He comes through a chimney saying in glee, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”