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False etymology March 15, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

The trouble with growing up in an intellectual desert is that people were always telling you you were brilliant because you knew the capital of Botswana when really you weren’t. And then, at some point, when you have vaguely begun to learn to think, you realise what a total dilettante you are, and that intelligence isn’t measured in Gaborones. Being taught to think would have been where it’s at.

Anyway, isn’t dilettantism fab? I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it to people who know their onions. But it can give you some lovely epiphanies, being this dim. You know, like discovering the world is round (aged 27), that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist (aged 31), that civilisation doesn’t end at Brighton (aged 37).

Awful the lies adults tell you. “It’s a very good school, BiB,” they said. “You’re very lucky to be going there, BiB,” they said. And of course at the time the word of adult, especially if a stranger, was the word of god and I thought I was going to be the cleverest person in the world.

What a load of bollocks that turned out to be. A vaguely competent exam-machine. I submitted to institutionalisation well enough. Lumbered my way through. Got to the end. Was informed that my grade C ‘O’ Level in RE meant I was in the top 0.01% of the country for brain-power and if I didn’t appreciate it I could just jolly well go and join the school down the road which allowed in two unspeakable specimens: girls AND non-Catholics. Who knew which was worse!

Did leave there, actually. Struggled through ‘A’ Levels. Struggled through degree. Felt proud for a moment at having letters after my name and then had the crushing realisation that I was still as thick as two short planks when some smart-arse asked me, “Aah, yes, but what’s Botswana’s chief export?” Crushing.

Anyway. What were we on about? Oh yes, so education. Got the papers, the certificates, but still pig-thick. But there was, even in my stultifyingly horizon-straitening education one glimmer of enjoyment, one ray of vague unmediocrity, one morsel of enthusiasm. For languages. Nothing else. Maths could be satisfactorily concrete and finite. Instantaneous gratification. But then it got difficult. Geography was pants (and I already knew where Botswana was). Science a mystery. History fun enough when you got a time or place that tickled your fancy. But language was my thing.

My school was posh, or so it thought, so we did posh languages. All that Latin and Greek. Modern languages, bar French, which was genteel enough to pass muster, were left to girls and non-Catholics. Latin and Greek for us. If it wasn’t Flavia in the atrium, it was the slaves releasing the horses, or the table both praising and blaming, or the priestess making a sacrifice on the altar.

And it’s a language-love that’s stuck, and an enthusiasm that’s stuck and, even though it was there before school had coaxed it out of me, I suppose I have school to thank for developing my knowledge. But then they had to go and spoil it by saying, “BiB, knowing that Greek verb, you are ACTUALLY the cleverest person in England. No, you are actually the cleverest person in the whole world.” Imagine! Because of horses and priestesses. And I believed them, fool that I was. Until I got out of the Catholic ghetto and met some grown-ups and understood what a dimmy I really was.

Anyway, that’s fine. Dimness is all right. Translation suits the dim.

So I had a little dimness, dilettante epiphany. Perhaps based on false etymology. Almost sure to be. By having this dilettantish education, and very wishy-washy knowledge on any subject I have knowledge on at all, I don’t know my arse from my elbow. So I was translating away and the word “orthogonal” came up. Of course my dilettantish and untoned brain didn’t even make the connection. I didn’t dig my Greek ‘O’ Level out of some cerebral cranny and divide the word down into its component bits. No, just went to some online dic and was told, so that I could have a belated oh-yeah moment, that it meant right-angled. Of course! Ortho-words. Tonnes of those. Orthodox. Orthopaedic. Orthographic. And, der, -gon. Hexagon. Octagon. No end of -gon.

