Feast of Words

In the light of recent cultural divisions, that have been happening across the world by various means, I decided to write of something that we all have in common – FOOD.

We all consume food, we even share similar palettes to people’s and cultures we may know little about, or think we have in common. Lemons, for example, are thought to originate in India and yet are eaten all over the world today. The pomegranate started out in Iran, and yet I can get them from my local supermarket. And oranges; one of my favourite fruits and bits of knowledge – Did you know – oranges come from South East Asia, they were first cultivated in China. The colour orange come from the fruit not the other way around. And why do we say, “Can I have an orange?” ? Because the fruit was originally called narange, a Sanskrit word for “orange tree” (नारङ्ग nāraṅga). As with many words, it became Anglicized, so from “Can I have a nāraṅge?” it morphed into ‘an orange’. How cool is that?!

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N.B: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. (See what I did there?!)

 

How are we divided? Tonnes has been said on that – let’s focus on what we ALL have in common; the need to consume, the joy of eating, the love of specific treats and delicacies. And what a culture does not/may not eat due to spiritual concerns can also show our similarities – Tim Minchin, comedian, wrote a song (He’s written quite a number of songs actually), about the similarity, rather than differences amongst the Muslim and Jewish folks called ‘Peace Anthem For Palestine’ – about how they both do not eat pork!

Sure, it’s a light-hearted, comedic foray into international politics (!!) BUT, essentially, he is talking about commonality through food.

Food really can bring people together. Hear the one about the Palestinian and the Israeli who used Hummus to aid refugees?                                   https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/how-hummus-brought-a-palestinian-and-an-israeli-together-to-help-refugees-in-berlin

I thought then;  writers have used food and drink in their stories over and over, to help develop plots, bring characters to life and give a sense of place. What is sense of place? Wiki tells us – Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or animals. Places said to have a strong “sense of place” have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors.

We all have used the phrase at some time or another. However, if a fresh, tall glass of orange juice conjures up images of Californian sunshine and groves of fruiting trees sparkling in the morning dew – what of the origins of the orange? Doesn’t consuming food from across the globe begin to distort our idea of sense of place?! And maybe, rightly so.

I say embrace the commonalities. Drink French wine, whilst eating American raisins and roasting English lamb, followed by Iranian pomegranates and Italian ice-cream. Cue the extracts, oh, first let me say, ***SPOILER ALERT – after the Shakespeare quote, the passage selected from Patrick Suskind’s Perfume is the ending of the novel. So avoid if you have not read it. And if you have not read it – please do – a hideously delightful story, redolent with humans. Enjoy:-

 

  • “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
  • “I went to sit in the bus station and think this over. I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious.”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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  • “Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.”
  • “I sell dreams, small comforts, sweet harmless temptations to bring down a multitude of saints crashing among the hazels and nougatines.”
  • “The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate. Quite unlike the white powdery chocolate I knew as a boy, this has a throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market, a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavor that enters my mouth somehow and makes it water. There is a silver jug of the stuff on the counter, from which a vapor rises. I recall that I have not breakfasted this morning.”

              ― Joanne Harris, Chocolat

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  • “Waiter: Would you like to hear today’s specials?

Patrick Bateman: Not if you want to keep your spleen.”

  • Our pasta this evening… is squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth… with goat cheese profiteroles, and I also have an arugula Caesar salad. For entrees this evening, I have swordfish meatloaf with onion marmalade, rare roasted partridge breast in raspberry coulis with a sorrel timbale…and grilled free-range rabbit with herbed french fries. Our pasta tonight is a squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth.

God, I hate this place. It’s a chick’s restaurant. Why aren’t we at Dorsia ?”

― Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

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  • “I saw her in the back-kitchen which opened on to the courtyard, in process of killing a chicken; by its desperate and quite natural resistance . . . it made the saintly kindness and unction of our servant rather less prominent than it would do, next day at dinner, when it made its appearance in a skin gold-embroidered like a chasuble, and its precious juice was poured out drop by drop as from a pyx.”

― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

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  • The meal consists of limpid turtle soup laced with Madeira, blinis Demidoff with caviar, quails en sarcophage (stuffed with foie gras and truffles in puff-pastry cases), a salad, cheeses, tropical fruits and a glistening baba au rhum, all accompanied by Champagne and fine wines.

― Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Babette’s Feast

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  • ‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; ‘and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well — ‘

‘What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.

‘They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.

‘They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; ‘they’d have been ill.’

‘So they were,’ said the Dormouse; very ill.’

Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: ‘But why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.’

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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  • “The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed. It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation… Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam…”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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  • “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” (shinny, is booze.)

―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

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  • ” “Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?” However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.”

―Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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  • “He is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”

―William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

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***

  • * “But to eat a human being? They would never, so they thought, have been capable of anything that horrible. And they were amazed that it had been so very easy for them and that, embarrassed as they were, they did not feel the tiniest bite of conscience. On the contrary! Though the meal lay rather heavy on their stomachs, their hearts were definitely light. All of a sudden there were delightful, bright flutterings in their dark souls. And on their faces was a delicate, virginal glow of happiness. Perhaps that was why they were shy about looking up and gazing into one another’s eyes. When they finally did dare it, at first with stolen glances and then candid ones, they had to smile. They were uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of love.”
  • Patrick Süskind, Perfume

Add to Dictionary

Gargh! Ack! Argh! Dink. Plip. Smoosh.

 

So you’re busy typing away, racing through the plot-line, when all of a sudden, there’s an interjection of sound or texture that, no matter how hard you search, you simply cannot find one that fits the occasion. What are you going to do?! It sounds like, squelch, but feels like wet velvet, is there a word?

“Her hand stroked the smerchy surface…no…Her hand brushed across the squilching fibers…nah…Her skin squaalched over the mulchen fat-like deposit…” and all the while, you’re getting red underlining and suggestions for ‘real’ words. You hover over and decide whether you should: re-spell it, Ignore, Ignore all, Ask Google for Suggestions, or, Add to Dictionary.

But didn’t all words have to be made up at some point in history? So why can’t you? Writers as wordsmiths have contributed so many words to the worlds languages, there are a huge amount that have fallen by the wayside, or the meaning has changed over the decades (for example, did you know that the word ‘nice’ originally meant the opposite of what we know today?!) Of course, you can’t just go writing anything you want, it has to make some kind of sense within the context of what you’re writing; besides, you might discover if you stick a bunch of consonants together, you’ve just written a pre-existing profanity in Czech or Welsh!

I am beginning to think that, apart from Shakespeare and Dickens, it is the sci-fi and comic-book writers who have lent more to the modern world of words than any other genre of writers. I suppose it make sense, as they are the ones looking forwards, so to speak, they are inventors of words as well as worlds…

Tattarrattat

From Irish writer, James Joyce. The OED includes tattarrattat in the sense ‘a series of short, sharp, rapping or tapping sounds’, and illustrates it with a quotation from Joyce’s Ulysses: “I knew his tattarrattat at the door.” It’s also notable for being the longest palindromic headword in the OED.

Chortle and Slithy

Introduced by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass (1871): “He chortled in his joy.” The word is probably a blend of chuckle and snort and means ‘to laugh in a noisy, gleeful way’. In 1855, Carroll combined slimy and lithe to form the nonsense word, slithy. It conveys something slimy and distrustful.

Droog

Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is filled with inventive language. One word has become synonymous with the novel – Droog. Alex, the protagonist of the 1962 novel, uses the word Droog to refer to his three friends. Meaning ‘a young man belonging to a street gang’, the noun is an alteration of the Russian drug ‘friend’.

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How about a nice glass of moloko?

Robot

Coined by Czech author Karel Čapek and made its first appearance in a 1920 science fiction play called R.U.R., which is short for Rossum’s Universal Robots. The word is from Czech robota meaning ‘forced labour, drudgery’.

Bedazzled, New-fangled and Scuffle

 Mr Shakespeare left us over 1,700 new words according to some sources. Bedazzled, a word first used to describe the particular gleam of sunlight is now used to sell rhinestone-embellished jeans. Maybe poetry really is dead. New-fangled, as in ideas, from Loves Labours Lost. Scuffle was first used to describe the fights of the heart in Antony and Cleopatra is an example of an existing verb that Shakespeare decided could stand up just as well as a noun.

Gobblefunk, Splitzwiggled and Jumbly

“Gobblefunk” is Roald Dahl’s own language. The words are found across his literature and explain meaning when Dahl’s dream world transcends normal adjectives. Splitzwiggled means caught and Jumbly means all mixed up.

Shazam                                                                  

Shazam was coined in Whiz Comics in 1940, as the name of an old wizard who grants a 12-year-old boy the ability to transform into Captain Marvel. It was the wizard’s name. It came to be used, not so much as an expletive, as an exclamation of something; ‘Take that!’ “Shazam!”

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Kapow! Blam! And Zap!                                            

 Onomatopoeia; harder to spell than the words that belong in this category. But without them, where would we writers be! Kapow and Blam crop up mostly in the ‘superhero’ genre of comics, notably the earlier Batman strips.                                                                          Zap was used as early as 1929 to represent a sound. It is another comic strip word; especially from ‘Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century’. Its meaning ‘to erase electronically’ is from 1982.

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I love beating up bad guys, Batman.

Drokk and Grud (my personal favourites)                                                         

And so the world of comic strips entered a new age; children began reading them, can you believe that?! Also, the restrictions placed upon the writers forced the Mother of Invention to invent a whole new dictionary of profanities. Judge Dredd and co not only inhabit a whole new future of fatties with wheelbarrows and hi-tech stuff, but a new language developed. In case you didn’t know, Drokk most eloquently replaces the F word, Grud is instead of taking the Lord’s name in vain.

 

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Drokk indeed…