Day 75

5.03: It occurred to me last night that there are a lot of words – ordinary words, in general everyday use – that I don’t understand. They’re probably words I use routinely, tossing them into conversation like seasoning in soup, but I’ll be the son of a Tourette’s-struck lexicographer if I can tell you what they mean.

Dont’ worry, I’m not going to say “Love,” like some reconstructed shoe-sniffing Gap year student.

But can some fucker define “irony,” for me? I mean I know what it is; I could point it out with a pair of binoculars and a proingy stick. I’m just stumped when it comes to describing it.

Go on Twitter now – not now, finish reading this first; it’s probably got a joke at the end – and see if you can accurately summarise “irony” in 140 characters. I bet you a pint you find “peristalsis”, or “zeugma” easier to capture; “space” and “time” even are more straightforward. For some reason, dramatic irony’s a piece of piss, but it doesn’t much help introduce us to its formidable broom-weilding mother.

Next up: “spirituality.” What in the bubbling bowels of Hades is that? I don’t even know what category of thing this belongs to. Is it a feeling like hunger?  A disposition like backwards? A hobby like self-loathing? An animal like sea lions? Where is it? What sort of hutch does one keep it in?

And then there’s “offensive.” If I make a racist joke, that’s offensive. Good. But if I make a joke about a dead person, or – as I’m wont to do – a comment generally in poor taste, that’s offensive too. But these things aren’t the same. “Offensive” in the first way has to do with complicity in the history of institutionally-sanctioned oppression, and in the second it seems to be connected to the likelihood of upsetting people or distressing their sensibilities when I make jokes that begin, “Princess Diana and Michael Jackson go into  a Turkish brothel…” Feel free to send me your punchlines: I won’t be able to tell if they’re offensive or not.

6.59: Stumbling a bit now. As I guessed, this chapter’s more tricky. But things seem to be coming to a head. I’ve got decades-old adversaries coming face-to-face, and ominous portents playing out into actual “bad things happening.” So let’s not sneeze at it just yet. If the word count’s becalmed, that’s because its struggling in the lee of the dry land in sight.

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~ by David Thorley on April 15, 2010.

One Response to “Day 75”

  1. […] 5.02: It wasn’t that long ago, was it, that I was banging on about words I don’t know the meaning of? The sensible answer, of course, is look them up in a dictionary. But that puts a whole load of […]

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