Then, accuse me of being morose if you will, I was overcome with an insatiable urge to give false etymology to a word based on this new knowledge. It might even be right, but I bet it isn’t, and I’ve so told myself that the word means what I want it to mean that I can’t bear for it to mean what I don’t want it to mean. So, going on a- equalling non-, as in arrhythmia or amoral, please someone tell me that agony’s original meaning is not having any angles. Wouldn’t that be lovelily gloomy? That extreme suffering was brought about by non-angularity. That the pain you experience as you shuffle off this mortal coil could have been avoided if only you hadn’t had such a straightforward life. “You know your problem,” we could shout at miserable people, “not enough angles in your life. Not enough pointy bits. All too smooth. Too straightforward.”

Problems, people, are good for you.


1. Liukchik - March 15, 2008
2. annie - March 15, 2008

I know just what you mean about education. And now I teach, and still know nothing, which is scary when you think about it. (I think our education system is anti-education, especially at the moment. Years ago one of our old housemates was always very quiet when we were talking… when asked why, he said it was because he’d never gone to college and got an education… bless! If only he’d known half the idiots we’d gone to college with…)

Looking at Liukchik’s link, it seems you’re more or less right…

3. pleite - March 15, 2008

Annie, I remember once being at a bash with a group of people I’d met at university and there was one of their brothers there who did quite a spiel about how lucky we were and how fantastic and interesting we were and what great experiences we must have had and how gutted he was not to have gone. I do recommend going to university, actually, if there’s something you want to study, as then it can be a joy, but, god yes, the image it can create of itself to those who don’t go is odd. It’s grown-up school, for fuck’s sake.

Liukchik, actually, I did have a sneaky look somewhere while I was writing the post – call me daring – and I was instantly plunged into despair, into agony, even, at seeing that it came from agon, competition. But is your definition saying that competition’s etymology is to do with angles after all, in which case, hurrah, and ten out of ten for angularity. Right, I’m off out for a very bendy, problem-creating walk.

4. d.z.b. - March 15, 2008

That first paragraph, BiB…I know the feeling all too well, but was also (rather depressingly) aware of it at the time, to some extent, too.

5. Liukchik - March 16, 2008

Excellent. Angular walking is simply the only way, especially in London. Sorry too many Staropramens at my brother’s 29th.

6. narrowback - March 16, 2008

mmmm (in a homer simpson voice), dilettantism!
mmmm, staropramen!

sorry, that’s all I can muster…its an extended weekend in NYC for st. patrick’s day celebrations.

7. emeline - March 16, 2008

Punaise, I disagree Pleite, world ends at Brighton! Have you ever visited this English town? It is awful, the atmosphere is “full of grey”, people seem to be highly disappointed with life and the beach is made of stones – “galets” in French. You just can think that world ends there!

Pleite, you asked how you could practise the second exercise called “la décapitation” – on my blog, well, you should live and work in Brighton; you’ll be quite depressed, and so, ready to try what I drawn!

8. pleite - March 16, 2008

Emeline, Brighton’s an odd place – or used to be. I haven’t been for 100 years – as it’s got its vaguely grand bits, and its pretty bits, and then its grim bits. A friend had moved there and hated it with a passion. At the time, it was very grungy and attracted lots of people into its warm embrace to do nothing. She said for her it was as if Great Britain was a big bottle which had been shaken up and all the sediment (she may even have used the word dregs) had settled in Brighton. But it depresses me less than Southwold, still, and Southwold is meant to be nice. (Though it does have sand, at least. And dunes.)

Narrowback, I hear the Pope or some Christian/calendric authority has moved St. Patrick’s Day this year, so I unintentionally celebrated it all too well last night. Will now cry solidly till Thursday.

Liukchik, how is it possible to be so young? I’ve known you for at least 62 years and your brother’s been alive for every damned one of them. I drank beer last night like it was going out of fashion, which it had been with me, as I’ve tried to limit myself to wine, as if I only drink one thing, that presumably means I don’t have an alcohol problem, but yesterday I went beer, and I feel awful. But it was fun.

