Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Expat Living: "Mucking up the English language"

Philip Larkin
Don't trust this guy alone
with your language!
(Image from

Well, that time has again come around, when what goes around comes around, namely, another of my Expat language columns packing a rounder to wallop a bounder on the chin.

I refer to the weakly double-chinned fellow above.

Ordinarily, one should not speak ill of the dead, who aren't around to talk back, but Mr. Larkin's poetry still raises a ruckus, so I'll make an exception in larrupin' Larkin's case.

Ladies and gentlemen . . . my rejoinder to the man and one of his poems:
Mucking up the English language
An assiduous reader has kindly informed me that my column on profane expressions utterly misconstrues the meaning of fuggedaboudit, which is neither profane nor derived from Norman Mailer's fugging novel, "The Naked and the Dead."

Turns out that in fuggedaboudit, the first six letters express not the past participle of Mailer's fug but a slangy pronunciation of forget and thus do not spell out the decline of Anglo-Saxon culture at all.

One might suspect slangy terms like fuggedaboudit as evidence of linguistic decline ... but forget about it. Norman Mailer is not the culprit anyway. I have uncovered a different dead white male whose canonical literary work bears responsibility for the current debasement of our language: Philip Larkin.

I know, I know. Readers will tell me that Larkin's poem "This Be the Verse" does not grease the skids of our decline but merely expresses our slippage. That argument, however, fails as fallaciously as the argument that gangsta rap merely expresses the reality of ghetto violence but does not advocate it, though everybody knows sure as shootin' that gansta rap glorifies street violence.

Indeed, the former argument fails even more egregiously, for Larkin's poem does not merely cite the "f word," it actively uses that word -- as if gangsta rappers were to fire off uzis on stage to enhance their performances.

Those who have never read Larkin's verse may imagine that I exaggerate, so allow me to quote his profane poem in full, excepting a minor bowdlerization in the offending word:
This Be the Verse
They f--- you up, your mum and dad,
They may not mean to but they do
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra just for you.

But they were f----- up in their turn
By fools in old style hats and coats
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can
And don't have any kids yourself.
No kids? As if that would stop our descent when it would in fact effect our terminal decline. Well, fight fire with fire, I always say, so I have composed my own little poem of unfriendly fire aimed in Larkin's direction:
This Be the Worse
When Philip Larkin wrote, that cad,
In nineteen-seventy-f------ -two,
He fouled me with the fault he had
Of saying well what isn't true.

But he was f----- up in his turn
From closely cultivating oats
That he had wildly sown to learn
What he could then shove down our throats.

"Man hands on misery to man"?
His own sits there upon my shelf.
"Get out as early as you can"?
At least he had no kids himself.
Lest pedants once again correct me on a point that I know full well, let me admit that Larkin wrote his poem in nineteen-seventy-one, but that would destroy my rhyme scheming, and given the choice between a pedant's accuracy and saying well what isn't true, I prefer the latter. Besides, I have poetic licentiousness and can do as I will.

Licentiousness, regrettably, is not liberty, and trapped in this prison house of language, I reflect upon my own linguistic crime of passion and perceive that I stand guilty of the very thing for which I have accused Larkin. In St. Paul's apt words: "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things."

Peccavi. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Jeffery is a professor at Kyung Hee University and can be reached through his blog Gypsy Scholar at -- Ed.
So it goes, "Mucking up the English language," and you can also read it online in the Expat Living section at the Korea Herald site . . . if you can find it there in spite of the website's bugginess.

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At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fortunately, for both of us, "linguistic crime" does not fall under criminal statute but rather civil. Well let me think about that.

I'd best excise myself for I may have entered a database recently and once entered: well it's easily extendable toward "a person of interest." Once a "person of interest" always further extendable toward the criminal.

You might exercise caution Scholar and reconsider using the word pairings "rhyme" and "scheming" immediately together.


At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh by the way, I noticed in trying to link to the Herald site and doing a bit of navigating.

Did the Herald hire some Hillbilly IT guys to place Hillbilly bugginess in and on its' links? I fear Korea may soon be infested with both ticks and chiggers.

Contain the infestation lest ye be suffering Hillbilly July humidities!


At 2:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I am less a person of interest than a person of disinterest.

