My name is Attillah, I’m 26, and I love to give meggies. Don’t look surprised. I’m not the only one. Meggie-mania is alive and well in Trinidad, and spreading across the Trini diaspora — and also infecting those unfortunate foreign souls who find themselves liming with meggie masters like myself.
If you don’t know what a meggie is, take a look at the illustration. The meggie is a gesture produced by bringing the tips of the thumb and four slightly arched fingers together, which is then pointed in the direction of the recipient — a simple yet deadly tool of subterfuge and derision.
Trinidad and Tobago is a country that seems obsessed with insults, considering the many words we have to describe various forms of put-down: picong, fatigue, mamaguy. But in the face of robber talk and rum shop antics, the meggie stands out as a means of effectively silencing your opponent — or at least refocusing the laughter away from your bad hair day, or the toothless granny who is giving you all her attention. In other words, sticks and stones can break your bones, and sometimes words can hurt too. But a perfectly-timed meggie — well, that can just be a stroke of pure genius.
As the megg-er, the aim is to make the megg-ee (that is, the person being megged) actually look at your hand — take the meggie right in the face. This only sounds easy. New ways must be found to catch a master of the meggie arts, the professional always on the lookout for a surprise meg.
What I especially love to do is meg someone who hasn’t been megged in a while (perhaps their friends are not cool enough, or perhaps they’ve lived away from other idle Trinis for way too long). They are easy targets. You can catch them with the simplest of lines. “Aye, this is yours?” You look a little concerned, gesture with your head, and position your hand in a way suggesting that they have forgotten a particularly valuable possession. Then bam! They catch sight of the meg formation.
There is a fleeting look of shock, their mouths form perfect “O”s, and you can almost see their minds flashing back to their last meggie, which they probably got from a little girl with two plaits in a schoolyard.
They may say, in a particularly annoying imitation of a 7-year-old voice, “That’s four fingers and a thumb, and that’s dumb,” but they don’t really mean it.
Secretly, they are plotting revenge, thinking of ways to get you back.
If you know what a meggie is, you’d assume that I’d have left this unhealthy obsession behind when I graduated from primary school. In fact, it was when I came into the working world that the meggie became an invaluable form of entertainment and solace, a harmless enough way to get back at colleagues and also infuriate friends.
A fellow meggie master in London advised me the other day that I needed to find out more about the origins of my pastime. For some mysterious reason, there seems to be no serious academic research into the meggie phenomenon. Perhaps someone at UWI needs to rectify this. What’s certain is that, considering the demographics of most meggie masters, the meg evolved in some Trini schoolyard sometime in the 1970s, and by the 1980s was universally recognised by under-20s. And chances are that anywhere a few idle young Trinbagonians are gathered you will find an outbreak of meggies.
Apart from the ordinary meggie, there are interesting hybrids. Meggie-by-satellite and super-meggie, as well as the more eclectic meggie-doing-sit-ups-on-a-mirror, or meggie-drinking-orange-juice-through-a-straw. Meggies have gone tech too. There are text-megs, e-megs, and I’ve just finished drafting a letter to those MSN Messenger people, lobbying for them to add a meggie emoticon.
I’ve also decided that the meggie needs to tour the world, and am in the process of photographing it at major landmarks. So far I have meggie climbs the Great Wall of China, meggie sails the Adriatic, meggie does Habana Vieja, meggie on the cycle track at the Queen’s Park Oval, meggie in Halfway Tree, and meggie on the London Underground.
One thing, though — they can make you a little paranoid. Forget worms and viruses. I’m loath to open attachments lest there be a meggie lurking within.