DZ, were you too in a grimmish primary school in a grimmish bit of London where, I suppose to the teachers’ credit, in one way, because they wanted to be encouraging, you were told you were AMAZING because you knew the alphabet? Mind you, my nephew has ended up going to precisely the same brilliant and wonderful and extraordinarily magnificent secondary school that I went to, which I hated with such vehemence and he has liked it well enough and they even have a music dept. now – creativity was discouraged when I was there – and Greek has been dropped – oh god, I almost feel nostalgic – and he seems vaguely normal.

Everyone in the whole wide world, can someone tell me what setting I need to fiddle with, and where, to make spellcheck come back? When I type this, typos aren’t noticed and they used to be.

9. emeline - March 16, 2008

Brighton is a place in which a lot of artists are used to work, such as the music band Electrelane. Or there are also plenty of art galleries. In an other hand, many French people work there because tourism offers a lot of jobs opportunities. Nevertheless, I don’t like Brighton. It exists other English places to visit and live in which are magnificent, for instance, Bath.

Do you use PC or MAC, Pleite? Actually, I don’t know why I am asking you this question because I have no answers to resolve your ‘spellcheck’ problem! I discovered this option one week ago! It appeared by his own means; I haven’t pushed on a button!

Pleite, have you an idea of what could be the best English place(s) to live in and work? Because I will come in England in Septembre, and I am seeking a good town to begin a new life and improve my English.

10. d.z.b. - March 16, 2008

Oh, emeline, I do like Electrelane.

BiB, when it came to knowing the alphabet, I do distinctly remember a school inspector coming to our infant school and looking at one of my ‘story books’ because my stories were the longest, apparently. And he was very impressed because I ‘knew’ the alphabet, which confuses me to this day, as since that moment I don’t really know if I do actually know it. I know the song which I can sing very quickly as and when required, should I ever be asked stupid questions like ‘and what comes after p?’ (never got caught out by saying ‘after p comes (pause) lmnopq’), and that was the case then as well. But it seems that is the same as ‘knowing’ after all, eh. The part of London was very grim indeed, and I would hazard that there is nowhere else grimmer in that capital city, apart from maybe Thamesmead (even if Beautiful Thing was set and filmed there, which made it slightly less grimmer) or Bexleyheath. My one-time secondary school sounds amazingly similar too, though they’d dropped Latin and Greek by the time I arrived there.

11. ThePenguin - March 17, 2008

Speaking as a “Computer-Profi” (i.e. I get paid to look thoughtfully at other people’s PCs and suggest rebooting might solve whatever problem it is they are currently having), I generally find problems such as your spellcheck issue come and go of their own accord. It will probably be back by the next full moon, and rather than worry about it I’d suggest you go and enjoy the fine spring weather (assuming you’re having some), it will be a much healthier use of your time.

12. pleite - March 17, 2008

Penguin, too true, and a very good point, but then I still have to slightly anally worry about errors. And winter is back. Or about to begin. Minus temperatures forecast. Perhaps even some snow… And I am just at the end of a mammoth working sesh, so perhaps I really WILL go and be outdoorsy, if I can just think of something to do.

DZ, thank you for reminding me of Thamesmead, which I have made use of in my latest thrilling instalment. Beautiful Thing was a sweet film. I wonder if it’s dated badly. Might easily have. Anyway, the pub they used in it – was it called The Griffin? – has closed, because the Russian and I walked past it on a trip to Greenwich some time or other and it had turned into a Sparky McWanky or something. On the walk round Greenwich, I’d almost forgotten about the Observatory and the timey stuff and then remembered to tell the Russian that, look, we even invented time, and time belongs to us, and he’d never made the association that Grinvich, as they call it, was Greenwich and, well, didn’t we have a lovely day out!

Emeline, say a bit more about what you roughly want and then I’ll give you some tips. Of course, as a Londoner, I can’t see beyond London, but then understand that it’s not necessarily practical, unless you plan to be earning a fortune, although it is marvellous. To be honest, I don’t know the other biggish cities very well. Glasgow I know vaguely well, and that’s manageable, size-wise. Edinburgh is super-beautiful, but also expensive, I hear. Oh, gosh, I have to be diplomatic, but Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool have never majorly seized my heart. Oxford and Cambridge both pretty and close to London, but I don’t know them, really. Umm, umm, umm. Say more, and then I will too.

