Yesterday I told you about how things were going with the Great Project. Well, in summary it all went live on schedule and by 17.20 I was settled in front of the television with a glass of pretend champagne and a sense of doom and futility as England decided that the best team to win the Six Nations was clearly the Welsh. As the pain of supporting a team so hopelessly erratic washed over me, I reflected that I would rather my project was successful and England not than the opposite, with all due respect to Stuart Lancaster. I’m sure he would say the reverse about me. Admittedly I won’t rest completely easy until we get through Monday with real humans trying to break the system for a day.
However, now that the Great Project is over (or is it really? Conspiracies abound!), I find myself turning to thoughts of reintegrating with the rest of humanity.
I have my own pet projects of course: learning Anglo Saxon, getting back to my guitar, becoming Mistress of the Universe, one planet at a time, crushing the human detritus beneath my tentacles, and knitting. Always knitting.
It was the Anglo Saxon I was contemplating the most though, when a thought came slicing out of the dull, grey March sky and slapped me round the left ear. Anglo Saxon is mostly just English with different spelling and a bit of an accent. The next observation that tends to follow this is that all the common words, especially around labour and production of food, are A-S while the posh words around cooking and eating are French. Comparisons usually resort to Cow (A-S = Cu) and Beef (Fr. = Boeuf).
The use of foreign words in English is what makes it so interesting, to me anyway. Rara’s recent PromptForThePromptless on Schadenfreude was another example of the gay abandon with which English adopts and integrates words from other languages rather than coming up with a new word itself. I think it’s fabulous, very cosmopolitan, pragmatic and efficient. There are loads of these words, admittedly reflecting our colonial past as much as our open dictionary policy. So we have words such as bungalow and pyjamas from the Indian sub-continent, Schadenfreude as mentioned above, haute cuisine and nouveau riche, alcohol and algebra from Arabic and so on. These words are often called “borrowed” words.
And I thought: “Borrowed? Really? Really?”
It’s not like we’re going to give them back. It’s not like they’re shoved at the back of the shed along with Jim’s hedge trimmer and Jane’s camping stove that we borrowed that time because we thought we were going to have that big summer party with all the kids from Brownies staying for a sleepover in tents on the back lawn.
Do we expect M. Hollande to come knocking at the door of Number 10 asking Dave if he’s finished with the boeuf yet, because he’s got a few friends coming for supper and not a thing in the house to offer them. Dave might suggest he’ll hand to over in exchange for the “five o’clock” or even “le camping”, if Francois is going to be like that.
What if Dr. Manmohan Singh decided to take back all the bungalows next week? We already have a housing crisis here, and a crisis in care for the elderly, who tend to be disproportionately engaged in bungalow habitation. It would mean grannies on the streets and grandpas sleeping on park benches in all weathers. Madness, my dears, utter madness.
Certainly as a nation we are indelibly wedded to the enjoyment of Schadenfreude. Take away our joy in others’ misfortune and you take away our joy. Let’s face it, without it there is only so much soap-opera tragedy we can take seriously before we hear the Archangels sounding the trumpets for Judgement Day and the pits of Hell open beneath us. We are not psychologically equipped to handle joy for its own sake. This isn’t The Waltons, people, this is real life.
Let’s not even think about alcohol. We are a nation of drinkers. Any town centre high street at midnight makes that clear. And while uisge works north of the English border, and win is a good A-S word, along with beor and alu, I fear they all need a basis upon which to ferment. The withdrawal symptoms alone could destroy the NHS.
So here I sit, listening to the rain on the conservatory roof and wondering if we will ever see Spring sunshine, and wondering what to do without a Great Project, and hoping against hope that common sense will prevail and we can stop talking about “borrowed” words, acknowledge that we have pilfered them for good, that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and that after all we live in a global society. Really we have taken them as our own. I might not steal a car / handbag / television, (although I think the summer riots of 2011 may suggest otherwise for a percentage of the population) but I’m more than happy to copy and re-use a word or two. No one gets hurt. It’s a copy after all. Information wants to be free.
And that, my dears, in a nutshell, is why fighting media piracy is such a challenge. It all started when William invaded and murdered the rightful king.