Hiya! Sorry to miss you last week – it’s been a pretty hectic few weeks. Here in Edinburgh, we’ve been marking Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief‘s Death Awareness Week, and the Hidden Door Festival has been taking place down the road in Leith.
[For more about those sorts of things, check out the Apoplexy Newsletter.]
So, when I sat down today to check the reading list of links that I keep on my phone as potential blog fodder, it seemed appropriate that the first one that caught my eye was from 28 May – things have been a bit of a blur since then. And all the more appropriate that it referred to a recent television programme by Jonathan Meades On Jargon.
Meades’s Pompey has survived many home moves, and is one of the ever-growing number of books that remains on my shelves Because I’m Absolutely Going To Read It One Of These Days.
But then, life gets in the way. Right now, I’m hoping that Ajax Penumbra 1969 – Robin Sloan’s prequel to Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – is going to be the entry drug that gets me back into reading fiction voraciously. I mean, I really need something to spark the habit before the World Cup alights as the next big distraction.
I was hearing from my good good friends in the BBC Radio 4 newsroom the other day that – and I made a point of writing it down because it was quite a striking piece of news –
MPs have expressed concerns about the safety of football fans from the UK at the World Cup in Russia. An estimated 10,000 British supporters are expected to travel to the tournament.
This was a surprise to me, because I didn’t reckon fans would be streaming to Russia from all four corners of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Nor was I aware that Britain was sending a team to the World Cup. I mean, I’ve noticed that the British supermarkets have been stripping saltires off of their produce and covering everything with the union flag, so I don’t suppose I shouldn’t be surprised if I tune in to see a British team dressed in this sort of a monstrosity and getting humped by
Peru Iraq Costa Rica Belgium.
I’m kidding, of course. The new England strip is pretty classy. Though I can’t imagine that fans of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are laughing at their teams’ absences from the tournament.
But in so-ridiculous-as-to-be-worthy-of-a-wry-grimace news, the BBC’s Scottish politics correspondent Sarah Smith has been at the SNP’s party conference this past week asking everyone who they’ll be supporting in the World Cup. She’s been appalled to discover that Scots won’t be supporting England at Russia 2018. You know, because there isn’t anything more substantive to focus on right now. I’m looking forward to her follow up piece on whether the Dutch will be supporting Germany in the absence of the Netherlands.
Anyway. There’s plenty of time to get World Cup Fever. Now where was I?
Ah, yes. Jonathan Meades on Jargon. Long-suffering readers of the blog may recall my layperson’s interest in linguistics. And also Critical Legal Studies. And as a stroke survivor I find myself thinking on the brain’s capacity for language, and the effects of aphasia, quite a lot. So, I turn to this review of the show, thinking I’m going to have to check this programme out. And I still am, but because I’m kind of surprised at some of the conclusions Meades has reached.
Within the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entry, Meades has been described as
“brainy, scabrous, mischievous,” “iconoclastic” and possessed of “a polymathic breadth of knowledge and truly caustic wit”.
So, clearly, he’s going to know more about this stuff than some scruffy stroke victim. But still, among his polymythic pantheon of skills, I don’t see any reference to him as a linguist – even if he does have a flexible lingo-muscle. But that doesn’t stop him – it says here – from expressing the opinion that “regional accents” are apartheid disguised as vibrant diversity.
Fair enough, in one sense. Meades’s job as a scabby-brained icon is surely to give reflexive received wisdom a good kicking in the gutter and suitably offensive language. After all, the afore-mentioned Pompey was reviewed in The Independent in the following terms:
[B]y the end of the opening two pages, which must rank among the most startling affirmations of omniscience in 20th-century literature, the reader has met with an arresting injunction: “After using this book please wash your hands.”
I can see why I bought it in the first place.
But it does make one wonder what it was that made Auntie Beeb was thinking when she commissioned quite the programme that finally emerged.
Well, I guess I’ll have to add catching up with telly to catching up with books. Let’s chat about this some more next week, shall we…?
Next week: Circumstances and Pomp