13. emeline - March 17, 2008

I’ve ever gone to London for two weeks; I didn’t like it. Every little things, from a fruit to a postcard, from a rent to an Oyster card, is quite expansive! Furthermore, the streets are so dirty (more than Paris – I also don’t like this city). The good point is that Londoners are smiling, polite and nice! I highly appreciate their sense of humour, and the fact that they are free to behave as they want to.

Actually, I’m looking for a place with around 90,000 people, nature, magnificent landscapes, clean streets, beautiful architecture, some shops, pubs and restaurants, and with a lot of cultural events: museums, exhibitions, festivals, concerts and so on. And, of course, easily connected with transports!

14. ThePenguin - March 17, 2008

Emeline, you are expecting very much of the UK’s smaller towns. Bath and Cheltenham might be worth looking into, though I’ve never been to either (seen Bath from the train though and it looks quite nice).

15. Marsha Klein - March 17, 2008

I think I’ve mentioned before that I arrived at my primary school already able to read, which I realise isn’t remarkable in itself except that I could read REAL writing/books! The school, in common with other schools in the UK at the time was experimenting with something called the Inital Teaching Alphabet (ITA) invented, I believe, by the Pitman family of shorthand fame. I was unfamiliar with it having received my early education what remained of colonial Sudan. The fact that I could read TO (traditional orthography) made me simultaneously an object of wonder and a pain in the arse to certain members of staff (presumably the ones who were most committed to ITA) because I couldn’t use the same books as the rest of the kids.
Fast forward several (hundred) years and I find myself in possession of a degree in English Language and Literature and yet not a week goes by without another blogger or RL friend asking “Have you read so-and-so?” And I almost NEVER have, which reminds me that I am appallingly badly read and also makes me wonder how the hell I ever managed to graduate.
P.S In case Daisy is reading this, I HAVE read “The Flea” by John Donne and I’ve read other metaphysical poets too, so everything I told you last night about metaphysical poetry was TRUE.

16. Marsha Klein - March 17, 2008

“Initial”, sorry. Don’t read, can’t spell…not sure what I’m doing here, really!

17. emeline - March 17, 2008

@ The Penguin:
You’re right, I’m expecting much of the UK towns! But it is quite complicated to find a place where I could feel fine; from France to England. I am looking for calm and beauty, that’s all!

18. BiB - March 18, 2008

Emeline, I share Penguin’s worry, but think he has pointed you in a good direction as far as beauty goes. I would say, yes, the south-west of England, including much further south-west, so the Devon/Cornwall peninsula. I don’t know this part of the world AT ALL (apart from a few days of beautiful walking on Dartmoor). Bristol sounds too big for what you’re looking for though it’s got a good university and is bound to have cultural life. Don’t know the towns down in Devon and Cornwall. Exeter? Torquay? Plymouth? From the Bristolly area, you also have access to Wales, which has more than its fair share of beautiful bits (especially further north, I think), but, again, I don’t know Welsh towns. For beauty, I’d say give the south-east and middle of England a complete miss. Yorkshire/Derbyshire good for beauty. Northumberland and Cumbria even better but, again, I haven’t got a clue about the towns up there. Scotland’s probably best on the beauty front. I wonder if Inverness is a nice town…

Marsha, recommend beautiful small Scottish towns please! And I am much the worst-read person I’ve ever met. OK, apart from my mother. But this reading intermediary thing sounds like a pointless idea. I remember the ruffians in Russia I knew, when they did go to school, were learning a gazillion phonetic symbols as well as the Latin alphabet when doing English and as some of them were barely literate in Russian it seemed an oddly scientific approach to take.

Penguin, you are a gentleman!

