lunes, 17 de septiembre de 2012
Donald Cottee's second blog
In E283, Lexicography… - Don discusses language and the art of the blog, he examines the linguistic skills of his heritage and declares his project.
In E283, Lexicography, Etymology And Dictionary Editing Skills For Social Scientists, I encountered words I never imagined. The day I understood leukopotomy I laughed out loud. It was a question on Brain Of Britain on Radio Four. I was an addict of the show, not because I could answer the questions, but because I couldn’t - not even one. It was still an era when the working classes aspired to knowledge, rather than despised it. Suzie and I were in Dorset at the time, on a camp site near the Cerne Giant. Leukophallustry sprang to mind. When wouldn’t it? I would like to make it my contribution to the language, given the context, alluding of course to the Cerne Giant, not the CERN giant, which came in Physics P333, Sub-Atomic Mekon Layers For The Dan-Daring, and provided its own potential. I mention E283 because I learned, via its hypercatalectic stupefacient word lists some absolutely metonymic adjectives.
Now in the etiquette of the blogosphere, I am learning fast, there are e-words and non-e-words. In the south of England, so I am informed, there are u-words and non-u-words. Northerners always inhabit the latter category, and, as a northerner, I never really understood the term, apart from it possessing about the same meaninglessness as describing something, brainlessly, as cool, or not cool. All I know is that it was a mechanism for exclusion, an in-word for defining something on the inside or outside of shared assumptions that I did not share.
So the internet has e-words and non-e-words, meaning that you can’t swear. You can write expletive, but you can’t write an expletive. I came close in my first entry to being moderated. This apparently threatening process merely means being edited, though not in the way that Charles The First was edited. Featherstone U. Klondike is his name and he moderates. He reads all the entries, including all three hundred ‘Ten Ways To Achieve Self-Realisation Through Diet Reconstruction’ that appear to be lodged on the site every week. He locates and scrubs out all the non-e-words. And good old Featherstone sent me a message after my first post, saying politely that bugger and arse are non-e, but since they weren’t too offensive he’d let them through just this once. But, he said - and don’t spell that with a double t - don’t do it again.
Now where I come from adjectival skills are not highly developed. The nouns and the verbs are pretty thin, as well. Most men in Kiddington only ever use one adjective, and that in the non-e gerund. But for the purposes of my project, I need to capture the flavour. I’m a Kiddington lad, you see, but now I am translated into Spain. From here, from afar, I can see my life and my culture anew, long-sight-clarified through a previous blur of myopia. I want to examine its newly revealed detail, awareness of which escaped me at the time. And this blog is my medium, the carrier of my message.
If, via these blog entries, I am to examine the identity, character, values and beliefs of my compatriots, I have to apply authenticity. If, armed with my newly confirmed academic status, I am to analyse my origins to make sense of how I finished up in a mobile home on a Benidorm camp site, I need to use the odd expletive, if only to add local colour. But expletives are non-e and will incur moderation, so achieving consistent e-status thus constitutes a challenge.
I could invent a word, of course. Indeed, I already have one. As a child I used to annoy my mother by employing an adjective derived from blood, and it wasn’t sanguine. She got so sick of telling me off she suggested a compromise. I could say sanguine as much as I liked, as long as it sounded different. So she made up a word especially for me. She said, whenever I felt like saying sanguine, I should say ‘slodidonty’. It was a pretty word. I liked it.
“What are you doing with that Lone Ranger replica Colt 45?” she might ask.
“The slodidonty thing’s bust,” I could now reply.
I grew out of it.
So I could use my word in these blogs, but you would grow out of it quicker than I did. And if too many slodidonties gummed up Featherstone U. Klondike’s grammar checker, I might get moderated anyway, thus defeating the object of using its absurdity.
An alternative approach has already been used. I could employ some suitably acceptable word, such as adjectival, and curse merrily away. “Stuff this adjectival bus shelter,” I hear the lad say, as he kicks out the bottom panel on the left. But it lacks colour. It has also been done before in a fictitious account of a real life. As Donald Cottee, blogger, I should distance myself from such an approach to ensure no reality muscles its way into my fiction.
My solution is to employ my E283 skills. Why did I do the adjectival course in the first place? To use it, of course. So whenever I need to say something colourful, I am going to employ a colourful adjective, or even a noun or verb occasionally. By colourful, I mean something you wouldn’t expect to write on a shopping list or use in polite conversation outside of a university. Pseudohermaphrodite might be an example. So I can have my young lad say, “Stuff this pseudohermaphrodite bus shelter” as a prelude to booting out the ill-secured lower panel. I can use my skills, get my meaning across, keep things varied, remain thoroughly e, and still get past Featherstone U. Klondike’s solipsistic grammar checker. You, my reader, can then substitute what I intended. Problem solved.
