There are certain touchstone issues, certain basics, to which one cannot fail to bring full passion. To not do so is to betray oneself.
Especially those with whom I agree.
The Castafiore won't admit it but it absolutely galls her. A fourteen year old fillette, what was she, raised in zeee barn, this bairn? Tellement sectuallleee précoce, it is the embodiment of my **embarras!
For the first time *ever* since I have known Bianca, she is singing a new tune:
Une jeune fillette
De noble coeur
Plaisante et joliette
De grand’ valeur,
Outre son greon
l’a vendu’ nonette,
Cela point ne luy haicte
Dont vit en grand’ douleur.
This new song seems to please her.
Buckeye is a less cynical student of politics than I am. And he works to keep his spirit generous, the most important of spiritual attributes. I think he has been generous to Dick Cheney, even as he accretes a daunting Cheney Series. That kind of accretion is a slow and steady progress of layer-upon-layer, careful, natural, thin alluvion that, over time, adds acreage from piles of moss, peat, dirt, runoff, and molecules of manure.
Cheney doesn't shock me anymore -- although it is increasingly clear that Cheney would love to attach me to some highly charged wires, if he had the chance and only enough water to tweak the juice being applied to my pierced and bloody nipples.
But I have a modicum of hope for my soul, because Cheney does still enrage me.
Not to sound the tragic hero, but the world and its politicians have so disappointed that I feel, regretably, unshockable. What remains for me is snide disapproval, and given a prurient interest in abnormal psychology, a wish to get at the roots of Cheney's unabashed *gall*.
We must give it the good pronunciation, I think, to mark each Cheney moment: not the International Phonetic Alphabet Pronunciation [ŭn'ə-bāsht'] but a more shakespearian meter -- [ŭn'ə-bāsh'-ɛd]. What is the value in striving to maintain a common international standard, something to which one might appeal for guidance, with guileless faith in the centuries of work and evaluation, all the dedicated generations of testing, trying, judging?
I was talking about the IPA. What were you thinking about?
Charles Hodgson hosts a daily podcast called "Word of the Day." On 29 December 2006, the word was gall.
That was the day Saddam was executed "with fear in his face"; That was the day that Mike Dunford of the Zoology Department at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and a regular contributor to The Pandas Thumb published his *quote* of the day , from Terry Pratchett's Hogfather:
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HADN"T SAVED HIM?
"Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?"
"Oh, come on. You can't expect me to believe that. It's an astronomical fact."
THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.
She turned on him.
"It's been a long night, Grandfather! I'm tired and I need a bath! I don't need silliness!"
THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.
Really? Then what would have happened, pray?"
A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.
They walked in silence for a moment.
"Ah," said Susan dully. "Trickery with words. I would have thought you'd have been more literal-minded than that."
I AM NOTHING IF NOT LITERAL-MINDED. TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE.
"All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need . . . fantasies to make life bearable."
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little -"
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
"So that we can believe the big ones?"
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
"They're not the same at all!"
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET - Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME . . . SOME
IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point-"
MY POINT EXACTLY.
She tried to assemble her thoughts.
THERE IS A PLACE WHERE TWO GALAXIES HAVE BEEN COLLIDING FOR A MILLION YEARS, said Death, apropos of nothing. DON'T TRY TO TELL ME THAT'S RIGHT.
Yes, but people don't think about that," said Susan. "Somewhere there was a bed. . ."
CORRECT. STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE'S HARDLY ANYWHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A . . . A BED IS A NORMAL THING. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT.
OH, YES. A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF STUPIDITY. YOU THINK THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IN INSIDE YOUR HEADS.
"You make us sound mad," said Susan. A nice warm bed...
NO. YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN'T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME? said Death.
Creepy, no? Alignment of planets? God having His Fun? Serendipity? Some kind of Astral Nudge?
Anyway, enough of this silly present time! Backward we shall go, as a Nation and as a dilettante at etymologies.
The podictionary word for today is gall: It takes a lot of gall to submit an invoice to your lawyer for the time you sat in his waiting room. The meaning of this sense of the word gall is boldness or effrontery. The sense comes from the bitterness involved in such bold moves since the gall bladder contains a bitter yellow fluid.
The fluid is named gall because it is yellow and the root of its name goes back to Indo-European and was also the source of the name for that yellow metal we all covet so much, gold. But funnily enough there are two other types of gall. If something galls you, it means it gives you pain. In this case the word gall evolves from an Old English word for the places on a horse where a saddle or harness has rubbed the skin raw. A swollen knob on a tree is also called a gall and this is from Old French.
