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    Llewellyn Kriel

    This is both frightful and delightful. Delightful to see the same story angle on nursery rhymes that gave me my first byline op-ed feature article in the Pretoria News in 1976 is still worth exploring 35 years later by a new generation of journos.

    What’s frightful is the almost-hysterical over-reaction to a topic that’s as old as euphemism, and a perfectly logical & natural way of coping with trauma (with volumes of psychological research to support the view). Caryn may not have yet had to face the trauma of hardcore, frontline conflict and disaster reporting, and has thus not had to find her own way of coping with PTSD. Hardened journalists, both men and women, have a natural initial coping mechanism when confronted by real horror. They do so the same way soldiers, police, emergency personnel, forensic scientists, doctors, nurses and firemen do – by making light of the topic. This is a bridging reaction and underscores the importance of professional post-trauma counselling to alleviate the long-term effects without relegating all horror to the realm of casual euphemism. Maybe Kevin Carter would still be alive and winning Pulitzers today had he received the help he needed, when he needed it.

    It’s laudable that Caryn follows the credo of being straight with her kids about sex. My dad was a little catholic in his approach when I was 11. His carefully prepared “presentation” was well-intentioned, but tawdry. “Oupa taught me all about that back on the farm years ago, Dad,” I said, much to pater’s relief. I couldn’t have been much older than Caryn’s son when Oupa showed me the rams and ewes mating – and even how to help penetration in some cases. It was as natural and cosmically beautiful as watching – and helping – lambs and calves and piglets and foals get born a few weeks later.

    But everything needs a context and, as soon as he can understand how and why, my grandson (30 months old now) will learn the truth behind “Ring o’ Rosies”, “Little Jack Horner”, “Goosey, Goosey Gander”, “Old Mother Hubbard”, “Georgey-Porgy”, “Lizzie Borden” and, yes, “Jack & Jill”. And he will understand the contexts within which society coped with the same horrors it faces today.

    The tricky part will be not sacrificing magic and mystery (which kids know much more about than do grown-ups) on the ghastly altar of political correctness.

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    (Or) Obama shot Oladin in the nob, oh hobily hob (Rhyme for future generations?)

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    I have been meaning for a while to thank you for your entertaining and informative comment. You are right, I have not had any exposure to hardcore reporting and have no experience of PTSD. In fact, I have only just started writing and the column on themediaonline is my first public writing experience.   For my sins I spent the first ten years of my working life as a commercial attorney. I grew thoroughly bored and shut up shop when my second kid was born. During this time I volunteered as a proofreader for The Big Issue, an organisation whose board I had served on for over a decade. This reawakened my love for language and passion for how words are used and abused. You see, law was never my intended path. I majored in Latin and Hebrew, graduating at the same time as Latin 1 was dropped as a prerequisite for the LLB degree. So, as much as I wanted to stay in academia, the department was shrinking and retrenchments were sure to follow. I needed to support myself, however, and so toyed with the idea of translating but, as all native speakers of my beloved language were dead and buried, and I had left French behind at matric level, my options were few. High on the memory of LA Law, I decided that this would be a good career move. The rest is history, except for a really stimulating stint at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, reading for a BA Law (Hons). 
    So, I started in other words to move closer to my roots and I know work as a proofreader, copy editor and plain language consultant. I have also started copy writing for corporate marketing material. A serious journalist I am not by any stretch of the imagination. But I write columns about things language-related that amuse or irritate me. 
    It really means a lot to a beginner like me to be read and commented on by experienced journalists like you. 
    Thank you. Please keep reading and commenting.

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