Monday, August 27, 2018

The Quark

Or: why you should never get grammatical, scientific, or any type of advice from Tim whatsoever. 

Quark is quark is quark. Quark is just a type of German/European cheese, but you make all new quark out of old quark, adding some old quark to milk, so the new quark becomes part of the original quark, the ur-quark, the proto-quark, the primordial-quark, too. All quark is the one quark, and one quark is all quark. Quark is like the blob of the food world. Perhaps eventually all things will be quark, and we will all be happy in this clabbery, curdly, blibbery, blobbery, gestalt-quark-oneness.

So: the gender of quark, auf Deutsch, is 'der', Maskulin, because quark is a type of cheese and all cheese is masculine also. And 'Quark' doesn't really have a plural form, either - or, you can talk about it as if it's a plural ('die Quark', the plural definite article 'die' indicating it is plural), but there is no internal vowel mutation, no suffixed '-s' or '-en' to say the word is a plural, because quark is quark is quark, because all quark is one quark. Imagine saying to someone 'can I have muesli with two yoghurts'; it sounds faintly ridiculous, not because yoghurt is faintly ridiculous (though it is) but because all yoghurt comes from the one yoghurt, you make new yoghurt by just using old yoghurt. No 'two yoghurts', you just say 'can I have some yoghurt please' or 'can I have more yoghurt please'. Quark is yoghurt is quark is yoghurt is quark.

But also, quarks are quarks are quarks. The subatomic particle, confusingly also called 'Quark' auf Deutsch, gets the article neuter - 'das Quark', if you please, so if you meet one in the street, you know how to address it. It was called thus by subatomic scientists, who, needing a handy-dandy name for this entirely theoretical infinitesimal unit, took it from James Joyce, exclaiming in Finnegan's Wake "Three quarks for Muster Mark!", who I like to think was deliberately pluralising a German word that could not be pluralised. So, 'der Quark', not 'die Quarks', but 'das Quark', and 'die Quarks'. Got it? Good, I haven't either. And, for all we know, quarks, down at the hocus-pocus-mystical-heuristical-mumbo-jumbo level, might be exactly like cheese quark, anyway - little flying pieces of space-time yoghurt could form the basis of all matter. (Or not.)

The point of this article is, there is no point. Language likes fucking with us, and writers and scientists do their best to help it along. Bastards, the lot of them.

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