There is some suspicion that the swollen knob gall and the open sore gall might have the same roots, but maybe not. Gall the bitter yellow fluid is also known as bile and it is important in our digestive system. It would have been important to treat the galls on your horses if you expected to get much work out of them. But what kind of importance could the galls of trees have? In fact, for the purposes of English etymology tree galls had a fair amount of importance, particularly the galls of oak trees. What would happen you see is that a little wasp would come along and drill a hole into the bark of an oak tree and plant her eggs in there for safekeeping.
The tree did not like this, not one little bit. And so the tree grew a knob around the wasp eggs to protect itself. But when the monks and scholars of 1000 years ago saw one of these oak galls, they knew that inside was a little store of acid produced by the tree. They happily crushed the oak gall and used water or vinegar to draw out the acid, then added gums to make the mixture a little less runny, and then added their favorite mixture of rust and soot and other things to give the liquid whatever color they wanted. The result was something they called encaustum in Latin, we’d call it ink, but the word ink didn’t come into use until Middle English.
It was the acid from the oak gall that gave the ink the power to etch its way into the surface of the velum on which they wanted to write. The velum was made from animal skins, mostly sheep and it’s because these ancient scribes took the time to use such high quality methods and materials that we can still read today what they wrote way back then. If they had used paper it would have crumbled to dust or blacked with oxidization long before now. Encasutum is related to caustic and both words go back to a Greek for burn. So even though these different types of gall seem to come from different etymological sources, they all have a sting to them.
Don't you just love words?
It helps me to have etymologies in mind, and in this case, I am searching out something of the effect an old Army nurse -- reminiscent of a bitter prune -- once explained to me, back in those halcion Candy Striper days: She said that she, like many other good nurses surrounded by whiny young men newly separated from their Mothers, tended to give their young buttocks an unexpected and sharp slap just before plunging in the needle through which a good dose of penicillen was administer to cure their... whatever. There was a rationale to this intentional infliction of pain. The first pain took their attention away from the second one. Occasionally, a thick grab of booty flesh was converted into a mean twisty pinch. Those, I twice saw draw blood and the 18 year olds cried big wet tears.
After a few weeks on the wards, I saw that what had been perceived as sadistic and cruel (I mean, these were essentially healthy and wonderfully formed derrières. Innocent cheeks, as it were.) The greater purpose had escaped me. I've never been swift on the uptake.
I have fought hard, here where you cannot see or know me, to put some distance between Dick Cheney and his ugly words on Valentine's Day and the strict definitions and trusty origins of the WordWeapons I toss about.
Because, as Obama (and, okay, maybe someone else before him) said, "Words matter." Certainly, we have witnessed the staying power of the S-Word, or rather its depletion by the fanatical right.
But when shit remains shit instead of transforming into rich dark loam? Sometimes all you've got left to escape it are fancy tricks of dictionaries and serendipitous allusions.
Unless you are Buckeye Surgeon, and then you manage to voice your outrage, all the while still trying to understand. That is wayyyyy more than I am willing to do for DickWad Cheney.
Buckeye likes to ease into things with a mild video presentation:
I'm sorry, but I'm still sort of reeling from the fact that Cheney actually went on national television and admitted he was a "big supporter of waterboarding". And he didn't even use one of the Orwellian euphemisms (enhanced interrogation techniques); he actually said the word waterboarding. Now waterboarding is illegal according to US law, international law, the ICRC, the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention Against Torture, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc etc. And he had the smug audacity to go on the air and brandish his unabashed support for an illegal, inhuman practice that ought not to be condoned under any circumstances. Why would he do that?
Because Dick Cheney is a ruthless, arrogant son of a bitch who thinks he can do whatever he wants. It kills him to have to silently bear the world's moral condemnation. He wants to say he tortured. He wants the world to know how "tough" he was. He wants the "liberals" and the "soft underbelly of the American left" to know how he sat on that wall and defended America and made the hard choices that the likes of Obama in their "faggoty white uniforms" would never or could never do themselves. Baring his teeth, shaking his fist like he did on Sunday--- it's like he was just daring someone to challenge his right to call a Code Red. He truly sees himself as some sort of martyred patriot.
But you're nothing more than a common criminal, Dick. None of us are impressed with your bluster. Your time will come.
**embarras: a river in E Illinois, flowing S and SE to the Wabash River. 185 mi.
(298 km) long.