Have you ever wondered, as a writer, how the words you use, misuse and abuse daily feel about their life...
You might laugh me out of the text but I think is is etymological discrimination. Just you check and see how many times little words like ‘the’ and ‘and’ get used compared to me. I understand the argument about conjunctions and articles being used a lot because they are essential to the smooth running of the prose but what about real meaning? Now there is something that is vital to any exposition, have you seen what Elmore Leonard used to do to his novels? I never rated them myself and I think some of the readers who raved about them could be described as me; I mean, he never really even describes his characters properly and leaves out the bits that readers would skip anyway. That’s no good, novels are supposed to be hard work aren’t they?
I think my basic problem is that I was born as an adjective. Now, what is the essence of adjective. What is its function? The humans always boast ‘I think therefore I am’. The most an adjective can say is that ‘I describe therefore I am’. This means that my existence depends on someone using me to describe something or someone else. I have no independent existence, I always have to depend on a noun being available that I can apply myself to.
Don’t get me started on nouns. Do you know how arrogant they are? ‘I am therefore I am’, they always say, relishing their independent existence. And as for gerunds, they are even worse, seeing themselves as upmarket nouns, ‘we can do the job of both nouns and verbs,’ they boast, ‘I am and do therefore I am.’ Snobs, all of them.
Yes, I’m afraid I suffer from the adjective’s perennial problem, low esteem. I have been been to see my Thesaurus, Dr Roget, but she wasn’t much help. ‘You should just accept your place in the lexicon and be happy with that,’ she said. ‘you have had a good life, I know you were in the Army, the Paras wasn’t it? That gave a you a chance to travel and I believe Jonathan Swift wrote all about your adventures around the world.’
‘Yes, but even he spelt my name wrong. You’d think a man of the church would go to the trouble of getting that right wouldn’t you? I think the main cause of my problem is that I am still the only word that has been left out of an edition of the OED by mistake. They made sure I was back in the next edition but how do you think that makes me feel? What do you think I should do?
‘ My suggestion is this. Accept your place in the order of things and your characteristics that you cannot change. You will always be an adjective for example and there is nothing wrong with that. Where would we be without the valuable work that you and your colleagues do? The world would be a very simple and plain place. I suggest that you go back to your home in the OED and make friends with your neighbours. The one before you, ‘the passage by which food passes from the mouth to the stomach,’ sounds like he may have some interesting stories and the one after you,’a ravine or channel formed by running water’ may have some stories of far-off places that you both have visited?’
‘OK, I’ll try that. Thank you doctor.’
‘No problem, always glad to help. If you have any more problems, you can always come and look me up.’
I walked out through the waiting room and saw an old friend of mine, Hanna Rayburn, sitting in the corner.
‘What are you doing here?’ I asked
‘I’ve been coming here for some time, to see Dr Roget, she is treating me for my problem.’
‘What problem is that?’ I asked, a little indelicately.
‘I get frightened by old fashioned cookers in big, open plan kitchens, ‘ she said, ‘ the doctor thinks I am suffering from agarophobia.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I had better let you get on with your therapy then, I can see you have a lot on your plates.’
‘Yes, I’m cooking dinner tonight.’
She knocked on the door and walked in the doctor’s treatment room. I didn’t believe a word of it. Who did she think I was? I’m not a backward Evian. I’ve been around a bit.
I did as Dr Roget suggested and made my home in the ‘G’ section of the OED. I was getting well settled in when, one day, there was a lot of noise from just overleaf, on the next page. I looked it up and found it was gunfire, ‘the repeated firing of a gun or guns’ so I looked across to the opposite page and talked to my guardian, ‘a person who defends and protects something’. Yes, I know he is one of those nouns, but he agreed to look after me. I think he was feeling quite proud to be asked, even if it was only by a lowly adjective. He was really a guerrilla guardian from Guatemala who was quite fond of alliteration so we bonded well as we went fishing for gudgeon together.
That’s what he told me and I, of course, believed him. That is what I do.
I hope you have worked out who I am by now?
I heard on the grapevine, ‘the spreading of information through talk or rumour’, that some of the subjects and predicates of sentences had been getting together to form independent clauses. This was, of course, not allowed by the Great Samuel J., but it seems they crept past Maurice Waite and Sara Hawker, of the OED, unseen. The next I heard was that they had been chatting up verbs, and even some gerunds, to try to make sentences. They were really getting above themselves.
