March 21st, 2005

ghost, alice liddell

Mais oui, nein? Tiens!

The other week, barsine, daegaer and I were lounging about in my sitting room, drinking wine and watching Dorothy L Sayers DVDs, when barsine raised a point that I had never considered before. The Lord Peter/Harriet Vane mystery was centred around a mysterious Russian emigre who was an exhibition dancer at a hotel (my dream occupation, I think. If I could, you know, dance), and he had several exhibition-dancer friends who, like himself, hailed from other lands. And like lots of "foreigners" in English literature and film, the speech of these people was peppered with random words in their native tongues, like "mais oui", or "nein". But barsine (who, like me, studied a furrin language at university - French for her, German for me - meaning that, like dancing Russian emigres, we are both well used to rambling incoherently in non-native lingos) pointed out that when one speaks in another language, one can usually remember the words for yes and no automatically, making this literary practice even more ridiculous. How can Poirot discource at length upon various poisons, and yet be forced to resort to his native French when saying "but yes"? I mean, if I were talking about, I dunno, the effects of strychnine on the nervous system in German, I doubt the words "but yes!" would have me scuttling back to English. I think I'd have been flummoxed by detailed medical terms first. In fact, I think I'd be saying basic German things like "aber ja" or "leider nein" every five seconds in order to give the (false) effect of native fluency. So why do these faux-immigrants keep dropping easy furrin words into their perfect English? Ah, because it's a lazy way for writers to indicate the dodgy presence of Johnny Foreigner! I forgot.

In other non-linguistic news, how the hell did I forget how much I absolutely and utterly love the Jam? Oh yes, because all my Jam albums are on vinyl and have been sitting on my wardrobe in a huge box with my other records for two years, waiting for me to have room for my stereo's turntable in my room. Which I now do! But so that I can listen to them on my iPod, I just downloaded a bunch of my favourite songs, and am now jumping about in my seat remembering the days when I used to trot about in a little Fred Perry shirt and listen to lots of Northern Soul. 'Eton Rifles' still has the best bass line ever.
  • Current Music
    The Jam: Billy Hunt
fat pony like thunder

extraordinary machine

I've always loved Fiona Apple's music despite the songwriter herself, because she - or at least her public persona - seems really, really annoying and pretentious. And yet she writes these gorgeous songs that are really powerful and beautiful even when the lyrics are appalling. The way she bashes the crap out of the piano reminds me of the way I used to vent my teenage sexual frustration angst by hammering away at our piano on hot summer evenings in 1991. For some reason unknown even to myself, this resemblance strikes me as a good thing. Anyway, I finally just got my paws on the infamous "lost" album, Extraordinary Machine, and my God, it is absolutely and utterly fantastic. And you can get it for yourself right here. Enjoy.
  • Current Music
    Fiona Apple: Waltz