Archive for July 10th, 2006

Coining It While Asleep

As I was saying the other day, my dreams are pretty short on detail. Sometimes I dream about words. Most of them are as follows: I’m sitting somewhere, reading a big long and very coherent newspaper article or a page in a book, and then a thought overtakes me: how in Christ did I manage to think up all these words in my sleep? And how come they’ve all stopped making sense?

Anyhow, the other day I woke to discover that I had managed to invent a new word in my sleep, so I wrote it down. Rather disappointingly, it sounds a lot like an existing word. The word is brochly (with a hard -ch), and it descibes the manner of a person who sits primly alert in a rocking chair, ensconced in a blanket. I have no idea where this came from. I rarely eat broccoli, and I have had no recent encounters with badgers.

Accent Matters

On Saturday morning I heard a disturbing piece on Today FM, a rerun from earlier in the week, featuring a woman who, according to the presenter, and also according to this report here, had been left with a ‘foreign accent’ as the result of a stroke. To me, the woman sounded like a fluent speaker of English as a second language, or perhaps as though she had learned it without ever hearing it spoken.

I heard a story once about a French woman who had suffered a serious stroke after decades living in Spain, and when she regained consciousness, she was unable to speak nor understand Spanish, only French. Despite what the report says about the condition that ‘mimics’ other accents, I think that the predicament of this woman may be more down to the fact that her lost accent (Canadian) had been acquired when she moved from Newcastle to Canada at a young age, perhaps in the same way as one might learn a second language, as a means of adapting to her surroundings. It may be that in addition to the damage to the co-ordination between different muscle groups, the faculty for learning and retaining other languages has been affected by her stroke. It might probably be more accurate to say that she no longer has any accent at all, rather than to say that she has a new ‘foreign’ accent.

The woman sounded distraught when she was talking about her problems, but it was hard to tell how much of this was because she was unable to give her speech the recognisable inflections and intonation that an accent normally provides, and how much of it was simple distress. The distress arises, I imagine, not only because you no longer sound like yourself, but because people no longer react to your words in the way you would expect.

A Quare Dunt

I have been thinking further about Zidane’s butt.

This was the best possible ending to the World Cup: a welcome irruption of irrationality and ugly violence instead of the happily-ever-after tale that was being prepared for France’s eventual victory. There was a Rocky-style narrative building up since a previously mediocre French side had knocked out a Spain side in the first round of the knock-outs. Had Zidane lifted the cup, we might have allowed ourselves to be convinced, in agreement with the sponsors, that This Is What Sport Is All About: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of. Anyone anywhere on the skids could have looked for a tonic in Zidane’s comeback and final redemption. Look At Zidane: You Can Do Anything If You Put Your Mind To It.

Zidane’s moment of absurdist theatre, no doubt the product of vile provocation, briefly delivered us all from mass delusion. He saved football. It was a truly heroic performance, and the perfect ending to a brilliant career.

Insane In The Membrane

Marx’s maxim, according to a questionnaire he once filled out, was ‘Nihil humani a me alienum puto’, that is, ‘nothing human is alien to me’. I am guessing that he was too busy redrafting Capital to meet anyone with a tattoo, or perhaps he sported one himself.

I know plenty of people with tattoos, and I can’t for the life of me work out why an otherwise sane and rational individual would decide to permanently brand himself. Perhaps this was what Zinedine Zidane was contemplating last night as he sank the head into the heavily tattooed Marco Materazzi’s chest. But Zidane probably has a tattoo too. Maybe he was jealous of Materazzi’s ‘Davide’ tattoo, written in a medieval-style typeface beloved of furniture upholstery businesses the world over? Or was it that he realized that his own creativity on the pitch could not compete with the sheer artistic audacity of Materazzi allowing his children to practice drawing stars with a tattoo needle up and down his arm?

I can understand someone in prison thinking that getting a tattoo might be a good idea, but that seems to me a function of not being free. Getting a tattoo under these circumstances could be a way of re-asserting some sense of ownership over your body. But how utterly bored with life does a free person have to be in order to think, the best thing I can do for myself right now is to get a frying pan with a Celtic design on my upper arm, and the name of my daughter written in Chinese up my neck? And how narcissistic do you have to be to think that it’s always going to look pretty damn fine? I know one guy who got a Hulk Hogan tattoo on his arm, and he still seems pretty chuffed with it, even though his Hulk is now starting to shrink and wrinkle, to the point where it could be plausibly mistaken for Jimmy Saville.

I just don’t get it.

Update: Question for those of you who are arriving at this post after searching for Materazzi tattoo in Google. Are you thinking of getting a tattoo? If so, why?

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July 2006