I decided that something had to be done. I got together with a few of my friends, well neighbours really, and we formed The G Force or Grammarians. The founding members were; myself of course as GB (Gully Bull ) with Guardian, Gully and Gullet closely behind in the Guerilla Army. Our motto was ‘G today, then onwards through A to Z’. ( It’s alliterative if you say it properly, with an American accent )
We decided to set a test case so we reported a couple of dodgy clauses to the Lexicon Police.( Leptons for short, hadrons for long or Higgs for very short ). They investigated and passed the file to the DPP ( Department of Publishing and Philandering). They decided that there was a case to answer so a date was set for a trial in front of a Judge. ( after all, what was the point in holding it behind his back? ). The public prosecutor was An Urine Bevin who was reluctantly brought back from the dead after the requisite affydavid was signed by the Judge. He was the only literate on the centre court on that day, all the rest were away playing tennis, or some similar racket, on the Net.
We had appointed a leading QC, called Quentin Carrville, to lead the defence’s case so we just had an ordinary barrista, called Jen Dobrie, for the coffee, from Gdansk.
On the appointed day everyone turned up in court and the Clerk pounded his Gavel and said, ‘All be upstanding, the ‘orrible Judge Dreadlock presiding.’ The clerk had a way with words but it wasn’t anyone else’s way so there was plenty of scope for misunderstanding. Luckily we were moving on to ‘H’ words next. The judge calmly combed his hair and asked if everyone was there. ‘Is everyone here?’ No one answered.
‘Well, that’s ok then, everyone’s here,’ he said, ‘on with the trial,’ “Just like the Red Queen,” said Lewis, as an aside to Llewellyn as the judge tried to bang his gravel. It sounded rather gravelly so I investigated where the extra ‘r’ had come from. It transpired that it was from Farther Christmas, some misspelling in a letter to the North Pole no doubt. I removed it so that the judge could bang on properly.
As I said to the Grammerians, ‘if we can’t even get a ‘G’ word right, how are we going to manage with the other twenty seven letters?’ That was a rhetorical question so there was no answer. We had no plans to do the ‘R’ words for many a year, so no one understood what I meant, so they still didn’t answer. A case of two unknowns ending up with the right answer.
The judge asked for the accursed, ( sorry, ‘the accused, that pesky extra ‘r’ again ) Mr S Clause, to enter the dock, alongside the Maersk St David, the biggest container ship in Wales. It was too big for the Suez canal, the Panama canal, with the new extension and even for the Manchester ship canal so it normally berthed at Pembroke Dock – minding the draft of course. Because of this, it was called a Man’ size container ship. He floated in on the tide and pleaded to be set free. ‘No,’ said the judge, ‘wrong answer. Guilty or not guilty are the only two possible answers. Otherwise you’re sunk.’
‘Not guilty then’, said Santa Clause. ‘I did never, not do it, wot I wos accursed of.’
‘Enter a Not Guilty plea please Mr De Klerk,’ said the judge, in spite of the apartheid.
It was getting late by this time. All were assembled, the Gury had been sworn in – I had managed to change the Jury to Gury so that they were in the ‘G’ section with me and so more likely to believe whatever tall story they were told by the accused. Luckily the Gudge hadn’t noticed as both Gudge, Gury were ‘G’ words and so had been checked out by the grammerians. It was now lunchtime so the Gudge asked Jen Dobrie to produce the coffee for everyone. She banged the dripper on the edge and saw the grounds for dismissal drop into the tray. The Gudge also asked if there was a Friar in court as he was very partial to his chips.
Friar Tuck trudged in, pulling his handcart. ‘Can’t you leave your cart outside?’ said the Judge, ‘It smells a bit ripe in here.’
‘That’s Robin, I’m afraid,’ said the Friar. ‘He’s been dead a while and he gets a bit whiffy now and again.’
‘Yes, I can tell, but why?
‘Well, it was like this see, Judge,’ said the eponymous Friar. ‘I was attending to Robin, one of our most famous hoodies, who was feeling quite poorly at the time and he was contemplating his demise like. I was in attendance.’
‘Do you mean he was thinking about his death?’ asked the Judge politely.
‘You’re right there Guv, you ain’t a bad a Judge. He came up with that old trick of shooting an arrow up in the sky.’
‘What for?’ asked the Judge.
He said. ‘ Wherever this arrow lands within the boundary of Nottingham Wildwood, let my mortal remains be buried there.’
‘What has that to do with your smelly cart?’ asked the Judge quite reasonably.
‘Well the arrow rose up in the air, turned around and descended. It landed on my cart, unfortunately. I had to keep my promise to Robin of course, being a Holy Man and all that. So I ‘as to cart his body around like. Most inconvenient, the weight of course, apart from the smell.’
