Philology

From my very limited grasp of the Greek language (I still feel that any gala should involve a celebration of milk), I believe the title should refer to a love of words.  Mr Collins is rather drier in his definition going with “comparative and historical linguistics” or, more broadly, a “study of literature”.  He also notes that it is no longer in scholarly use – so ideal for GofaDM!

So far as I know, I have always loved words.  As a tiny, wee nipper I would insist that any text within my visual field was read out to me – or so my mother tells me.  As a result, she took advice from my aunt (a teacher) on how to teach me to read (earlier than was then the norm) in the hope that this might shut me up.  In the whole field of human endeavour, this may be one of the least successful activities ever attempted – not only did it singularly fail to shut me up, my excessive loquacity has now spread to the medium of print and thus to your eyes, dear reader.

I still feel the need to read any print: despite any language barrier that may exist or any propriety that might be offended – I really need to control my urge to read other people’s tattoos (though my “worst” tattoo-related incident was studying a chap’s body art to try and work out which mes0-American culture it was pastiching: Olmec, I think).

This obsession with words might explain my vulnerability to my continuing theatre-addiction and explain something of the nature of the GofaDM.  The style of this blog may have little to commend it, but I do try to give otherwise neglected words a little bit of exercise and a brief glimpse of the sky.  I like to imagine a few readers now using some more obscure vocabulary in their everyday lives – no doubt to the dismay or confusion of their nearest and most expensive.

As was recently established, via the work of Antonio Serrano on The Verb, I can love words even when I can only understand a little of what is said and the position of the word boundaries.  In the recent In Our Time on Rabindranath Tagore, one of the academics read a short extract from his early poem Sonar Tari (the Golden Boat) in its original Bengali.  This was amazing enough to cover my arms in goosebumps, despite my total ignorance of the language and not even knowing when one word ended and another began.  Subsequent research shows that Bengali is also a beautiful language to look at, though again means nothing to my uneducated eyes.  It does look potentially confusing too, as a 4 looks like an 8 and a 7 like a 9: maybe I should work on my Greek first, at least they use the same numbers and via mathematics I know most of the alphabet.

However, the primary stimulus behind this post is A L Kennedy.  I have now read the first two stories in her latest collection, All The Rage.  I am rationing them as they are too rich to be consumed en masse.  The first, Late in Life, I more-or-less managed to read in her voice – or the best approximation that the voices in my head can achieve.  For the second, Baby Blue, I was stuck in my own voice for some reason – even though I had heard the author read a sizeable extract a couple of months back.  Despite the (OK, my) voice, the story is the most perfect piece of prose that I can imagine existing – every word is necessary and just the right one for its place.  I would wonder how she manages this, but I know she goes through hundreds of drafts which must be part of the reason – however, I could do that and get nowhere close to this standard of writing.  I’ve read very well-reviewed books, Nobel-Prize winners even, and many have been very good – but in none have the words achieved quite such an apotheosis.  Still, the fact I can at least recognise such excellence does give me hope (a very vague and distant hope) that I can construct an objective function against which to measure the deficiencies of my own writing and identify improvements (and plenty of these literary fruit should be suspended pretty close to terra firma).  However, this paragraph does demonstrate with irritating precision my inability to fully convey my own thoughts as I would wish – though perhaps I’m not alone. One of the many positive, professional reviews of All The Rage says that it “celebrates love like a hungry dog celebrates the corpse of a rabbit”.  Perhaps I need to more fully embrace the metaphor and not just for (weak) comic effect or in chronic over-extension.

I wonder if this embrace of the short story and poetry might be an indicator of incipient adulthood (though, if I’m honest, I really don’t think I can pull off a hood – style-wise I mean, this is not a comment on the lack of flexibility in my shoulders) – or have a just discovered my teenage angst a mere three decades too late?

Tattoos

As a chap who visits a gym regularly, I see a variety of men in a state of deshabille and have thus had the current popularity of the tattoo brought to my attention.  Indeed, a lot of blokes are covered in so much ink that they look like my notebook at the end of a particularly long and boring business meeting.

Much of this “ink” (as I, probably erroneously, believe the current vernacular would have it) is in the form of text.  Languages which eschew the Roman alphabet seem a popular choice – Chinese and something that might be Arabic seem most popular. Disappointingly, I’ve yet to see any Egyptian hieroglyphs or, my own personal favourite, any Cuneiform.  Surely there must be someone out there willing to have an appropriate epithet indelibly etched into their epidermis in the argot of old Akkad or Sumer?

For those who stick with the Roman alphabet I observe a depressingly limited range of fonts in use.  (I also notice the curious number of men who have a man’s forename, presumably their own, permanently marking their flesh.  Is this supposed to help the local CSI or SOCO to identify their mutilated corpse after a particularly gruesome demise?  Or perhaps it is to aid self-identification after being struck with amnesia? Although, in either case, I can’t help feeling that a lone forename is not the best form of identification – but I digress).  Almost every tattoo I see seems to use the Gothic font.  Why no Helvetica, Genova or Lucida Grande?  I’d even be willing to overlook the normally unforgivable use of Comic Sans, Courier or Wingdings?  Is it that Gothic is safely out of copyright?  Or are other fonts just very hard to implant in the skin using a needle?

As I’m not willing to obtain a tattoo of my own,  I suspect I may never know the answers to these questions.  But, if I could start a craze for tattoos in Cuneiform or Helvetica, I will feel my life has not been lived entirely in vain.