SOUL FOOD

THE UNDERWEAR OF WORDS

(Originally published under the same title on Facebook on Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 11:49pm)

2009 seems to shaping out to be a behemoth of bad news. I decided then to start off the negativity with some positive energy a-la- oprah and start reading.

Ive been wanting for a long while to get into the underwear of words…and so it was pure luck that I came across a curious little book that I’d love to share with you in a carpaccio thin slice. Its called quite simply, Balderdash & Piffle- English words and their curious origins. As most of us haven’t the time or inclination to read a book from start to finish…Ive decided to give you the “Tippling Club-esque” molecular cuisine taster of this book…so you can savour without having to eat the whole damn thing.

“The hunger for language is rooted in our culture. The inarticulate speech of small children is known as babble, a word that if not purely imitative of the the way babies speak may be related to the biblical tower of Babel. In that famous story from genesis, the peoples of the world came together to build a tower so that we could have a squint inside God’s living room and God in a striking blow for the right to privacy, which nearly all subsequent celebrities would gladly endorse- knocked the project on its head, not with the soon to be conventional weaponry of thunder, lightning disease or slaughter but with a much wilier ruse.  He cast them down with language: one morning, they all woke up unable to understand each other…End of Tower.”


It raises ideas that I always entertained as a child…that English words when you start saying them slowly and over and over again sound funny. When you try to understand why certain words evoke an immobile fear or an irrational sense of romance…then words and the way they are spoken take on a strange twist. My own name can be said in so many ways and create Humour, Sex, Ridicule, Loathing, Irish Gaiety, and many other descriptive words when said slowly.
Mathilda.
Mathilde.
Matt-chu-der.
Met-Till-darr.
Mi-tiwl-dah.

Think about it and start repeating your name over and over again.
And if that doesn’t interest you…read the book.

Balderdash & Piffle- English words and their curious origins. By Victoria Coren.

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