I get a little mention at the end of Rehman Rashid's column in the New Straits Times today. Rehman reckons that portions of his previous piece in which he talked about bloggers:
... previously appeared, to deleterious effect, in a posting on Sharon Bakar’s estimable Bibliobibuli weblog(Here's the piece.)
Ashamed to say that I wasn't sure what "deleterious" meant and had to look it up! (Was I being praised or having my knuckles slapped? Apparently the latter!). Which is actually the point of Rehman's article today in which he celebrates a love of words.
For I love and respect words. I love their precision and subtlety. And I love the sound of them; the way they form in the mind to trip off the fingertips or tongue; their rhythm, cadence and melody. I would be lost without them to flow across the contours of my feelings, giving them form and meaning, rendering them recognisable, palpable, and sometimes manageable.
I must confess that I like a writer bold enough to use the full palette of the English vocabulary with as much relish and abandon as Rehman.
Anthony Burgess and Will Self are other authors I admire for their linguistic appropriations.
The New Statesman even awarded an IgNoble Prize to Self:
... vocabulary builder, for the largest, most colourful and most dynamically obscure collection of words, phrases, neologisms and archaisms ever assembled, such as crulge, gubbertushed, and pastorauling.
Academic Suzanne Keen writes of Burgess' vocabulary:
... his love of odd words, old words, off-the-beaten-track words, his fascination with foreign tongues, etymologies, and dialects, has the effect of encrusting his fiction with a scumbled surface of language ...I suspect Malaysians who read and love language are often so scared of being considered "bombastic" (a word I'd never even heard before I came to Malaysia! What does that tell you?) that they tend to limit themselves to the mundane and the cliched. There is a tendency here to stylistic safety and sameyness (does that word exist? Who cares!). Hurray for the writer who dares to purloin, snaffle, appropriate, coin, jiggle and juggle words.
Johnson (my crazy friend and noisy ex-colleague from teacher-training days) talks with relish about all the big words she'd managed to squeeze into her Reading University Masters thesis.
When her tutor tried to get her to simplify her vocabulary she pointed out that she'd carried these much loved words around with her for years, afraid to use them in the Malaysian context ... and now couldn't she ... just break out a little and slip them in?
Her tutor gave way.
The "vitruperation" about Rehman's "lexical choices" did indeed echo around the blogosphere ... and surprised me. I was pissed off by (and upset with) with Rehman's blanket condemnation of bloggers, but was amazed at how quickly - and with what vehemance - the comments targeted his writing style.
I was too lazy to write about it at the time, but being the pedantic English teacher that I am, I wanted to pick Jeff Ooi up on this post (clearly aimed at Rehman) and drum into him what a malapropism actually is!
A phrase like "monomaniacal nimrod with piscatorial propensities" (an example Jeff borrows from Zorro-unmasked) is yes, hilariously overblown, but it is not an example of a malapropism. (Luckily Jeff's more skilled at detecting other ... ahem ... textual abnormalities.)
And if the dictionaries are to be believed, there is no such verb in English as "malaprop". But then if we are encouraging inventive word play and the coining of new words in this post, we should let that one go! (Maybe award it a bouquet of jasmines!)
Another Johnson anecdote nicely illustrates what a malapropism is. (Indeed we called Johnson Mrs. Malaprop after Sheridan's famous character because she was always confusing words that sounded alike. It happened I think because her head was always half a mile ahead of her mouth.)
One day when we were driving out to school to watch a student in my (then) new Peugeot, I had to execute a rather sharp u-turn.
What Johnson meant to say was" "Does your car have a tight turning circle?"
What actually slipped out was .... "Has your car been circumcised?"
Enjoy your love of language, Rehman. And thanks for adding "deleterious" to my vocab this morning.