Saturday, April 17, 2010

Editor required - enquire within

The Dandymite Kid

What's in a word?

Having myself a little ponder this morning, minding my own business, as I do, that phrase sprang to mind and got me thinking. "A rose by any other name is still a rose" as the great bard once wrote. Well, some say that Bacon actually wrote it, others say that Marlowe did, but after four hundred years I don't think it matters a fiddler's damn who wrote it, it's a fact "for a' that" - as another poet wrote, and as far as I know there is no dispute about Rabbie Burrrns, or if there is nobody's listening.

So, what's in a word?

This got me onto where words come from, their etymology, but I really began to wonder what came before the etymology, where did words come from? Somebody must have made them all up in the very beginning. Oh I don't mean that someone sat down one rainy evening and made up a lot of words, that's silly. They appeared one by one over the years.

This got me to thinking about the actual mechanics of making up words at all. I've made up a couple myself. One is "superlicious" and it means 'superlatively delicious' but really it's nothing more than a contraction. The one I particularly like, all my own work too, is "testacularities"! And if you can't work out what that one means then somebody has lead a very sheltered life.

This got me onto the making up of words by accident. Some years ago in Whitemoor prison one of the young fellows came to talk to me and he approached in a very furtive, clandestine manner. At this point I will have to start to censor the story to protect the guilty. I don't remember the conversation verbatim - I'm not a policeman - but the general gist was like this.

Him: Frank, I'm needing to ask you something.

Me: Oh dear, why me?

Him: You don't know what I am going to ask yet.

Me: It isn't going to be anything good, not from the way you came in here, looking shifty.

Him: Will ye listen?

Me: Get on with it then.

Him: I was thinking. When I get out I'll be needing a few things.

Me: Working brain cells on that shopping list?

Him: No, listen! I know where to get a "thing" from and the bullets, my cousin will get them. What I need is, I need to know who to see to buy some dandymite.

Me: What?

Him: Dandymite. I've got a plan to blow the bastards up for what they've done to me.

Me: You mean dynamite!

Him: Yeah, dandymite.

Me: For fuck's sake! How would I know that?

Him: You know everybody.

Me: Listen to me, numbty, you can't just buy dandy-bleedin'-mite. It's all regulated I should imagine. Dandymite! Give me a break.

That's the way the conversation went, if it can be called that, but my point is that his use of the word dandymite is probably a perfect example of how words evolve. That's why we have got so many words which mean more or less the same thing and which sound alike.

As for the Dandymite Kid, he went out of prison years ago and he blew nothing at all up. He is probably living somewhere in suburbia, working nine to five, rearing three kids and being bullied by his wife.

Prisoners get odd ideas, unrealistic ideas, but they grow out of them the minute they find something else to occupy their tiny minds.

Dandymite! If brains were dandymite he wouldn't have had enough to blow his bleedin' nose.

Another day

When I crawled out of my nasty little pit this morning at seven bells I did all the usual things: made my bowl of superfast oats, sliced a banana into it and munched my way through that. Then the cell doors were opened and I went out to get more hot water for a cuppa and to post a letter to Lesley, she of the impatience and bad temper. (I've told her! I can only write the letters and put them into the postbox - after that, it's in the hands of others! Is she listening? Is she bollocks. Like any other woman she only listens when it is her doing the talking!)

So, I came out of my kennel and ran into one of the boys who said, "Morning, Frank."

"Right," said I intelligently.

"Are you going to write one of your things today?"

"I am," said I, "so don't bother me," and walked off.

At the tea/hot water urn I ran into another one.

"Morning, Frank," said he.

"Bollocks," said I politely.

He said, "I always feel pretty good when I get up in the morning but as soon as they unlock us I get depressed."

I said, "So don't come out of your cell then!"

He answered grumpily, "I wish I didn't have to. I'm going straight back in as soon as I've made my tea."

"Me as well, mate. Me as well," I told him.

He asked, "Are you going to be tapping on that fucking typewriter again?"

I said, "What do you suggest? Should I sit scratching myself and get depressed like you?"

"Bollocks," said he and off he went.

I collected my water and headed back to my kennel, only about thirty feet away - sorry, we are on continental measures now so I'd better say about ten metres.

I was a step away from my kennel door and sanctuary when yet another mastermind accosted me.

"Hey ! Frank!" said he. "Are you busy?"

"I am," said I and went to enter my haven of solitude.

"The thing is," said he, "I've got nuffink to do all morning so I was thinking about having a go on your game!"

"Keep your eye on that then," said I, "because you'll never get your hands on it."

"You know what," said he, "you can be a horrible fucker when you want to be."

"Many years of practice and dealing with loonies like you," said I as I closed the door in his face.

So, there I was, in my kennel, water for tea and my typewriter just sitting there waiting for me to start hitting the keys. I sat down, made the aforementioned, and stared at the machine - but nothing presented itself as a topic. I have nothing to tell anyone, not a thing. My mind is in neutral this morning and I can't be bothered. I've got nothing to give, nothing to write about. I am bereft of inspiration this morning.

Oh well, what can I say? "Tomorrow is another day," said Pooh.

You can quote me on that

Today, Friday 9th April 2010, I find myself sitting down to my typewriter without a preconceived topic for this attempt at perspicacity (or sagacity or wisdom, call it what you will). I am topicless. However, I do have, running around the desert of my mind, two quotes, not entirely unconnected with each other in that the writers were contemporaries and acquaintances and may even have been friends for all I know.

On 4th September 1844 in his judgement in O'Connell v the Queen, Lord Denman said:

Trial by jury itself, instead of being a security to persons who are accused, will be a delusion, a mockery, and a snare.
While, at about the same time, William Lloyd Garrison said:
I am in earnest - I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD.
Now, it is a well established fact that we can find a quote to cover every eventuality and situation, all we need to do is look hard enough in the right places. This got me to thinking about quotes in themselves and how they become quotes. Clearly they come from the fact that someone has either said or written something that sticks in the mind and becomes memorable and therefore quoteable.

I wonder if, at some point in the future - when I am long gone and am sitting next to our current lot of corrupt politicians in purgatory's waiting room, listening to them whingeing about where it all went wrong and wondering where their next cigar is going to come from - will there be students somewhere quoting me?

That begs the question, did I ever say or write anything memorable? Come to that, did I ever say or write anything sensible? I don't think we can judge our own work or writing, not in an objective way. I suppose that's what editors are for and, now that I have mentioned editors, that's what I need - a good editor who can encourage but at the same time be ruthless with a red pen.

I know better than anyone that I ramble on, I digress, I lose the thread, I go around the houses, I waffle and write a lot of complete, total bollocks sometimes - most of the time in fact. That's why I need a ruthless wielder of the censor's axe.

Where would I find such a person? Am I asking the rigt question? Shouldn't I really be asking, where can I find a person who is prepared to get involved with a low-life like me and the outpourings of his diseased mind? Is that a better question to ask?

Well, it probably is but that's all by the way really because the thing that counts from my perspective is that I have a lot of things I wish to say. I possibly have pearls of wisdom (learned in a very hard school) to pass on.

So, where does that take me? Back to the words of Garrison I suppose: 

I am in earnest - I will not excuse - I will not equivocate - I will not retreat a single inch - AND I WILL BE HEARD.
The Voice In The Wilderness

1 comment:

lesley said...

ha if you think you've got it bad imagine how the postman must feel when he sees me hovering at the door like a rabid pit bull,and he hasnt got a letter for me