How Words Opened the Tin Can of my Mind

I prefer to talk from whatever I find in my mind. But sometimes I can’t do that. Well, I can, but it’s more difficult that way.

Take, for example, the radio show I’m recording at the moment. I know what I want to do: compare the top 12 songs in the UK singles chart from 1982 to the songs in the chart 40 years later; which means this week. Sound easy? Well, sure – on the face of it it’s just a question of obtaining the twenty-four songs, putting them on a track in Garageband and then recording 25 pieces of wordage to introduce the show, connect the songs and finish off the show. But it’s the practicalities that are rather complicated. For a start, I have to talk without saying ‘um’ or ‘ah’ or otherwise leave long pauses between my words as I wait for my thoughts to catch up. In and of themselves, the pauses aren’t too bad. I can actually edit them out or re-record them if they are too distracting. But the reason for the pauses is another thing entirely.

Forty years is a long time in music. Heck, a week is a long time in terms of what can change in the composition of the singles chart in the UK. Just this week there are at least four songs in the top twelve from acts that I’ve never heard of. One of the reasons for that is that I just don’t listen to BBC Radio One enough (I’m on a BBC Radio One Relax jag at the moment, which plays (duh, it’s printed on the tin) relaxing songs of various kinds), but most of the reason is that some of these acts are slamming in from absolutely nowhere like meteors hitting the earth looking for the rest of the dinosaurs.

I mean, take the number-nine-track: Coming For You by (wait for it) SwitchOTR featuring A1 and J1 (or, as it says on their Wikipedia page A1 x J1). I mean, c’mon, how am I supposed to even know how to pronounce all that! In the end, I had to go on YouTube and dig out a fan video and hope that he knew how to say it. And as for A1 x J1 – is it said as A one times J one or something more esoterically exotic? Who knows. In the end I guessed. I just hope I don’t sound too foolish.

Another thing I came across this week that made me think about language and the new worlds that it can open up was a blog post written by the equally unpronounceable mosckerr. I’m going to guess that his first name is Mos (perhaps short for Moses?), his middle initial is C and his last name is Kerr. Whichever way around, this post is fab, It’s called Pam Larson Knowing Gawd through his word day by July 25 2 Chronicles 34 -36 (isn’t that a wonderful title!)

But here’s the thing: the post was, to my uneducated ears, largely unintelligible. That is until I decided to get a little help from Uncle Google. Just by looking up words like ‘Gemara’, ‘משל’, ‘Mishna’, ‘Mussar’ and ‘sh’itta’ I managed to turn a whole paragraph into something that … well, let me read you the comment that I sent to my mate Mos so that you understand: ‘Man, that’s opened my eyes! In an attempt to understand your post I googled a few of the words that, on my first read, had no meaning for me and found that they have translations that render your post meaningful and, dare I say it, rather insightful. But, like – wow – a whole new universe, one that I never expected, has revealed itself to me. Thank you.’ He replied to me too, telling me that a big smile had spread across his face. Nice.

Just by sheer coincidence, the next book on my list-of-what-to-read was (is) Planet Word by John Pirnie Davidson (based on the BBC TV series of the same name hosted and narrated by Stephen Fry), which I hope is going to educate me more about all these new words I’m coming across and the worlds they have opened to my delicate sensibilities. Yeah, wish me luck.

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