Bad Words

The return from Wigtown, via the infinitely melancholy Lockerbie Station, was meandering and the office was waylaid by 20 sacks of unopened books. But I’m now back on the hillside, having woken at five thirty by the keening of a fox in the back garden.

This week’s reading has included Philip Roth’s Nemesis, Charles Yu’s How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe, Peter Watson’s The German Genius, The Verso Book of Dissent, the first and last page of Susan Boyle’s The Person I Was Born To Be and a stack of graphic novels – Unwritten Volume II, which is quite the best thing I’ve read in ages, more of Brightest Day and the confusing and unsatisfactory Fall of the Hulks. We had the pleasure of a visit from Rob Shearman – I don’t know what I admire him for more, the fact he has a personal library of 17,000 volumes or the fact he wrote “Dalek”. (His book, Love Songs For The Shy And Cynical is a gem, by the way). I even, shock horror, managed to write an article – the first non-reviewing finger to keyboard since we arrived in Heriot.

Me vs Shearman in a Bibliophagophilous Face-Off

I’ve also taken up my new hobby of chopping logs. There is a very strangely lovely satisfaction to be had from the arc of an axe and its sheering into wood.

But, to the point, bad words. Some people are being very bad with words at the moment. I don’t mean wandering apostrophes or split infinitives: some people are making words to the exact opposite of their normal function. I’ve been collecting examples and slowly stewing in anger at the political backdrop to it. For example – “citizen journalist”. Anyone in the UK that calls themselves a citizen journalist is frankly a moron. They’re not a citizen – we are all, unfortunately, subjects of the crown. And they’re not a journalist: they don’t fact check, research, quantify or qualify. They just pass on something they’ve heard. The proper term is not “citizen journalist” but “craven tatler”. Another one is the much vaunted Big Society (like the Big Read or the Big Coffee Morning, that matey adjective is infuriating). Under the Big Society, I’m volunteering as a brain surgeon – might take a few false starts, but my heart’s in the right place, even if your corpus callosum won’t be by the end of it. Big Society is fork-tongue for Small State. And the State isn’t the monolithic, 1984-style entity – the Big Society will still monitor, survey and infringe liberties with gleeful abandon. It’s the State as education, health, child benefit, road maintenance, rubbish collection, social care, playground attendants and all the rest. One final gripe – reality television. Like lush desert, dry ocean, flat mountain, dark light. If, as Confucius said, the first business of the wise ruler is the regulation of names, The X Factor would be renamed The Schadenfreude Show.



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5 responses to “Bad Words

  1. Marie du Bonnet

    Beware your new log-chopping hobby. You may over-develp your arms and thus ruin the line of your suits. 😉

    • This place is requiring a whole new wardrobe from me. I’m thinking waistcoat, plus fours and cravat in tweed and a pipe and / or shotgun. Or a saffron robe for the actually chopping: it’s rather Zen finding the grain, balancing the log on the block, hefting the axe: and if it splits graciously it’s wonderful. Mrs McS is not chopping logs yet, but she’s awfully happy about the fire afterwards.

  2. “Anyone in the UK that calls themselves a citizen journalist is frankly a moron.”

    This sentence put my inchoate thoughts on this tiresome phenomenon into fourteen well-chosen words . Thank you, McShandy, you’ve made a middle-aged man very happy on a grey Sunday afternoon. I intend to quote you on this subject at every possible opporchancity, as Francie and Josie used to say.

    • I saw two guys in Wigtown re-encting Francie and Josie, with every opporchancity to use the word “chink” as well…
      I read a thing in The Leither recently where someone was yarping about how the “citizen journalists” of the interweb had been far more sophisticated in their analysis of “Caledonia” than those so-called professionals who’ve seen far more theatre and don’t just blog up what went through their thought-sponges at the very moment. Regardless of the merits of “Caledonia”, the article boiled down to “I hate it, loads of people hate it, and the Scotsman gave it 4 stars”. Joyce is the finest theatre critic in the country, and she no doubt judges a piece on criteria other than “did it make my dopamine-muscle twitch?” Ach. Rant over.

  3. Stuart Swanston

    Anent the “Big Society” I remember a Marx Brothers film in which Groucho introduced Harpo as “a distinguished amateur neuro-surgeon”.

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