19. narrowback - March 18, 2008

yeah the church did take a dim view of celebrating St. Patricks Day during holy week but it did not affect the secular celebrations here… I’m near crippled from standing for five hours at a billy bragg/pogues double bill last night & four hours at the parade route today

20. BiB - March 18, 2008

Billy Bragg and The Pogues live, you mean? You do. I’ve just checked on the internet. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone live since 1974. Noise and standing up! I have seen Billy Bragg perform live here and there and perhaps The Pogues too, though I can’t quite remember. Do they put on a good show? I think I liked Billy Bragg when I was a young whippersnapper. Maybe I’ll trawl the internet and see if he still tickles my auricles.

21. Marsha Klein - March 18, 2008

Being an east-coaster myself, I would recommend St Andrews (oldest University in Scotland, 3rd oldest in UK), home of golf (not a plus in my book, but may be for others). Very pretty, lovely coastline (most of the Fife coast is beautiful). Oh, and a recent royal connection, what with it being William’s alma mater. Perth is not called the “Fair City” for nothing and Perthshire is also beautiful and more mountainous than Fife. Inverness is a lovely city and, of course, near serious mountain country (it’s all about the mountains in Scotland!) The transport links aren’t quite so good though.

22. BiB - March 18, 2008

Marsha, thank you. I’d clean forgotten St. Andrews existed. And what about Stirling? Or is it just the castle that’s nice there and is that cloud or natural beauty in the background to that photo? My knowledge of Scottish geography has always been dominated by football and as the leagues are so small and Edinburgh and Glasgow seemed to dominate, I’d only ever heard of Dundee and Aberdeen. And Forfar. And Alloa.

Anyway, Emeline, are you determined to be in England? If not, then I think some smallish, southern Scottish city could cater to all your requirements. Yes, perhaps Inverness is TOO remote. And the beauty will make you faint at least twice every day. (It’s why Scotland’s economy is a mess. Probably.)

23. marshaklein - March 18, 2008

Stirling’s quite nice too. I don’t know it especially well. It’s probably a bit too close to industrial bits of Fife (Rosyth) and Lothian (Grangemouth oil refinery) to be really beautiful, although, yes, that is natural beauty in the background. Dundee is not especially pretty (industrial past, don’t ya know). Aberdeen is nicer (and the surrounding countryside is gorgeous. Actually, same goes for Dundee) but it’s the remoteness thing again.

I rather like your analysis of the Scottish economy. It makes a change from the Scots passing out because of drink/drugs/over-consumption of deep-fried Mars bars that are usually given as reasons.

24. BiB - March 18, 2008

Marsha, oh yes, it’s a well-known economic phenomenon. Beautiful places are constantly having economic problems as the residents are stunned into inactivity. Have you never heard the expression, “He’s pulchridle?” It explains why those Norwegians never came to much and live in abject poverty to this very day… And in that case, we’re decided. Emeline, book your ticket to St. Andrews today.

25. d.z.b. - March 18, 2008

There’s no station in St. Andrews though. You have to go to Leuchars and get a cab/bus.

26. emeline - March 18, 2008

I think Scotland is too far; I’d rather be in England! Ooops, I am confused everybody. But I talked about an English town and not a British one! Pleite, would you like to come back in London?

27. BiB - March 18, 2008

Darn, Emeline, and I thought we’d come up with the ideal solution. So, if Scotland is too far, I’m guessing you want to be in the south of England, which is tough on the beauty front, unless you are prepared to go to Cornwall or Devon, which, transport-wise, probably aren’ t that much closer (time-wise, France-wise) than Scotland. Again, what about Oxford or Cambridge? Or Malmesbury? Or Wells? Or Salisbury?

d.z.b., that place looks too much like a medicine, even though it’s pronounced Lucas (isn’t it?). Anyway, I’ve already accidentally gone and put one of my kidneys up on e-bay because I got confused and thought I needed to buy a ticket there myself. Double darn.

