Monday, 17 June 2013

Yeah, Innit!

Someone exposed me to the following phrase the other day, and I reproduce it in full:-

UPW Tip of the Day:  
People with impoverished vocabularies live emotionally impoverished lives. People with rich vocabularies have a multi-hued palette of colors with which to paint their life's experience, not only for others, but for themselves as well.
(Anthony Robbins)

I gazed at it for a while with a feeling of emptiness. I thought perhaps that I could re-punctuate it, but no, the punctuation was complete – rock solid. I read it out aloud with different forms of emphasis, but no – this elicited no further nuances of meaning. I tried to reproduce it in differing fonts, but this didn't help.

I thought bugger it, maybe I'm trying to be too analytical, so I put the phrase on a lead and walked it round the garden. The dogs and the cat followed warily, the dogs running in front, and then behind and back to the front following a herding instinct. Yorick showed feline disdain and tracked our course by chasing random lizards and gambolling over errant pine-cones. The phrase was laggard and lumpen.

I threw it for the dogs to fetch, but it just lay there against an elderly mole-hill circled by the collies a couple of times and then ignored. I bounced it against the floor of the stoep but it failed to react and made the sound of a wet tennis ball without any of the cheerful attendant bounce. I threw it against the wall, hard, but again the result was disappointing, so much so that I feared that I may have dented the plaster before the thing slid unprepossessingly down the wall.

I half filled the bath and launched the phrase in it to see if it would float, but – it didn't – well not quite, it reeled drunkenly from one side to the other with just a little more of its body below the surface than above, like a slightly optimistic iceberg.

Finally I set in on a low table against a wall in our lounge, and there it sat, sullen, grey and squat. Even attempts to train a wall mounted spotlight on it elicited only a feeble dull reflection. A poor and muddled representation of a Grecian Urn which would never be celebrated with an Ode. Yorick, always alert for a new source of potential income or excitement (I'm never sure which) approached the scowling phrase, sniffed delicately at its base and swollen belly, and walked his front paws up the side. Standing at half body stretch he looked on top of the thing and with exquisite precision inserted his left paw into the restricted neck.

An ugly aphorism, grey and squat, and
never likely to have an Ode composed in 
its honour . . . 

“Yes!” I exclaimed, “of course!” And as Yorick leapt with electric panic from the table and fled the room I swooped on the phrase, swept it up and gave it an exploratory shake and was rewarded by a distinct rattle, a sound like a single pebble rolling from side to side as I tipped the lumpen urn, and I thought – “Ah, someone has lost a marble!” Following Yorick’s lead I tried to squeeze two pincer fingers into the neck but could not, but I could go one better than the cat and upend the offending vessel. Out of the sorry urn plopped a lost marble, and out floated a yellowed piece of what looked like cigarette paper. I replaced the phrase on the table and picked up the frail piece of paper. It was crumpled and dusty and smelt faintly of the secondary fragrance of weed smoked long ago by the last fingers to touch the paper. I turned the paper over and saw written in bold if shaky capitals “YEAH INNIT!”

“Yeah Innit?” I mouthed out loud and as I did a loud CRACK rent the air behind me. I swung round and there, where the phrase had squatted, was a pile of words on the table with a rising cloud of dust and a distinct musty moth-ball smell tinged with a whiff of glossy new magazine print polluting the air.
A pile of words worth more as a pile than from whence
they came.

So, quite by chance, and with a little help from the cat I had uncovered the primitive shriek of a previous reader and thus released the Inarticulate Genie from the Ugly Urn.

At last one of the daftest aphorisms ever to hit the Internet had been destroyed and reduced to its constituent parts, its unconnected words. A fine example of the whole being far less than the sum of the constituent parts!

A cat of limited vocabulary - but lots to say about life . . 

Having uncovered this dreadful piece of language eugenics, this literary despotism, I have dug a little deeper - and what I have unearthed beggars belief . . . . . 

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