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Dagnab that flibbertigibbet

by Joe Coluccio

Gort_Klaatu_KlingonLanguage lives and is far too vital to be ossified in a graveyard of grammar books, the commercial guidelines of publishing house editors, or in the strictures of those who claim to hold our key to linguistic structure.

If it isn’t obvious by now, I will point out that my tack is toward descriptive, not predictive language. Grammar and word usage should not be something akin to a literal interpretation of the Bible. All rules passed from on high applied by tightening fingers around your stiff starched collar.

On the other hand (four fingers and a thumb, a friend of mine would say every time he was faced with a dilemma) I dislike common parlance and works of fiction that insist on peppering speech, prose, or script with the topical phrases, mostly gathered from popular movies and television, which rise then fall with the depressing regularity of a row of rotating sheet metal ducks at a busy bee bee gun gallery. It’s kinda like using a cellophane wrapped greeting card to express your emotion. I guess you could say that I dislike it big time, bro.

I believe that one of the important concepts of writing and reading is novelty. I’m not sure what I make of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, but I love the fact the end of the Wake, “A way a lone a last a loved a” wraps back around to the beginning sentence “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s…” Ouroboros. Eternal Return. World Without End, Amen. I like the fact that the very words of the story carry as much meaning as the story structure. And many thanks to Murray Gell-Mann who discovered quarks then drove the name from Joyce’s elementary text into the sea of our language. “Three quarks for Muster Mark! Sure he hasn’t got much of a bark. And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.” Strange and Charmed. It is all great fun. Great fun is important. Maybe more important than you think.

Science fiction, full of neologism and wacky meme, from its pulp roots, seems the best place to find novelty. Darko Suvin, who would most likely disagree with everything I think about the importance of the pulp origins of SF, describes the field by what he calls “cognitive estrangement” the presence of a “novum,” a novel device, that leads us to conceive our world in a different way.

“Ninety percent of everything is crap,’ observed Theodore Sturgeon. Ninety percent of crap may reveal everything of value. It’s a grand feeling to throw off the pristine uniform and wallow in the muck.