28. d.z. - March 18, 2008

Cromer is quite nice, as a there-was-once-something-going-on-here-in-1903, but-now-its-just-very-dead seasidey-town kind of way. But that is in the winter. What it’s like in the summer I don’t know. Sherringham is also said to be pleasant enough (or was in 1974, when my parents were there). Norfolk. Go there. Bracing (i.e. cold and windy), etc.

29. BiB - March 18, 2008

Or Gloucester. Or Chichester. Or Worcester. Or somewhere ending in -ester, though not Leicester. Isn’t all that Ross-on-Wye area meant to be vaguely beautiful? Again, Wales on the doorstep. Don’t know Norfolk, bar Norwich, and that hardly at all. I’ve heard nice things about Swanage, if we want sea.

OK, we have officially suggested every town in England.

30. Mr D - March 18, 2008

I’d recommend Norwich, but it might be too big (!) and the countryside isn’t great unless you like flat and wet. Perhaps Harrogate would be suitable?

31. BiB - March 19, 2008

Mr D, thanks for more tips. I’d thought Harrogate too, even though I’ve never been, but I’ve heard good things about it. And now we really have done the whole country, haven’t we? (Worcester counts as the Midlands, doesn’t it? Anyway, I think I meant Cirencester.)

32. emeline - March 19, 2008

Thank you guys! I have a long list of English places, now! Well-done! Let me think about it, I’ll tell you then what is my choice!

33. BiB - March 19, 2008

You’re welcome. Hopefully there are some good tips in the list.

34. narrowback - March 20, 2008

both bragg and the pogues put on much better shows than I had expected.mcgowan actually showed up, didn’t vomit on the audience and only fell down once.

bragg was impressive enough that i’m going to try and catch him when he stops in chicago in june. i really enjoy his take on woody guthrie’s material (a couple of years back he did an entire album, backed by wilco, of guthrie’s songs)

35. BiB - March 20, 2008

An admirable show from Mr. McGowan! I must say I’ve very much lost touch with Billy Bragg and when I followed him a jot more closely, which was about 20 years ago, I suppose, I think he was mostly (or only) performing his own stuff. I think, “I had an uncle who once played for Red Star Belgrade. He said, “Safe sex is better than no sex. You just have to use your imagination,”” was one of his shoddier lyrics.

36. ThePenguin - March 20, 2008

From the -ester list: Worcester is nice (I lived for a couple of years in the next town), but not in any way spectacular, and you’d exhaust the cultural possibilities within a few weeks. I think nearby Malvern is much more beautiful (it’s a spa town nestling beneath the Malvern Hills), though possibly even more lacking in excitement (Worcester does have its own cricket ground, when it’s not flooded).

Two further names that have just occurred to me: Shrewsbury and Chester.

37. BiB - March 20, 2008

Penguin, Shrewsbury is, leider, for me ever to be associated with death, misery and funerals and my only worry, having temporarily turned into Emeline for a sec, is are those towns getting a bit into a wishy-washy undefinable bit of England? Sort of Midlandsy going on The-Northy, non-descripty? I’ve been to Chester once and while it is undeniably pretty and historic and all that, I got the feeling I had a fairly good chance of getting beaten up for the mere crime of existing.

Yes, that Malvern/Ross-on-Wye – they’re close enough to be united in forward slash, aren’t they? – area is pretty. I’d like to retire there. Today.

38. d.z.b. - March 20, 2008

To be pedantic about the lyrics of “Sexuality” (from memory) here, it went

I’m getting weighed down / with all this information / Safe sex is better than no sex / it just means use your imagination / I feel a total jerk / before your naked body of work / I had an uncle who once played for Red Star Belgrade / He said that some things are really best left unspoken / but I prefer it all to be out in the open / (etc.)

Of course, that was from the very-produced and poppy album, which was a better hit than the rest, but didn’t make him the international superstar Peter Jenner from Go! Discs was hoping for.

