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Alexandra Bruce
August 6, 2014

The ever-cheeky and provocative Jeremy Clarkson, has had a long and successful career on the BBC, as well as writing for the London Times and The Sun, where he affects a persona who expresses views which Americans would term to be Libertarian and who has managed to offend enough Liberal-type groups, such as environmentalists that he has earned himself 66th place in the “100 Worst Britons We Love to Hate” poll, taken by British Channel 4. We see him here taking a tour around the Jahre Viking, the biggest moving man made object on the planet, as it powers around the Cape of Good Hope, through the notorious winter swells, off the coast of South Africa.

This clip is vintage Clarkson, for fans of the UK’s hit TV show, Top Gear, which normally focuses on cult cars, while he enumerates the ship’s gargantuan statistics.

His treatment of the ship’s Indian Captain, S.K. Mohan is noticeably condescending and would be deemed inappropriate and straight-up racist, in America. (To the non-US people reading this: The People of the US are NOT the US Government, which is, in fact generally genocidal towards people of color within the country and around the world, as well as towards whites, within and without, who are financially-challenged).

So, as I was doing a little background search, I wasn’t too surprised to see that just 19 hours prior to my writing this post, the top result for “Top Gear” was a story published by The Guardian, about a BBC investigation resulting from the uproar that has resulted from the leak of an outtake from his show, where Jeremy Clarkson used the N-word, while shooting an episode of this show in Burma (aka Myanmar).

What the Burmese have to do with the N-word is anybody’s guess – but it gets even wackier. By way of “Begging for forgiveness,” Clarkson had a video made, explaining that he was referring to the nursery rhyme, “Eenie meenie miney moe,” where he said he was doing his darndest to avoid using the most common version of this nursery rhyme and in the various takes, he attempted to switch the N-word for a “mumble” in one take and totally replaced it with the word “teacher.”

Say what?

You learn something new everyday. At the age of 2 or 3, I remember my grandmother, a Public School teacher for 30 years in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania teaching this nursery rhyme to me, which is a very primary counting lesson for toddlers, where you learn to count with your fingers and toes. This is how it went: “Eenie meenie miney moe. Catch a tiger by the toe. If he hollers, let him go. Eenie meenie miney moe.”

I grew up in totally urban environments, in New York, Chicago and HIgh School in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Being from the North, never, in my life before today, did I know that there was a version of this NURSERY RHYME that had the N-word in it!

Geez! I just ran a search on it. The origins are obscure and it has many forms, using many nonsense words but it likely originates from the US, where the first printed version of it is found in 1815 and then in the 1880s, it is found in Ireland and Scotland and at the very end of the 19th century, it arrives in England. Versions of it exist now throughout the Anglosphere and also in other languages.

I was shocked to discover that, indeed it was common, in the 19th century for small children to be taught versions where the word “tiger” was the N-word, instead, the use of which presumably persisted the mid-sized Borough of Doncaster, Yorkshire in the north of England, where 54 year old broadcaster, Jeremy Clarkson was born.

This is likely the case in the Southern US, such that that some older Black Southerners are apparently hypersensitive about this nursery rhyme, to the extent that two women attempted to sue Southwest Airlines in 2003. Southwest innovated a unique, “free seating” policy, where passengers board the plane without assigned seats and have to scramble to get the best seat they can. A 22-year old stewardess was attempting to hurry passengers to pick their seats, as this policy was still quite a new concept in airline protocol at the time, when she got on the PA system and announced, “Eeny meeny miny mo. Pick a seat, it’s time to go.”
The plaintiffs lost their case.

Among all industries in 2004, Fortune magazine listed Southwest Airlines as number three among America’s Top Ten most admired corporations and it remains #1 with the least passenger complaints and more importantly to me, since I am about to board one of these puppies – unlike an ill-fated airline we have been talking about, lately, there has never been a death associated with a crash in this airline’s 47-year history!

Alexandra Bruce

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Alexandra Bruce

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