We burn with the desire to communicate. Ever since the first man learnt how to talk—though I believe it must have been a woman—the jabbering has never ceased. The whole first woman thing is complex; if you’re a creationist, and see the world as a chef d’oeuvre made in seven days, then there’s no problem.

For the rest of us, however, the evolution thing is complicated. When a new species emerges, through random genetic mutation, it’s fitness will dictate its survival. In biology, a species is defined as a set of organisms that produce viable offspring, and given that we humans are given to sexual reproduction, often with great enthusiasm, there had to be two in the beginning—of opposite sexes, no less.

And most probably siblings—random is random, and the probability of a few random humans going around futilely humping chimps, until finally hitting on (sorry) each other, and producing a beautiful baby girl, seems remote indeed. In that light, the alternative paradigm (… the animals came in two by two…) is much more orderly and appealing. Except many of the species are highly promiscuous, and no insects are mentioned. And half the animals on board eat wood, for cryin’ out loud. All paws on deck!

There’s always a Noah, and he (for it is never a she) always has an Ark—for every complex problem there’s a simple solution, and it’s usually wrong. If you’re into bibliometrics, the word ‘dictator’ returns thirty-eight and a half million hits on Google. Dictatress—I didn’t even know the word existed—gives you sixteen thousand nine hundred. Three orders of magnitude, and all of the world’s wars.

And ‘Dictatressship’ doesn’t even exist—a search kicks up one loony Australian who is having a go at the attorney-general. It looks as if Australian politics is even more boring than the homegrown variety. What a word! Three sss, sounds like a Welsh village.

So we speak, we read, and we write, in this vital urge to communicate. And for each of those channels new verbs appear: we sing, we chat; we google, skim, and pore; we facebook, blog, and tweet. And that’s fine. I haven’t met a language I didn’t like, although some are best used for addressing horses, and others conjure up images of pulmonary fluids.

In fact I love language, it reflects the quirkiness of life, the unexpected. Formal science writing very rarely ventures into these regions, and scientists generally write very poorly. Oh, the science is usually solid, at least in journal papers (beware of the grey stuff, on the shoulders of which many a Wikipedia article stands), but the writing is as arid as a politician’s mind.

The latest bastion in the castle of nouns to fall prey to verb compulsion is Gift. That deserves a minor rant, given (!) there’s already a perfectly good verb for the job. Right now, bibliometrically speaking, giving beats gifting by a factor of ten, but gifting already has twenty-five million hits—and counting. Maybe someone thought it would be cool to put their stamp of originality on the language, but converting a noun that already provides a verb into a verb that’s a synonym of that very provision seems daft, to say the least.

What Is Real? Certainly not this. Some guy (for it is he) attempted to write a model of how everything works. The flat red line suggests the world has passed on. Making your mark is not as easy as it seems.

What Is Real? Certainly not this. Some guy (for it is he) attempted to write a model of how everything works. The flat red line suggests nothing does. The world has passed on. Making your mark is not as easy as it seems.

There’s a litany of such examples, and usually they’re great. But gifting is just pretentious. Sometimes a noun just begs a verb. Man up! So different from man down. With the advent of the troika in Portugal, the word entroikado, literally troikered, appeared in 2012—the synonym buggered is a snug fit.

Years ago, back in the days of ‘Loserland, Population One, You!’ a Valley girl enquired: “I know there’s overwhelmed, and I know there’s underwhelmed, but can’t you just be whelmed?”

The metaphysical question does not remain unanswered.

“I think you can in Europe!”

In the same vein, forecasting led to hindcasting, and then to… nowcasting.

One gifting site proclaims: ‘ is an online gifting platform, where people can purchase gifts.’

Presumably purchase gifts for gifting (what else?), otherwise I’m perplexed.

Further confusion looms with the adjectival noun. Will a gifted boy become one who’s been delivered to you as a present?

Jenna’s such a cougar. Danny was her best student, now he’s her gifted toyboy!

One man, often described as an old fox, and a gifted one at that, passed away this week at the ripe old age of ninety-four, largely unnoticed in Western media. The abduction of the Cleveland girls took center stage—a bizarre story if ever there was one.

Toward the end of World War II, the young Giulio Andreotti was doing some research in the Vatican library, when he was spotted by de Gasperi, the man who founded the Italian Christian Democrats. The youngster must have impressed the hell out of the politician, both in terms of skills and attitude. In the time-honored Italian tradition of anti-compliments, de Gasperi judged him to be:

‘A capable young man, so capable I think he will be capable of anything.’

Andreotti marked Italy during the post-war decades,  and was prime minister seven times. In the mid-seventies, he was responsible for a number of austerity measures to save Italy from crippling debt. Sound familiar?

It’s important to factor in these nuances when considering the many governments Italy had since the war, because if a premier wears seven-league boots then it’s not quite fair to count seven different administrations. Andreotti was foremost a power broker, a man whose support base included the Communist party and alledgedly the Mafia.

Not a man who believed in the goodness of human nature, the old fox was given to both irony and aphorisms. His most famous is: il potere logora chi non ce l’ha—power only erodes those who don’t possess  it.

I enjoy an aphorism or five myself, so I’ll gift you a couple more from Andreotti, the consumate cynic.

a pensare male si fa peccato, ma spesso si indovina—to think ill of people is a sin, but often you’re bang on.

I guess my favorite, said after the German reunification, is:

Amo talmente tanto la Germania che ne preferivo due—I love Germany so much I preferred two.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.


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