Until a few years ago, Bragg would do a Christmas Day concert every year in the Volksbühne (and once a year at Barking Assembly Hall as well). But he doesn’t any more. Occasionally at the Wabe though. I saw him once live at the Roundhouse in Camden. It was a bit dissapointing, but I can’t remember why.

39. BiB - March 20, 2008

d.z.b., thanks for the correction. I’ve just had a good old youtube Billy Bragg sesh but I won’t bother linking – new policy! – as youtube links invariably break after three seconds. But I went to see if I still liked Waiting for the Great Leap Forward – took me ages to find a version whose protagonists he hadn’t updated – and Levi Stubbs’ tears and I pretty much do. I think I saw him play at some free-in-a-park festival, maybe against abolishing the GLC and he was good, I think. Or my cousin and I were so 12 that we were impressed to see and hear someone off the telly (although she went to school with Henry Kelly’s daughter so was no stranger to stardom even at the school gates).

Go! Discs. Fantastic. An exclamation mark in the middle. That’s classy.

Don’t know the Wabe, but the website looks worth favouriting, potentially. I like the shape of its floor. I think it’s a françagon.

40. d.z.b. - March 20, 2008

Bragg on youtube? Blimey. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind (though one comment did lead to me seeing/hearing the Ian Dury-sung A. Mole theme tune over there, and me ordering both videos out of the library) – youtube is just one big hole full of music videos, isn’t it. Assuming you ignore the kids setting fire to their farts or whatever else is on there. Yesterday I somehow wasted 30 minutes of my life seeing the videos to the first records I bought. Who would’ve thought that Haysi Fantayzee would still be in anyone’s memory? That’s even curiouser than there having been around 5 minutes in 1983 when it was apparently fashionable to look like Boy George.

Now I’ve got a new-old-Polish record player, perhaps I’ll dig out my Bragg albums (from when he was good). The stuff in the mid-90s was just utter shite. Musically certainly, and the lyrics had gone from the standard “oh now, I’ve been dumped by a woman again, what’ll I do now, and can I make it rhyme with Brezhnev” to “I’ve got kids and live in the countryside, life is so glorious, but do you remember Thatcher, oh, nasty times, I vote Green these days don’t you know” with an occasional cosmonaut reference for old-time’s sake. “Upfield”, oh dearie me.

41. BiB - March 20, 2008

d.z.b., I TOO have looked for (and found) Haysi Fantayzee on youtube. And have just done so again. And from there, I was led synaptically to Natasha and Iko Iko. (Oh, I so already want to break my no-youtube-link rule.) And from there, by I don’t know what tangent, to The Jets and I’ve Got a Crush on You. Surely Tonga’s best ever pop group. And from there, more naturally, to DeBarge and Rhythm of the Night. Andrew J_ and I were caught swapping its lyrics in history once. Yes, I did bump into him on Old Compton St. years later. But just LOOK at DeBarge – looking like Michael Jackson before it was surgically possible. And, man, can that man move.

42. d.z.b. - March 20, 2008

I actually came across Haysi by accident, it was linked to from Wot! (the first record I bought). I obviously had a phase of buying singles in Woolworths which lasted about 6 months, aged between 3 and 4. And then my nan died, so I presume the pocket money dried up, leading to a 5 year gap in my crap record collection.

(Other links: Captain Sensible doing adverts for Weetabix. Who thought that one up? And the slogan along the lines of “Cereal is sensible”…)

43. BiB - March 21, 2008

I remember buying 7″ singles was an important stage of development. And when I couldn’t do it myself – what else can I possibly have had to do on a Saturday afternoon, aged whatever? – I would give my mother instructions. “Mum, buy me ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer… No, Donna, not Donald… and if they haven’t got that, buy me ‘I Want Muscle’ by Diana Ross… What do you mean, ‘not made of money’? They’re only 75p. You’re well stingy, guy.”

