Thursday, November 01, 2012


The Eskimos, I am told (I don't know who told me but they did) have hundreds of words for snow. They do so because, being surrounded by the stuff, they need something to liven their conversation and pepper their evenings at home with amusing and elegant turns of phrase. Snow is very attractive in its own way - white and shining and cold - but would hardly afford a wide variety of conversational material if it were just called one thing.

On the other hand, I have also heard that a certain member of the Darwin family - the one that produced Charles Darwin, the chap with the beard who wrote about evolution and went about irritating aphids with strands of hair and perving on vines as they were trying to grow up the wall - wrote an entire thesis on the distinction between pus and mucus, and won a university medal on that same thesis. A fine subject, but the mind boggles as to how it could be treated at the vast length that thesis requires. Is there an entire lexicon of bodily effluvia, emulsions, excrescences and eructation that I am unaware of, similar to the expansive Eskimo lexicon for dealing with snow?

It is at such times as this current season that one can only wish for a similar lexicon for a very specific problem of one's own. For, one finds, a positive plethora of sniffs and snuffs and snuffles and sniffles and snorts and harrumphs besets one in the days and nights. As one lays one's head down on the pillow the proliferation of snorts and hoots and snores is a wonder... well, not so much a wonder to hear. But it is certainly a thing. As one wanders about during the day, the wheezing and sneezing and hacking and spluttering is just as much, if not more, so. Indeed, between one moment of ahem and another of phlegm, what one finds oneself wishing for is not so much a smattering of words to pepper and salt one's vocabulary according to taste - nor a short dictionary to list the according words, or a thesis to sort out all their fine distinctions from one another - no. What is required, above all else, is a an artistic movement, of paintings and books and dramas and song to convey the full-bodied experience:

Now is the month of spraying
Of coughing hacking braying
Bleagh bleagh bleagh bleagh bleagh bleagh bleagh bleagh bleagh etc

And with a snort-sneeze-spurt
A booger on your shirt -
Bleagh bleagh bleagh etc. 

(Music here.)

Perhaps it is merely an idle whimsy of mine, but on the other hand I am certain that if this innovation I propose were to be implemented, the whole of society would change for the better, and in a short space of time a state of utopia would dawn upon the earth and we would need never work again. Although I suppose it might be good to have someone make handkerchiefs from time to time.


Anonymous said...

As a semi-semiological semantist in B Minor I am interested in metalingual constructs. As an avid collector of belly button fluff I have indeed created a special vocabulary and grunting mechanism for my researches into the plethora of vouchsafed belly button accretions. Indeed I feel I have broken up new territory/opened a window of opportunity/and also opened a Pandora's box...this is exciting stuff, and we live in exciting times. Can't mention particulars on this medium, but am prepared to discuss more fully over a pint of hearty froth abundant ale somewhere.


Howell Chumpkins

TimT said...

Mr Chumpkins, what shall we do with the naval lint collected in the coming utopian paradise? Should its blessings be shared out to all the workers equally, or should each be entitled to their own naval lint? And what about those who don't have navals? It's a tough question...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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