So what is my project? Well, it’s partly a chronicle and partly a history. The first aim is quite a pastime these days. We have Brits moving to France, Brits moving to Spain, Brits moving to Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey, Dubai and wherever, anywhere but Britain. They all tell their stories to the folks back home. We have intimate detail of how they grew their first olive, how the ceilings fell in, how the local attorneys rip you off, about the first time they really enjoyed sardines, about how many things you can do with a clove of garlic and about how you can use gunpowder to cure baldness. In this aspect of my quest, I accept the clichéd status to which I aspire. I’m from a mining village in Yorkshire, for God’s sake! What do you expect, imagination? But the second part of my agenda is what makes my project different. This will be more than a diary, more than a travelogue, and more than a renovation project. It will examine, from an academic viewpoint, precisely what Suzie and I have left behind. We aren’t here just for the weather and the wine. We’re here, in part, because our origins decayed to free us. Our roots were so secure, at one time, that you couldn’t have pulled us out of Kiddington soil with a JCB. At sixty-four, I was wafted abroad by a breeze. The question is, why?
There is a third, and more nebulous goal, a goal that can be realised merely by the very existence of this blog. Since the invention of writing, the promulgation of ideas has been the privilege of the few. Entitlement in publication, if I might mix disciplines, has always favoured the resourced. Either your face fit, or your wallet did - or whatever you used to carry around your readies in the era of The Epic Of Gilgamesh. With the rise of the internet, this has changed, and I intend to be one of the first to place a permanent text in this new era, which I will label the “phenomenological phenomenon”, or pp for short. Quietly, the common man’s voice (sorry, pc), the common person’s voice is now being heard. Never before in the history of humankind has the ordinary person been able to promulgate. How would history have judged Alexander The Great if those conquered could have blogged about their experience? And what about those raised from the dead by certain miracle workers? Would they have blogged? Just imagine: “Fell asleep after too much unleavened bread for lunch. Hysterical father pulls tramp off the street to try and wake me, because now that I am obviously pubescent he won’t come within five cubits of me. Tramp sits on my bed, shakes it and wakes me up. Father declares it a miracle and offers a shekel to get rid of him and his mates.” Yes, they would have blogged, and in the pp era, they can. Vox pop will thus explode myths, or merely create them, like it has always done.
For the first time in human history, the ordinary person has a say, at least that’s what we learned in Media M101, Althusser, Derrida, Post-Modernism: An Introduction To Neo-Marxist Analysis Of Soap Opera. It’s a partial viewpoint, of course, but no more partial than those who published in the past. A search for Donald Cottee, in the era of pp, produces results. In all previous eras, these people would have died unknown, and remained so, their contributions eternally unrecognised. The information age has thus changed everything. It allows the claiming of previously privileged territory by the common person, and I can now seek my own immortality via its free space.
Back in Kiddington we have the lad who kicked in the expletive bus shelter. I watched him just a few weeks ago. The shelter is by the church, a dark stone structure built by miners who gave their labour for free. That was just over a century ago. Across the road is the cemetery, where many of the poor archimandrites are buried, their headstones removed a generation ago when the place was tidied up by a council worker with an excavator, an act that afforded them the eternal anonymity that was the birthright of their era. Across the fields beyond, clearly visible from the bus shelter, is where Kiddington Colliery used to stand, the apparently permanent institution that absorbed miners’ labour, encrusted their lungs, made their livelihoods and took their lives. It was also tidied up, demolished, in fact, smoothed over and grassed, because a certain government decreed that our nation no longer needed a coal industry. Energy prices rose and British Coal, now predominantly not British, has moved back in to skim off the grass and topsoil to open-cast what’s left of the saliferous spoils. Crepusculate the stuff that’s still underground.
So when I watch this lad, this specimen of Kiddington’s future, walk under the shade of the church bus shelter, I have parallel stories in mind. I watch him as he starts to poke a Doc Marten toe at the bottom panel. In my mind’s eye, I see a permed lady fixing on a target, a summary symbol of what she wants to destroy. I see a lad start to kick hard until the panel breaks away and flaps loose. I see the woman’s plan go into operation. The hired assassin hits his first targets. I see the boot smash the panel. I see a war waged by a government against its own people. “They should make ‘em better, my dad says. You can just kick them to bits,” says the lad. “It’s cheaper to buy it from Poland. Dimorphicise the ocelots,” said the government. Put the boot in.