Saturday 3 July 2010

Oozing Collectables

I have before me the particulars of a flat (or, if you must, apartment) which, apparently, "oozes charm."

Is that possible. Could charm - lovely, fresh-faced, care-free charm - ooze?

Charm comes from carmen which is Latin for song. Ooze comes from wase which was Anglo Saxon for mud.

There's something quite blood-curdling about these forced marriages between unsuitable words. I cannot see the words "Intimate Wipes" without shuddering. A few weeks ago I was sidling around the London Print Fair with Mrs Malaprop, lusting cashlessly for this picture or that. Mrs Malaprop observed with that if I ever did make any money I would "only go and squander it on collectables."

I detest the word collectables. It is the most pointless, hideous piece of jargon in the English language. You can collect anything: stamps, jam jars, baboons or oak trees. Every concrete noun could be collected, and even some abstract ones (cool and calm). So to lock that predatory horror of a word into a dark sentence with the delightful squander seemed the apogee of linguistic cruelty.

Squander is a splendid word (of obscure etymology). It has just enough morality to have meaning, but not enough to remove its sense of fun. George Best once said:

I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.

The River Ouse: not as muddy as you thought

P.S. First I should point out that Mrs Malaprop was aware of her linguistic antitheses. I would never wish to slight her language. Second, I think somebody else pointed out the intimate wipes before me, possibly Stephen Fry, but I'm not sure.


  1. It depends whose charm and how sincere. I've met a few people who ooze it. So I don't think nice charm can ooze, but smarmy charm can.

  2. I got a link to your post about the Oxford comma but I can't link to it. And I SO want to know.

  3. It went up by mistake. I'm off on holiday on Tuesday and have been pre-writing some posts for while I'm away. I accidentally clicked on Post and not Save. The mysteries of the Oxford Comma will be revealed some time over the next fourteennight.

  4. I can't imagine why you're not making money. Surely I'm not the only one who would be willing to subscribe (for a fee) to this blog.

    'Lusting cashlessly' will, I hope, remain in my memory for a long , long time, and be brought out on suitable occasions.

  5. PS And already knowing about the Oxford comma makes me happy only because then I don't feel like such a dud reading you. I do look forward to your explanation of it, however. Have an excellent holiday.

  6. The Antipodean, completely unable to come up with a suitable pun involving Carmen, song and opera,5 July 2010 at 17:18

    Charming means less expensive, doesn't it? Still, just as difficult to ooze 'lower sale price' as charm.

    I'm glad to see you have both timed your holiday quite nicely with Joel's, and been more organised than he has.

    I think Mrs M, however antithetical and whatever comma habits she may've picked up in Oxford, would've used some punctuation at the end of her sentence.

  7. Miss Podean,
    Mrs Malaprop is staying in Britain to keep the fort from going to the dogs.
    That's terribly sweet of you, but I should never get a new reader. I'm planning instead to sell the computer game rights. Level 5: the Inky Fool is attacked by a wild gerund etc.