Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wordsmithery! Helping geeks get laid since...

Me demonstrating the 'What the fuck? Where is she from?' expression

People strain to hear my voice.  Not because I am quiet—Lordy no!—and not, largely, because they are deaf or constipated; but, when out and about, ordering a cup of tea and cucumber sandwiches (white, no crusts), I see brows crumple like deflated accordions.  The fold of frown makes the eyes smaller, shrewder, but more sparkly, powered by the cogs behind them spinning wildly, frantic to discern: is she English? Irish?  Maybe  Australian?  Those are the top three—although I have also been South African and, oddly, German.  Ja ja. 

I find this Pygmalion pigeon-holing quite fun.  It makes the world a smaller place because I know that, on the heels of explaining from whence I hail, they will know someone who lived there or perhaps visited.  (Maybe a hundred years ago.)

Sometimes I like to fuck with people and tell them I am Welsh.  (This is only half true.  Although I can hold a tune and I do like rugby, which surely makes me more three-quarters.)    Welsh?  This often draws blank stares, but since the fame of Sir Anthony Hopkins (now American) and Catherine Zeta Spartacus Douglas Jones (occasional American, with conveniently waivering Welsh accent), the Taffs are better known.

I cannot claim to have the Welshy Valley drawl—the rolling ‘r’ and the phlegmy double ‘l’—unless surrounded by the contagious sound and/or drunk.  In real life, my...'dulcets' couldn’t really get more Hermione Granger Home Counties. 

However, what seems to intrigue more than the way I pronunciate, are the words I choose to annunciate: a self-indulgent compendium of polysyllabic words woven together intricately, splaying in many different directions as if I were a verbacious spider—with mild ADD—casting out my web of words.    I do like words.  I love the raised eyebrows a string of Britishisms elicits.  I’m a ham.  I know.   I shamelessly drop my 'vitamins'--emphasis on the 'vit'--with an unapologetic cheeky smile.

How we express ourselves is important on an evolutionary level too.  According to Baba Brinkman’s The Rap Guide to Evolution, currently playing off-Broadway at the Soho Playhouse (you should go, it is phenomenal), whilst word choice does not prevent us from being mauled to death by an angry predator, the more slick-tongued of us can use linguistic skill to charm a mate into consenting.  Ergo, language effects sexual selection!  I know!  Think about that the next time you lamely type ‘lol.’

So I started thinking of some of my favourite words.  Not every day words like 'lovely' or 'bloody' or 'arse'--the Close Personals will tell you I use them more often than Brittney says 'me,' but words that I savour saying; words I feel a little audacious thrill as their vibrations blow through my lips; words that reverberate through my inner ear, titillating the spiral-shaped cochlea with every ripple of sound that crosses the cilia-haired membrane. 

Some of my favourite words are delightful, not by sensation, but by reaction or association.  So this is the abridged, and by no means complete, list of words and phrases that I knowingly trill the living Brit out of:







Drip (“Don’t be such a drip!”)





Sort the wheat from the chaff


See you anon



The cut of his jib

Cheek to jowl


What would Freud say?   Well, don’t judge me on the words’ meaning; say them out loud and enjoy the sounds.  Aren’t they fun to say?

 Doesn’t 'gargantuan' stretch your lips as if you have a runny nose and no tissue?  Doesn’t the ‘p’ of ‘numpty’ pop nicely?  Don’t you love the sibilant ‘s’ of ‘viscous,’ (I also love lascivious, mischievous and luscious, so maybe I have a thing for the ‘s’s.)  I do most enjoy saying them with a lisp.  But this can often get messy, so if trying this out whilst on a date—why wouldn’t you dazzle your dinner partner with your speech impediment showcase?—be warned: it can get messy.  You might want to check your teeth for stray lettuce or other debris before you unceremonious spray it in your date's face. *dating tips from Eleanor*  OOH, there’s a blog to behold!

So there you go!  Do Brits hold sole rights to this random collection?  Not a jot!  This is no private collection!  Get the tip of your tongue, your teeth and your lips around these suckers and unleash them loudly the next time you are in Price Chopper.  I guarantee you some furrowed brows.  (NB: this may be because they are concerned as to your mental health, but just ride it out.)

 In fact, let’s do this shit!  When you next shop on a Saturday morning and slalom your uncooperative trolley through the crowd, running the wheels into as many backs of heels as possible, mowing down indecisive geriatrics in the soup aisle, or crying toddlers who have just been told 'no' and are so red-faced and snot-slicked that they don’t see you coming, do try the following:

“Lordy, Moses!  Hells Bells!  Is that the queue for the sliced luncheon meats?”

So are we on?  Will there be an upsurge in plummy-toned people confusing the little cotton socks off the Deli Counter man?  Oh goody! 

Here’s a little battle of words, from the indomitable Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman and true blue Brit Professor Elemental wrapping their native accents around the intricacies of the mother tongue.  Guess which camp I'm in?  Ah, it's elementary, dear Blogger. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Redefining Chick lit the Jennifer Weiner Way

Last month, bestselling author, screenwriter for ABC Family’s new hit show State of Georgia and influential tweeter, Jennifer Weiner, celebrated the 10 year anniversary since her break through novel Good In Bed. 

