Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cli Shea, or What Language Does For a Living in the Hands of Genius - Flann O'Brien

Beyond greasing and packing a pump* ( greasing the zook or the access port shute on a motorized apparatus and the subsequent delicate holding of the packing tightly on the mandrel, but do not stretch excessively. Cut the ring and insert it into the stuffing box, making certain that it fits the packing space properly. Each additional ring can be cut in the same manner & etc.), changing the odd bulb, replacing PVC pipe, installing a sump pump, cutting bits of wood, changing filters on the furnace and general sweeping, mopping, sic and fetching, I am useless.

I have made a few modest dollars thanks to some ability with language -primarily English, some Latin, and smidgens of French, Spanish, German and Old and Middle English.

As Vice President Biden might add BFD.

I love language in all of its many manifestations -directions, reports, stories, novels, essays, lists of ingredients, poetry, drama, bar banter, bumper stickers ( All Men are Idiots. . . I Married Their King! e.g.) Pslamistry, and bureaucratesian parsings.

Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Tolstoy, Thackeray, Pope, Swift, Horace, Suetonius, Dante, Stendahl, Twain and Ring Lardner about my favorite writers; however, a Dublin newsman who died in 1966 is my favorite.

Brian O'Nolan is known by the nomes de plume Flann O'Brien/Myles Na gCopaleen. He wrote brilliant novels and very funny columns. His greatest insights can be found in the Best of Myles - A Flann O'Brien Reader.


Catechism of Cliché by Brian O'Nolan (aka) Flann O'Brien

What is a bad thing worse than?

What can one do with fierce resistance?
Offer it.

But if one puts fierce resistance, in what direction does one put it?

In which hood is a person who expects money to fall out of the sky?
Second child.

If a thing is fraught, with what is it fraught?
The gravest consequences.

What does one sometimes have it on?
The most unimpeachable authority.

What is the only thing one can wax?

Yes, More of It

What happens to blows at a council meeting?
It looks as if they might be exchanged.

What does pandemonium do?
It breaks loose.

Describe its subsequent dominion.
It reigns.

How are allegations dealt with?
They are denied.

Yes, but then you are weakening, Sir. Come now, how are they denied?

What is the behaviour of a heated altercation?
It follows.

What happens to order?
It is restored.

Alternatively, in what does the meeting break up?

What does the meeting do in disorder?
Breaks up.

In what direction does the meeting break in disorder?

In what direction should I shut?

Dead English

When things are few, what also are they?
Far between.

What are stocks of fuel doing when they are low?

How low are they running?

What does one do with a suggestion?
One throws it out.

For what does one throw a suggestion out?
For what it may be worth.

What else can be thrown out?
A hint.

In addition to hurling a hint on such lateral trajectory, what other not unviolent action can be taken with it?
It can be dropped.

What else is sometimes dropped?
The subject.

"A cliché," said O'Nolan, "is a phrase that has become fossilized, its component words deprived of their intrinsic light and meaning by incessant usage. Thus it appears that clichés reflect somewhat the frequency of the same situations in life. If this be so, a sociological commentary could be compiled from these items of mortified language."

But O'Nolan/O'Brien was best in capturing the delicate ballet of words placed in direct and violent combat with meaning -in the hands, feet, bowels, and brains of the truly ignorant, but intrusive - our neighbor.


I thought to myself, the chap said, that it was a right place to see wild angimals. I put meself on a 10 bus last Thursda. We got held up on the way and do you know be what?

I do not.

Be wild angimals.

or again,

I notice these days that the Green Isle is getting greener. Delightful ulcerations resembling buds pit the branches of our trees, clumpy daffodils can be seen on the upland lawn. Spring is coming and every decent girl is thinking of that new Spring costume. Time will run on smoother till Favonius re-inspire the frozen Meade and clothe in fresh attire the lily and rose that have nor sown nor spun. Curse it, my mind races back to my Heidelberg days. Sonya and Lili. And Magda. And Ernst Schmutz, Georg Geier, Theodor Winkleman, Efrem Zimbalist, Otto Grün. And the accordion player Kurt Schachmann. And Doktor Oreille, descendant of Irish princes. Ich hab' mein Herz/ in Heidelberg verloren/ in einer lauen/ Sommernacht/ Ich war verliebt/ bis über beide/ Ohren/ und wie ein Röslein/hatt'/ Ihr Mund gelächt or something humpty tumpty tumpty tumpty tumpty mein Herz it schlägt am Neckarstrand. A very beautiful student melody. Beer and music and midnight swims in the Neckar. Chats in erse with Kun O'Meyer and John Marquess ... Alas, those chimes. Und als wir nahmen/ Abschied vor den Toren/ beim letzten Küss, da hab' Ich Klar erkannt/ dass Ich mein Herz/ in Heidelberg verloren/ MEIN HERZ/ es schlägt am Neck-ar-strand! Tumpty tumpty tum.
The Plain People of Ireland: Isn't the German very like the Irish? Very guttural and so on?
Myself: Yes.
The Plain People of Ireland: People say that the German language and the Irish language is very guttural tongues.
Myself: Yes.
The Plain People of Ireland: The sounds is all guttural do you understand.
Myself. Yes.
The Plain People of Ireland: Very guttural languages the pair of them the Gaelic and the German.

Indeed. Let the words go forth, unless,of course, they place.

Huge Hat Tip to Richard Nordquist and his great composition site -

At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)
The Hard Life (1962)
The Dalkey Archive (1964)
The Third Policeman (written 1939-40, published 1968)

* " Jesus, you lying sack of sh$T! You never packed a pump in your #$%^ing life and could not with a $%^ing shotgun held to your lazy ass Temples! You $%^^^ . . .( subsequent criticisms and opinions meted out by cousins and friends in the skilled trades have been deleted)."

No comments: