-ise December 6, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: music, verbs
Whenever I set foot on England’s hallowed, muddy soil, I am overcome by an insatiable urge to drink milk, which must be why they call it the motherland.
I was being a good pal, visiting my friend. She is 96, so it is a tad easier for me to visit her than vice versa. And she has never taken a plane in her life and is probably unlikely to start now as to get her to her bed takes two paid acolytes, with her chanting to her legs, “Come on legs,” the whole time. And it’s always good to go and check where you are on the I-hate-England-I-love-England continuum.
Inevitably, there’s not much fresh in a 96-year-old’s day-to-day life. Her news might be a slightly tweaked reworking of an event from 70 years ago. She tells me how she is. Worse since I last saw her, she claims, though I am hard pushed to discern the enworsement. Lonelier than ever, she claims, though her house is as busy as King’s Cross Station (but without the prostitutes) with relatives of the three subsequent generations, neighbours and life-assistants of one type or another constantly traipsing in and out. But if you’re stuck in a chair for most of the day and know that there is no initiative you can take yourself, perhaps the hours of loneliness do last longer than for you or me.
“Darling, you won’t believe it, C_ (great-grandson) can play songs to me on his lap-dog.” “Lap-dog?” “Darling, I mean lap-top.” C_ appeared. “What did you play her?” “Just whatever she asked for, I found on youtube.” I thought I’d make the world a little more mysterious and offer the same service. “Darling, you mean your lap-dog has the same songs?” “It does.” “Darling, you don’t mean it! You’re too brilliant!”
We had You’re the Top galore, Pretty Polly Oliver, Stille Nacht (though not by The Hoff, sadly) (I’ve got a feeling his Deutsch isn’t a patch on Leonardo di Caprio’s), Danny Boy (though not by Cher, thankfully) (“Darling, switch it off. It’s too sad, I can’t bear it”), Oh No John, Spanish Ladies, Alphabet (OK, not really) and all sorts of other folksy favourites.
“Darling, you go and do some work now. It’s just such heaven that you’re here. I spend so much time alone.” I fire up my latest gripping translation. Twelve seconds pass. I translate half a word. “Darling, do you think you might do something with me now?” We do an anti-Alzheimer’s crossword. Etymon is one of the rather satisfying answers. “Darling, do you love words? I adore words. I always thought it was awfully important that people should speak French. Have I told you the story about when I told M_ (her grandson, my ex) about Jean-Paul Sartre and, ‘L’enfer, c’est les autres’?” It’s one of her favourite tells. The story goes that she mentioned it to M_. He was, depending on the mood, anywhere between five minutes and five years old. “Darling, and do you know what he answered?” I did, as I’ve been told the story a good 300 times and I sneakily had my mobile out so that I could text M_ live that the story was getting a fresh airing. “L’enfer, c’est moi.” She tells it as evidence of his troubled genius. He says he had probably heard the noise ‘c’est moi’ somewhere and managed to repeat it. “L’enfer, c’est that story,” came his rather pleasing reply with equally pleasing alacrity.
Sheep grazed gormlessly in the field opposite her house.
When silence seemed appropriate, I stared at the fire. My pal soon got bored of that state of affairs and would ask why I was staring at it. “I don’t know. I’m mesmerised.” … “What must the etymology of mesmerised be?” We both propounded our theories. Mine was, “‘erm, dunno really,” and hers was, “Chambers Oxford Dictionary, bottom shelf.” Darlings, and hands up who knows where the word comes from? I was half-expecting the dic to say something along the lines of, “…from the Greek mesmein – to entrance,” but it said nothing of the sort. In fact it’s some old German, a Herr Mesmer, who went and got a verb named after himself by hypnotising folk left, right and centre.
Which we’d better make into a game, let’s face it. I asked my pal what the verb named after her surname would mean. Let’s say she’s called Smith. Which she isn’t. She hesitated so I prompted her with, “smithise – to sprinkle one’s speech with the word darling.” To bibbise, naturally, means to be a talentless, work-shy scrounger.
Darlings, I know half of us are anonymous, but please invent a verb with some surname/name/nom-de-blog plus -ise and give me the definition. -ize verbs will be tolerated upon submission of extenuating documentation.