Wednesday 30 April 2014

Deliberately Weighed

I'll say one thing for astrology, it means that absolutely everybody knows a little bit of Latin. Gemini are the twins, Capricorn is the goat, and Libra is the scales.

This means that when things are in equilibrium (or equi - librium) the scales are perfectly balanced. And it also means that when you have carefully weighed up an action, that action is therefore deLIBERate.

By extension, this ought to mean that anyone born between September 23rd and October 23rd was born deliberately.

Monday 14 April 2014

The Unknown Unknown

The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted, by Mark Forsyth, exclusively for Independent Booksellers WeekI've written another book! Well, I say book, it's an essay for the Independent Booksellers Association on why bookshops are a Good Thing. It will be on sale in June, but only in independent bookshops.

It's largely about Donald Rumsfeld, but it also involves a discussion of theology, First UK Bus employees, and naughty French photographs from the nineteenth century.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Hungry Rhetoric

When Joyce is too simplistic, Tolstoy too brief, Kafka too jolly and Lautreamont too bourgeois, it's time to read The Hunger Games. I've just finished.

The third volume has as its catchphrase the rather catchy line "If we burn, you burn with us", and it occurred to me to wonder why the line is so... memorable, catchy, what you will. And when you inspect it, it's rhetorically rather interesting.

The following will all make more sense to those who have read The Elements of Eloquence, but there we go.

Firstly, there's the antithesis: we burn, you burn. Nice simple trick "East is East and West is West", "Man proposes, God disposes", "You say potato and I say potato". But there's more.

There's the pleasant little repetition of burn. Indeed, it's repeated with one word in between, which is a buried diacope. "Bond, James Bond" "Run, Forest, run", "burn, you burn", "Burn, baby, burn"


Sorry, I became rather carried away there.

But finally, there is the chiasmus, the symmetry. You start with:


Then you put a burn on either side:

Burn, you burn

Then you put "we" on one side and "with us" on the other:

We burn, you burn with us

And then you add an "If".

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. One for all and all for one. Nice to see you, to see you nice.

So that's three pretty sure-fire rhetorical tricks - antithesis, diacope and chiasmus, hidden in one sentence, combined with remarkable dexterity, and thoroughly memorable.

The Inky Fool made his own cinema version

Thursday 3 April 2014

I Rare To Go

The other day, I was writing a text message in which I said that I was raring to go; and it struck me that rare is one of those odd verbs that you only see as a participle. Nobody ever says "I have rared to go", or "I plan to rare a lot on Thursday". It struck me that maybe you couldn't rare; maybe rare wasn't even a verb at all, as with sidling.

But it turns out that you can rare, and indeed often do. You just spell it slightly differently. Rare is a variant pronunciation of rear. Rear is an Old English word meaning raise (indeed if you go back even further in time rear and raise come from the same root). So you can rear a child, for example, without it being rude, or having anything to do with the rear end (which comes from the French).

Moreover, a horse can rear up on its hind legs. Horses do not do this simply in order to get things down from high shelves, they do it because they are impatient to get somewhere. They are rearing to go, or much more commonly raring to go.

Indeed, the first recorded use of the phrase in the OED has a significant apostrophe. It's from a book called Cabin Fever from 1918

‘Yuh ready?’ Foster's voice hissed in Bud's ear. ‘R'aring to go.

Of course, horses only rear children when they are in a stable relationship.

The first of the Inky Fool's equine kan-kan group was in training