Jesus, between 3 and 4? You were an awfully early developer.

44. d.z.b. - March 21, 2008

I think the fact that I got one shiny 20p-piece a week from my nan (until she went and died), meant that once a month I could afford one of those Woolies 79p singles. Maybe I was an early developer, but ‘musical taste’ obviously took longer. Come on – Captain Sensible (2 singles), Haysi, and, ahem, ‘Roland Rat Superstar’ (there were some others, but I can’t remember at the moment, no doubt Youtube will jog my memory again).

45. Mr D - March 21, 2008

I didn’t buy any music until my early teens. Even so, I ought to have known better than to start my singles collection with “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister. Why couldn’t it have been something cool, like my brother’s first single? He bought “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors (so?). Not that any of us knew at the time what it was about!

46. Mr D - March 21, 2008

Was supposed to be “sp”, not “so”. Not sure how to spell their name.

47. BiB - March 21, 2008

Mr D, I remember Kyrie. Is it to do with Kyrie Eleison, or is it meant to be a slightly trashy girl’s name? I didn’t know Turning Japanese had any hidden meaning. I instantly youtubed it and there was lots of commentary on masturbation. What’s the connection? Must I now see Japanese Boy, Big in Japan and, indeed, the group Japan in another masturbatory light?

d.z.b., I think my first single, though I might have massaged the truth to make myself be cool, was Uptown Top Ranking by Althea and Donna. And I’m pretty sure my first album was by Evelyn Champagne King and all for the song Love Come Down. Yep, it was no white trash in my youth.

48. Mr D - March 21, 2008

Some dodgy claim that upon climaxing men squint their eyes. (Can’t say I’ve noticed it, but perhaps I just can’t remember that far back!)

I think the lyrics were about a man wanking to a picture on the wall.

49. d.z.b. - March 22, 2008

Have we been collectively reading Douglas Copeland’s mind (or has he been reading our comments)?

And now, when I think of the post-90s, I remember turning on my computer one day with an email from a friend saying, “Check out this cool clip on YouTube.” That was a year ago and I can now barely imagine life without being able to watch a blurry version of Haysi Fantayzee’s Shiny Shiny on command.

Saturday’s Guardian “Dork Talk”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/mar/22/gadgets.ebay (haven’t been bothered to remember how to link yet)

50. d.z.b. - March 22, 2008

Or Douglas Coupland, even. Do you get many hits from Canada?

51. BiB - March 22, 2008

d.z.b., you are a very thorough Guardian-reader, even getting as far as that bit. And I’d clean forgotten Shiny Shiny and wondered if they’d done a cover version of that Velvet Underground song which was used to good effect for some tyre ad or other, which I CAN’T find on youtube. I’ve blocked access to the site for myself now. And, as far as my Stasi-stats go, and they’re not very good with wordpress, Herr Redneck might be the only person who drops in from Canada. Otherwise, this blog remains a very Canada-free zone, which is a shame. I have some Canada fantasies, which I think are tied up with Russia, probably put there by reading that van der Post geezer’s book on the Soviet Union where he claimed Russia was about to turn into Canada.

Mr D, even though I spend almost no time at all chez youtube, I did happen to stumble across that song on the aforementioned site and there is indeed mention of a picture. I’m feeling a bit old. I might write to The Spectator and ask if I can write an article about, “Look at the moral degradation (of, erm, 20-something years ago) when pop stars write about masturbation! In my day, it was all serving your country,” but then Matthew Parris is their only gay, I think.

52. jonjayray - February 10, 2010

“Orthogonal” is a tech term from statistics. No shame in not knowing it.

I myself came from a “deprived” background but never felt any need for self-judgment.

Just enjoyed myself and ended up as an academic with many publications

53. BiB - July 13, 2010

Hi John and sorry for taking such ages to reply. I’ve been very neglectful of the blog for ever.

I miss education, I realise. I believe in lifelong education but the impetus to do it on my own is severely lacking.

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