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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Reasons for relief, and not just one type of relief

I finished writing an article yesterday about hedonistic instincts for food, alcohol and sex in Shakespeare's The Tempest. It was for an educational magazine aimed at A level English students. I kept saying to my husband, 'I need some inspiration' and he was very happy to bring me some crisps and a glass of sherry, but kept well away otherwise as I'd had garlic aioli for lunch.

Usually, once I'm on a roll and all fired up with a subject, I'm a rapid writer, but this piece performed reluctantly, like an impacted bowel. I've been collating material for the article and putting it together, with difficulty, for weeks. Yesterday, when I finally emailed it off to the editor, I felt relieved, as though .... er ... see previous simile.

Writing that paragraph reminded me of the word 'scatological' which I learned 15 years ago at university but which I haven't used since then. It means 'the study of faeces'.

Why did I need that word at university? Had I wandered, lost, into another kind of university lecture altogether? No. We were learning about Rabelais, a writer who ... let's say ... wasn't all trees and flowers and fragrant woods and pretty fairies.

... and he looks such a nice chap! 

People who do scatology are called scatologists. I wonder how that goes down at parties.

'What do you do?'
'Oh, I work in a bank. What about you?'
'I'm a scatologist.'
'Oh, really? What does that mean?'
'I study poo.'
'So sorry - just seen someone I know. Do excuse me. I hear the vol au vents are nice.'

Apparently, according to the dictionary, the study of poo is also called coprology, which doesn't make it any easier or more suitable for social shit-shat.

'What do you do?'
'Oh, I work in a bank. What about you?'
'I'm a coprologist.'
*thinks* 'I'll sound so dumb if I get this wrong.' *says* 'You study copper? Er ... Metals? Cops? Police officers?'
'No, I study poo.'
'Do excuse me. I've just seen someone I hate, but everyone deserves a second chance. I hear the chocolate fudge cake is ve ... er ... it was nice meeting you.'

The people who do coprology are in medicine, or paleontology, or biology. Or they are two years old, and with their head in the toilet in a way that means MUMMY HAD BETTER ARRIVE SOON.

While we're on body innards, I did a bit of stand-up comedy at a local club and, as part of it, I performed my poem about the punctuation mark we call the colon. My sister was in the audience, and she's a nutritionist and expert on the fourteen miles of intestinal tubing we call the other kind of colon. I told the audience afterwards that anyone who had a problem with literacy as well as IBS could see us both at the end and get a two-for-one discount.

Here's that colon performance, as the scatologist said to his lab assistant, on Youtube  If you do watch it, bear in mind that I had to read the poem rather than do it from memory because I'd performed it at that venue before, and the audience made me read it from my file, even though I hadn't prepared it properly for that gig ... #makesexcusesforslips

Off to cook tea, although I'm not really in the mood for it. Now.







10 comments:

  1. I'd love to join with you and save the colon, I'm just not sure exactly where it goes, for instance in my Wednesday Words on a Friday posts, I use the sentence "Here is my story" followed by a colon, then the story I wrote. Is that the correct usage and where else would I use a colon rather than a comma or semi colon?
    Can a dash always be the right place for a colon?

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    1. I think you can use it like that, yes. I say to my pupils that a colon says, 'And here's what I mean by that.' So it comes in front of some kind of explanation: a list, or an example, or an elucidation of the point. A semicolon is used to connect two related sentences; it's a very helpful device. Commas are far more complicated, but I tell the kids they're used to divide sentences into smaller sections, not to stick one whole sentence to another whole sentence. They'll write 'I love Bieber, he's my favourite.' And I'll ring that pesky little comma in red pen. It should be a semicolon, a full stop, or a connective. As for dashes - yes, they can be used informally instead of a colon. End of lesson!

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  2. This post was full of it. :)

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    1. You flatter me with your high praise!

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  3. I enjoyed hearing you perform your colon poem! But I must confess: I'm a dasher. See how I just added insult to injury by using a colon there?

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    1. But you did it beautifully!

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  4. Fran Hill you are the funniest person I know :) What a great post to come home to after a busy and stressful day. A poohy post is my favourite sort - I still laugh at wee and pooh jokes and I'm sure I should have grown out of that by now. But you present the whole pooh thing with such aplomb. Brilliant.

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    1. I don't know why the word 'aplomb' seems such a scatological word all of a sudden. It never was before!! Thanks, Deborah. :)

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  5. Loved your video--& the "impacted bowel" simile!! (I know you shouldn't put dashes & an ampersand together but I don't care.)

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    1. Thanks, fishducky! And feel free to do what you like with punctuation. I'm a bit of a slob with it myself, to be honest, when I'm on social media of any kind .... I don't keep the highest standards.

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