On my nightstand in a stack of books, you’d find Bierce’s “Devil’s Dictionary” along with unmentionables, and a book of short stories by the Algonquin maven herself, a Most Real Dorothy. They’re both dusty from neglect with tiny paw prints forming swirls and arcs upon them. I am saving all of my modern era reading to the many months of anticipated convalescence at UNC. I will put that license to procrastinate in my wallet.
I refuse to be bored. I refuse to be lonely. I refuse to feel guilty.
Although I haven’t a clue as to when this might transpire, I am none-the-less reclaiming that time as mine. I’ll use that time in any way that I want: wisely, foolishly, or just gazing out a window and pondering. While it may very well be mentally exhausting to dissect and deconstruct my family’s dysfunctional legacy, it is still by my choice. I am cranky and cantankerous that way, not unlike Mr Bierce, were he in St Louis and if the air were permeated and thick from the Mississippi’s fragrant steam.
Crank is as cranky does. Aye aye, Ambrose, I challenge thee to a rather literate bitch-fest. We, as in you and I, can both reach into our bags of curmudgeonly metaphors and musty malapropisms. You have your “Devil’s Dictionary”, the Satan of which has yet to be authenticated. I can cite snippets and quips from J. Redding Ware’s “Passing English of the Victorian era, a Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang and Phrase”. Whenever the mysterious Mr Ware found himself in a jovial way, he simply referred to himself as Andrew Forrester.
But I digress as surely both Bierce and Ware would as they too enjoyed the art of pondering. Bierce was British, a bit foppish, and five years quicker to rush such a compendium to print. Neither men, however, ever saw such a print, Mr W in 1909 and Mr B in 1914. We could suggest that the two books were both compiled from notes and then printed posthumously. With American writer and occasional bon vivant Bierce, we never really knew: he disappeared along with the world’s innocence. The Great War was demanding a forum for global communication and a feverish media. Ferdinand made that so. Economics, politics, fashion, and transportation all followed suit, each in its own time.
All of that said, I too admittedly relish rate both wicked and caustic wordplay. Obviously I’d benefit from having read both books, having compared the implied unfold of Dandyisms, and from looking for shared lexicons. I’d also have computers and applications to do my bidding, without so much as a name. Even a century ago, a first name immediately gave the bearer a responsibility and a humanity.
It oddly would at once denote the gentility of a hard drive and a playful fondness for feeding obsessions their due.
(“Dashing My wig” = exclamation like “Fiddle-Dee-Dee” or “Egads!”); “Bitching the pot” = “pouring the tea!”)
Methinks I best go out and tickle my innards.
(Image: “Interpretation of Color” by Vincent Desiderio, 1997.)