Archive for Entertainment

Parallel Words

Continuing the theme of nominal accidentology – the study of names which could have been otherwise, and the ensuing differences in derivatives, I want to consider the alternative universe wherein our feet are as useful at manipulation – or podipulation – as our hands. It’s based on a series of tweets emitted back in February, while our esteemed PM worked abroad as a salesman for the arms industry. That moment is passed, so we need not be so personal.

Possible changes in the English language which might have ensued, were our feet as useful as our hands:

  • We’d be able to stand legs akimbo
  • We’d have legs dealers
  • Legs dealers could be entertained with a toe buffet
  • Our politicians could flog sidelegs on trades missions
  • CND would stand for the more general Campaign for Nuclear Dismemberment
  • George Bernard Shaw’s play might have been entitled Legs and the Man
  • Abilene would famously have required surrender, on entry, of all footguns
  • Our Air Forces, Navies and Armies would be companioned with Leggies
  • We’d have a Salvation Leggy
  • There’d be a quip about someone looking “eggless enough
  • There’d be no need for the Black Knight fight scene in Jabberwocky

Arm yourselves


with knowledge.

People can be shot down. Cities can be burned or gassed. Entire ethnic groups can be destroyed. But an idea, when spread far and wide, can set fire and spread without caring who or what is in its way.

Ideas, when supported by enough people, and spoken loud enough, can change the world.

Speak out, violently if need be.

Never stop the spread of ideas.

It may be the only thing we’ll have left.

Which may take us to the close of Brecht’s ‘To Those Born Later’:

“… Oh, we
Who wanted to prepare the ground for friendliness
Could not ourselves be friendly.

But you, when the time comes at last
And man is a helper to man,
Think of us
With forbearance”


Most English (this is not the Amish usage you are looking for) aware entities know what the Y and the A mean when they begin a word. Most of the blogaware might guess what a B might stand for. Blogular quiddity will probably narrow down the possibilities for the second A and you’d probably just guess the N word (good grief, not that N word, where do you think we are, 60s Mississippi?) from the blogospherical context. Although familiarity with the premise behind Seinfeld might help.

Pay attention much?

Never having seen any but the occasional episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – which always struck me as quite decent entertainment – I’d never thought of it as a source of linguistic novelty. Seems I was very wrong. Usually good to find that out.

Also finding out that the magazine Verbatim, to which I was subscribed, last century under the editorship of the late Laurence Urdang, is still around, having been revived both in print and online.


The Ode Less Travelled has been out for a while now, six years in fact since its first publication. Nobody needs another review – have a look at the amazon ones. I got the paperback in 2009.

They say “constraint sets you free” (well, I do, anyway). With no limit to the available stream of syllables and sentences which your language flings at you, you’re transfixed like the proverbial duck in headlights. You’re quite unable to begin creating exactly because the possibilities are endless. (It is a duck, isn’t it?)

Anyway – regardless of how you feel about poetry – if you just like playing with words then the strictures and structures imposed by the iambic pentameter allow you to get moving. Don’t think of this as ‘other people’s poems

I think it may be possible to put
A word or comment in a tiny box
And simultaneously to hide a foot
Some twenty times in freshly rolled up socks

Once you’ve committed that kind of crime, preferably several times just to prove you can repeat the experiment reliably (but I won’t bore you here with any further chalked outlines) you can cast the chains and go mental:

Gracefully noiseless lessness trampolined in the rushes, the rivers, the baskets of fruit flies, the soporific drosophila outrageously topping the melanine toffee. Can it be about to be that we shall fling our rapidly responsible troops of solidity at the swings and rotund abbots of ministerial wedges? Did the flagrant oil of rabbit fry them dry? Did it?

Then you paint it. This can be fun. But maybe you don’t want to do it out loud.


As a long time advocate of the synthetic comparative and superlative (yer actual –er and –est suffixes) and deprecator of the analytic more and most, I prefer to say cloudier rather than more cloudy on those occasions where it’s relevant (and preferably true). To me, the latter sounds clunky and silly. And naturally I take it further by proposing the abolition of all such moronity and mostification. Thus we go with beautifuler instead of more beautiful. This should work with all adjectives.

But what about adjectival phrases? Whilst recently walking from A to B, I found myself considering going via two possible routes (it so happened that I wished to visit C on the way). One route had C more ‘on the way’ than the other. So was that route on the wayer than the other? Was there, in fact, an on the wayest route? If I said that out loud would folk think me merely mad, or would they know what I meant?

In a department store, the whereabouts of the escalator temporarily eluded me, so I had to seek the telltale signs of large diagonal lumps of building from ceiling to floor. I needed an escalatery area – one escalaterier than where I currently was.

You’ll note that, in that preceding little story, the spelling escalatory (which means something else) would not have done