Wednesday, January 03, 2007

For The Love of the Word

I love words. I love to talk them, to read them. They’ve gotten me dates with hot women. They’ve kept me out of fights and swept me out of trouble. I love big words, small words. I love them all equally. Except for “treacle”. I’ve always found that one a bit unapproachable.

The funniest word? “Pickle.” Look it up.

Multitudinous shades of meaning, murky origins, the words build a temple.

Bill Clinton, no matter what your political background, was one of that temple’s high priests. When he testified about the meaning of “IS”, I was enthralled. His linguist ballet (no innuendo intended) was magnificent. Please, no partisan comments here, I am talking about the ability to tame and command words.

Words change. They evolve. Some fade away and are never seen again. Some deserve to fade away. Some are so charged with emotion they can only be uttered by using their first letter. Imagine when a word is so powerful that it can't even be said. Uttering some words will even cost money. The legislature has even set a price on some words. Uttering one such word can cost a television network $500,000. One word, or even one breast. Thank God they are leaving Jerry Springer alone and our violence unchallenged.

Still, even under the stalwart watch of the Word Police, the language is ever changing. In fifty years from now, speech patterns and words will be subtly different, influenced by technology (Google anyone?) and by the input of immigrant cultures. You may be marked by that difference.

Let’s go back in time some fifty years to peer over the shoulder of a writer who imagined slang in a future tense. Anthony Burgess, author of “The Clockwork Orange”. I’ll leave you with this thought, filtered through his weave.

“I know sometimes govoretting can be an oozhassny strain, make you wanna platch, my droogy. It’s a gloopy problem, but you have to filly the eegra. Eventually you start to pony and then it’s all horrorshow. So take cheer lewdies, if you have the keeshkas, you can win the devotchka in the end and maybe even a little of the old in-out in-out. Just keep your gulliver, my droogie. Keep your gulliver.”


Sheila said...

I haven't read or seen A Clockwork Orange. Cheri has been telling me about it but when I went to buy it the person who worked at the bookstore said their was a complete version of it and they only had the one with 7 chapters or something. I'm still looking for the complete version.

SQT said...

I'm not sure if I should admit it or not, but I can't watch Kubrick's movies. I've tried, but stylistically speaking he drives me nuts.

Therefore I haven't been able to make it all the way through "A Clockwork Orange." But I think I get the point of the reference, I think.

I know I shouldn't always go back to Shakespeare, but it seems appropriate in this case. I love the stories the Bard wrote, but the language can trip me up. I find it easier to watch and absorb than to read and decipher. But it's a good example of how much language has changed.

Also, other countries that are English have slang that can create it's own language barrier. When I went to school in Japan there were students there from 22 different countries. Sometimes I had a hard time understanding the Scottish, British and Australian students simply due to slang alone.

Susan Miller said...

I'm with SQT on Kubrick's movies.

One word that I love and attempt to keep alive is "Gullywasher". My Dad always used it to describe a hard rain, and it makes me smile to think of it.

Susan Miller said...

Oh yeah, in regards to yesterday's post you need to check out Bimbo's essay today at

Pythia3 said...

I think, especially in the English language, our verbiage is always changing (sometimes evolving - not always "Dawg"). It scares me when I cannot understand a conversation and it is in English. I have tried to read (and understand) Beowolf (written in the Eleventh Century) and it is almost impossible for me, even with the translation key.
I love words too - I love to read them, say them, write them and play with them (semantics).
I love the "F" bomb - it covers a multitude of meanings and feelings . . . and it has great healing powers when said in such a way at certain times, like when one should stub his or her toe on the corner of a chair, for example. LOL
As a child, my friends and I would make up a word and see if we could get it to 'take off.' But, of course, that never happens because as I got older I understood: the meaning must create the word, not the other way around.
And, one more thing, I agree with sqt, I could never make it through "A Clockwork Orange" as much as I want to put it in the "I have seen it" category of my brain.

nikeroo said...

Pythia 3: Yep the malleable nature of English makes it a nightmare for people from other countries.

My trainees always used to bemoan that English simply has too many adjectives in common use!

Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

Viddy well, my droogies, viddy well. When Confucius was asked where we start to make a better world, he started with semantics: "Start by calling things by their correct names."
This shows how far we've wandered.

I first fell in love with words and wordplay with the second and third book I ever bought for myself, a paperback of Walt Kelly's Pogo for President and The Pogo Peek-A-Book.

Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

Forgot to add that i do love a book by Anthony Burgess called "Earthly Powers" which can be described as a history of the 20th century if Somerset Maughm and Pope John had been in-laws.
It also has one of the funniest opening lines:
"It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."

Stewart Sternberg said...

someone just sent me a quote: Man invented language from his deep need to complain.

Ah, Michael...somehow I knew I would find kinship for Burgess in you, my fine malachik.

Man changes and so language changes. I am not qualifying or quantifying, merely observing.

Aisby said...

I haven't read A Clockwork Orange in years, as with most books made into movies, it far exceeds the film version. I'll have to dig out my old copy and read it again.
I find that when I read things now, that I read when I was much younger, I get more out of them.

Christina Rundle said...

I saw Clockwork Orange at such a young age that none of it made sense. Reading that quote though. . . lol. I don't think I can tell you what he's talking about.

mist1 said...

I love eggy weggies.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I must confess to loving Kubrick. "The Shining", "Dr. Strangelove", "Clockwork Orange" "Barry Lyndon"..."Two Thousand One a Space Odyssey". Astonishing. Maybe I need to do a profile on his science fiction work on the blog SQT

SQT said...

You'd have to be the one to write anything on Kubrick Stewart, I am completely unable.

The only Kubrick movie I have seen all the way through is "Eyes Wide Shut," and it was completely against my will. I went because my husband wanted to see it. I wanted to leave before it was half way through, but he insisted we stay; I think he was hoping for more nudity. I remember just sitting there, staring at the ceiling thinking why God, why put me through this torture?

Now, maybe that movie isn't a good example of Kubrick's work. But I've tried to watch "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Dr. Strangelove," "Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining". I mean, The Shining for crying out loud, and I still couldn't sit through it.

So yeah, you'll have to be the one to write about Kubrick.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Burgess did not want a glossary of terms in the back of "Clockwork Orange," however, his publisher insisted on it. The glossary isn't necessary. The words, in the context of the story, are easy to decipher.

Nikeroo said...

SQT: Eyes Wide Shut was a terrible movie wasn't it. Weird but definitely not in a cool or interesting way.

Clifford said...

A Clockwork Orange is bloody brilliant. Difficult to watch at times, but then again, that's the point. I saw it over 15 years ago and I still wince ever time I hear "Singing in the Rain".

Crunchy Carpets said...

Oooh so much to talk about here...let me get my tea!

Language..yes sadly it evolves and co mingles and so on....some words will be lost forever.

Have you seen 'Idiocracy'? A Mike Judge film.

It is about a guy who is in a cryogenic sleep for thousands of years and when he wakes it is to a world where he is the smartest person alive due to the constant overbreeding of the 'intelligent' populace versus the smarter one's.

Words have taken on new meaning...Starbucks is where men get special 'latte's...nobody can read. Basically the whole world is like Jerry Springer.

Kubrick. I like Clockwork Orange...I love 2001...I think they are marvelous.

Eyes Wide Shut is another story.
But I cannot fathom how he would make a bad movie on purpose and spend SOOOOO much time on it.

There is a website called Eyes Wide Open..I think, and in there they explore the supposed backstory and being that it is such a pointless and meaningless really start to agree with them.

Mostly it is a commentary on all the 'secret society' stuff....Illuminate, Masons, etc...

There is a lot of Purple in the movie..people think this is on purpose as it is an initiation colour. There are masonic symbols scattered throughout the movie.

The list goes on and actually makes the movie make sense.

We watched it the other night and with all that in was mind blowing...

but then you have to be one of us 'tin foil hat' brigade and believe in conspiracies!

molly said...

my favorite part of this entry
is that
i understood every word
of that anthony burgess expert

its really not so complicated

Anonymous said...

You're right about Clinton. A policy wonk and a word wonk. Very, very verbal. Not unlike President Noo-cu-lur (right!)