‘So, given all that, can you still make us up some French Fries?’
‘Yes, no problem except that they will have to be chips. I don’t hold with that French rubbish after Agincourt, the field of the cloth of gold and all that other stuff that Henry made up.’ said Friar McDonald, getting out his chip pan, wood chips and filling up his barbie with waste diesel oil.
I didn’t believe his name, who is really called ‘Friar McDonald Tuck? I looked it up at Dr Roget’s’. ‘A wily owner of a chippy who masquerades as a Holy Man. Known to have a high BMI and is a good friend of Robin Hood.’
Well that settled that, he was whom he appeared to be. His Carte may not be very Blanche but he was the real deal, or Happy Meal as he was sometimes known.
We all settled down to eat our chips, with some highly suspect red sauce, and finished our meal off with an excellent cup of coffee from Gdansk. ‘Dziękuję,’ said Dzień Dobry politely, as we passed the cups back.
‘The court is now in session,’ said the Judge as he banged his gavel on the newly formica’d bench. ‘ Call the first witless, sorry, witness.’
‘Call Samuel Johnson, call Samuel Johnson, call Samuel Johnson,’ the call echoed around the corridors of power until it woke up he good Dr who was sleeping off a rather large lunch on a bench in one of the waiting rooms. He pulled himself together and walked into the court and stepped up to the witness box.
‘Do you, Dr Samuel Johnson, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’? recited Mr de Klerk.
‘Not likely, would you?’ Answered the good Dr..
‘Err, well, no, of course not,’ said the clerk.
‘Well, don’t ask me then, OK?’ said Sam.
‘Let’s get on with it,’ said the judge irritably, who was a little dyspeptic. ‘ Your witness Mr Bevin.’
An Urine heaved himself to his feet and addressed his notes, he had forgotten to do it over lunch.
‘You are, I believe Doctor S Johnson who is an acknowledged expert on Lithology. Is that so?’
‘Have you heard of clauses getting together asking nouns, and sometimes Gerunds, if they would like to make a sentence?
‘What do you mean, No?’
‘What do you think I mean? I don’t know what a clause, noun or gerund is, do I?’
‘But, but, you are a world renowned Lithologist are you not?’
‘Is not Lithology the study of words and grammar?’
‘No, it is the study of rocks and minerals. Things like granite, clay and limestone. I can witter on for hours about them if you wish, just like any geologist.’
‘That will not be necessary Doctor, thank you,’ said the perspiring An Urine, as he sat down.
‘No questions, your honour.’ Said the defence QC, quickly. He didn’t want to hear about rocks, just like any normal person.
‘I call Mr Callum McDillon,’ said the worried An Urine.
The call went out and echoed around the halls as before but it gets too boring to write it down each time so please assume it happened, thank you.
‘Are you the standard feckless Irishman?’ asked An Urine
‘Yes, I am sir. I was taught to stop swearing by my Ma in Law a couple of years ago.
‘Not likely, that Dr Sam got away with it so I don’t see why I should have to.’
‘Objection.’ Said the Judge. ‘I’m bored, can we move on please.
‘Very good, my Lord. And what do you know about the clauses having a conspiracy?’
‘I heard that they were getting above themselves and promoting themselves as sentences.’
‘Thank you Mr McDillon. Your witness.
Mr Quentin Carrville stood up to his full height, adjusted his wig and fixed the Feckless Irishman with a stare that would easily have turned a statue from stone into wiggly snakes. ‘Tell me, Mr McDillon, or may I call you Callum?’
‘Yes, Callum is OK.’
‘Tell me Callum, are you really a Feckless Irishman or are you just one of those witlesses we heard the Judge describe earlier?’
‘To be sure, I certainly am one of those fecking, feckless witnesses, soir.’
‘Thank you Callum, I’ll take that as a ‘no’, then shall I?’
‘I think so.’
‘You may be excused, Mr McDillon. Case proven,’ said the Judge. ‘Let’s all go down to the caff on the corner and get some decent chips, begging your pardon, Friar. After I have summed up of course.’
‘I find the defendant guilty on all counts of trying to be a sentence. I shall now hand you down a sentence; from the tall wardrobe. It will be a custodial sentence. I sentence you, Mr S Clause to serve 43 years in custody with the Tooth Fairy and The Easter bunny until the 24th December this year. Chips away.’
This meant, of course that Father Christmas only had Jen’s coffee left overs to rely on for a retrial.