It was the first Weiner I read and it left a marked impression on me.  Mainly, that a so-called "chick lit" novel could have a darker side.  No, am not getting all Vader on you, Cannie did not unleash her light sabre and castrate the bastardly ex-boyfriend for writing about her in his newspaper article "Loving a Larger Woman."  Instead, she lets his opinion define her happiness and is plunged into a spiral of sadness and self-doubt.  And you thought chick lit was all about Christian Louboutin’s, calories and credit card bills.  Oh you! 

Chick lit,--ahem—I mean, "contemporary women’s fiction" *insert winning Colgate smile here* can be substantial.  It can be meaty.  The literary lamb shank over a risotto Milanese, that is so rich and satisfying you can’t eat anything else for a week.  The genre, or menu if you will, is so wide, it can also be light and pappy.  There’s a place for both, I guess, but I have a hearty appetite.

 Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green and Emily Giffin are three of the top selling writers in this genre and, believe me, none of them focus on fluffy light fare.  They write stories that are all meat: satisfying, juicy, tender; sometimes, they give me heartburn and chronic indigestion, but I’m there with their endearing heroines, enduring infidelity, infamy, cancer, chronic depression, etc... 

Sounds a laugh a minute, I know, but really, these characters react to these shit-uations in a way that leaves you cheering for more.   I have just finished reading Giffin's Heart of the Matter and it creased me, CREASED ME, that I could empathize with both the wife and the mistress; that both couldn't 'win.'  It's a testament to Giffin's writing that she took a black and white--ehem--affair like cheating and made it so grey, so human, so compelling, so ... relatable.
That's me with Emily in the photograph.  Uh huh, yeah.  She's the beautiful blonde.   I'm the one looking expensively cheap.

Jennifer Weiner’s new novel, Then Came You—which I am itching to read— was inspired by an article she had read in the New York Times, about an affluent woman paying an educated, yet less wealthy, woman to be her surrogate.  Jen wrote in a recent email to her readers, “I wanted to look at how larger questions of financial inequities inform the process of having a baby by surrogate – how it’s always women of means hiring less-well-off women to perform a physical task; how it is, at its core, a transactional relationship that sometimes morphs into a friendly or even familial one. I’m interested in questions of how people treat each other, and how money, and guilt over having it, or resentment over not having more, comes into play.”  Meaty!  Nom nom.

So why am I telling you all this?  Stick with me!  Well, to mark the occasion of Good In Bed’s anniversary Jen launched a competition. The challenge:  in more than 125 words, but no more than 175, write about the most memorable thing that has occurred to you in the last ten years. 

Ten years is about eight photo albums for me, ACTUAL albums, like scrapbooks, not digitally stored, but albums with photo corners and page protectors—I know, ain’t it wild?; then there are the photos stored on my computer and the random ones available for the Facebook Nation.  Am not boasting that I am some photo hog or sad scrapbooking fiend, merely that there are a darn rootin’ tootin’ megatonne of memories.  Think about it, TEN YEARS, TEN FRIGGIN’ YEARS!   Roll photo montage and Beatles accompaniment: “There are places I remember…”

So I thought long and hard about what, through the cabernet clouded fog, I remembered most.  “Rhett!  Rhett!  But what’ll I say?  What’ll I do?  What’s to become of me?”  Agh.  No. Hang about, here we go: my memories, not Scarlett’s.  What did I remember most?  Was it my happiest memory? 

No.  But the microfiche that was notable, crammed with infinitesimal detail, is the memory when time slowed; when every second, of every minute, of every hour burned my consciousness.  There were no idle thoughts.  No internal discussion about what I might cobble together from the refrigerator for the evening’s repast, no casual flick through the memorized TV schedule to plan my night’s viewing.  It was hours of unadulterated awareness; waiting for the cocked trigger to fire, terrified that I might have ruined it all and I’d shot Self in the foot, or face, or heart.

This was my most memorable moment:

I was ushered into the Embassy-approved Physician, leeched of blood and was left, hanging.  This was the day I had prepared for with the focus of an Olympian and the anticipation of a newly-lingeried third date; the last cause and impediment that would separate me from the burly American who had confessed—rather inconveniently, since I was ravenously disposing of a molten chocolate bomb and happened to be spoon-licking at the time—“I don’t want to wake up another morning without you here.”

I waited.  For hours.  Would-be Emigrants came, bled and went, yet I was... 'quarantined?'   I flicked through the mental roladex of sexual indiscretion.  Of course!  The night England had actually won a sporting event and I celebrated drunkenly with some touring rugby player between my thighs! 

The Embassy would banish me. 

Oh God! 

I’d never be with the man who accepted me without medical, signed affidavit or detailed exposition of why I loved him.

I thought my heart would burst through my chest. 

“Miss Gwyn-Jones?  You’re all clear.”

Confusion, relief, joy, Visa.

Keeping to 175 words was harder than you’d think.  I hope, in spite of the brevity, the subject matter was not too gristly for you.  If so, tough.  It’s my meat. 

What’s your most memorable …er…memory from the last ten years?   Go on, I've aired my laundry--and it was found to be impeccable clean--so I'd love to read about yours.  Or, if you have any flavoursome chick-lit to recommend, please do!