As for hillbilly bugginess, no I don't think that hillbillies brought the bugs even though I was complaining about the hillbilly computer that I had to use back in the Ozarks.

But I'm no IT expert...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do not judge theeself a person of "disinterestest" if thee hast travelledum throughest Melbourneium in thine recentest past. Imaginestiuns occur whenere'st a tendanceium to engage the local collegiate in "alternativisms" should one decide to either run or not run the stop sign dividing 9 from what eras te udder.

Chkum te e-mailum. Frankum conversalis.

I have been practicumalius my Latinius can't you tell?


At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your blog, which also ended up in the Korea Herald. Unfortunately (for all!) it has left me once again with that old feeling of "can't resist", so I thought to post the following.

It will be one of my last acts here in Korea (Bupyeong, Incheon). I leave on Friday as I couldn't come up with the sort of job I wanted to do (Adults/University Conversation) at the end of my contract.

Here it is - and please accept my apologies in advance... but I couldn't reeee...!!

Nay, they set me up, my Ma and Pa.
They let me grow up on my own.
I found my way and came so far,
With always a smile and never a moan.

They were happy - that I know.
"You can do it", they would say.
"Better than no one, second to none,
Only YOU can bar your way."

That positive spirit - such a gift.
It served me all my life.
A son and daughter got the drift -
Now if only I could find a wife!

I did warn you!

Hopefully I'll find another - job that is - and return without delay!


At 7:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I only got as far as Pig Latin, so I can't make snout nor wee wee wee little tail of your comment...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Norman, I thank you for your own literary retort to Mr. Larkin, who has now surely been properly rejoined.

Good luck with the job . . . and the wife (but don't you have a French wife?).

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And how, pray tell, did you know that?

Mais oui - c'est vrai!

I usually say, "My ex-wife was French".

Actually, she still is French - but no longer my wife!

By the way, JK's post was more a case of a latin speaking pig (sort of!) who had obviously been force-fed on Quaker Oats - thinkst thou not?

And thanks for your encouragement for the job. Keep an eye out for me - and then put in a good word! I'll be easy to track down in the Grenadines!


At 9:27 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The cybersphere, Sir Norman, is still a small universe of discourse, albeit rapidly expanding during this, its inflationary phase.

JK is just kidding, of course...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Norman is correct,

But more correctly phrased, "Razorback speaking Latin." That is a pig, after a fashion.

I rather take it as a compliment and admire his discerning eye.


At 3:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I missed the Razorback allusion . . . but I've been living outside Arkansas too long.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is simple,

Norman's: "By the way, JK's post was more a case of a latin speaking pig (sort of!) who had obviously been force-fed on Quaker Oats - thinkst thou not?"

"A latin speaking pig?" I thought you attended Fayett Nam? Home of the big red pig known as the_____________.

Being force fed Quaker Oats? I see where that might have thrown you for you knew I was not a Quaker. However I seem to recall my telling you that my cholesterol was up. I don't recall telling you however that I do not care much for oatmeal.

Hereby rectified.

It is simple, really.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Are you talkin' to me? Are you talkin' to me?! You must be talkin' to me, 'cause I don't see nobody else here..."

Anyway, if you are talking to me, I never attended Fayett Nam, which may account for my lapse of memory.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mistake. Cholesterol's plaqueing up by neural network apparently. Myelin sheath reduction too.

I've been making deviations in my memory retrievals of late. Anyway in Fayette Nam, the University there has a mascot in the form of a great big red pig. Legend tells that hillbilly farmers in the Ozarks region (and I'd hazard in the Boston Range as well) raised a form of porcininanity that the farmers could shave their whiskers on the backbone of.

Hence: Razorback.

I apologize for the confusion.

At 8:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, I remember that about the hogs running wild and growing thin instead of fat.

For some reason, though, I was never a big Razorback fan...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently the status of being a fan helps or hinders when it comes to allusions. I made the mistake apparently that your recent trip well, nevermind.

Norman is correct. I write like a pig. A simple "whatever the image of a pig" you see when Porky is mentioned.

I just hope I'm not gonna owe royalties to Warner Brothers for using a name/image that I'm sure you can conjure up.


At 11:15 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You mean "B'dee, b'dee, b'dee, b' -- that's all folks!"

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


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