Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Last week, a poet who goes by the unlikely moniker of Ray Speedway, mentioned en passant that inserting an expletive into the middle of a word - as in fanbloodytastic - is called tmesis. Broken Biro and I immediately made a note of this in our pocket books (I with an engraved antique silver pencil; she with a small chewed plastic biro stolen from a Turf Accountant). Then we wrestled for the right to write.
Further investigation (after I'd flattened her) reveals that tmesis has rules. One can say Abso-bloody-lutely, but one cannot say ab-bloody-solutely. Similarly, one cannot say fantas-bloody-tic. Hmmm, I've read my two examples several times and have to admit I really do not understand the Rules of Tmesis.
Never mind. Some people absorb the rules as easily as breathing. I know a builder whose every other word is tmetic. Where's the tea-bloody-pot? he'll demand. I've never fancied Aus-bloody-stralia. Costa-bloody-Brava's good enough for me. Only he doesn't say bloody.
Funny, I should mention Australia because the people of that far distant continent (though not as far distant if you live in New Zealand) are highly skilled at tmesis. Only they call it Tumbarumba. John O'Grady wrote a poem about it :
And the other bloke says "Seen 'im? Owed 'im half a bloody quid.
Forgot to give it back to him, but now I bloody did -
Could've used the thing me bloody self. Been off the bloody booze,
Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin' kanga-bloody-roos."
Now the bar was pretty quiet, and everybody heard
The peculiar integration of this adjectival word,
But no-one there was laughing, and me - I wasn't game,
So I just sits back and lets them think I spoke the bloody same
The rest of the poem is here.
No wonder we're so desperate to beat the Australians at cricket. We've got towns and villages called things like Great Snoring and Piddle. They have Tumbarumba and Iron Knob.
(I fear to direct you to the following website because you are likely to be lost to Blogland forever and never make your way home. Still, on your own head be it. X marks the spot.)
On with the poetry. Our poets have not ignored the bloody power of bloody. Although not strictly tmetic, Captain Hamish Blair was emphatically sanguine on the subject of The (Bloody) Orkneys:
This bloody town's a bloody cuss
No bloody trains, no bloody bus,
And no one cares for bloody us
In bloody Orkney.
The bloody roads are bloody bad,
The bloody folks are bloody mad,
They'd make the brightest bloody sad,
In bloody Orkney.
All bloody clouds, and bloody rains,
No bloody kerbs, no bloody drains,
The Council's got no bloody brains,
In bloody Orkney.
It'll be no surprise that the Orkney Tourist Board asked him to return their bloody advance. He should have written Ork-bloody-ney, but the good Captain insisted that the temetic version of his poem sounded like a joint injury and didn't scan as well as it ought.
As a slight aside, I once read this poem to a strange man in a café. By strange I mean I did not know him from Adam. He became rather emotional and said that he hadn't been read to since he was a small boy. He dabbed at his eyes with a paper napkin. I was delighted; a positive outcome; a convert to poetry. By chance, the following day I met him again, this time in the street. He asked whether I'd consider reading him regular bed time stories and offered payment in cash. He said there was no need for me to bring a book.
John Cooper Clarke, the punk poet with the complexion of a compulsive blood donor, paid homage to Captain Blair in his poem Evidently Chickentown. Only he didn't use bloody either.
I've drifted from my original point, haven't I?