The Sense Behind Nonsense

Has anyone else found himself or herself in the situation in which they are trying to communicate with someone in a language that they and the other party don’t have in common?

Picture this: you are on holiday – you desperately need a rolling pin (don’t ask me why) but try as you might, you can’t find one and worse than that, you don’t know the word for rolling pin, in whatever language you are searching for it in. Any woman will know that the job of putting themselves in this embarrassing position most often falls to them, not because it’s a rolling pin, but because men seem to hate these sort of situations even more than women hate them.

Anyway, if your experiences are anything like mine, there comes a point where the desire to get your hands on that rolling pin trounces the desire to not look a fool – and you come out with some highly creative language. You might try, for example,  to say the roly-poly thingy, or the wooden stick that rolls or the flattening stick, or the moveable stick. If you are both inventive and persistent enough, your efforts to find a stand-in word – or words – will most probably pay off. If so, the penny will finally drop, a local will wave you in the direction of a hardware store, and you’ll finally secure your rolling pin. Whether you then hit your husband over the head with it is your own business.

I suppose my point here is that the inventiveness that you have shown in order to locate a rolling pin – or whatever else it is that your are trying to find in a foreign land, — works just as well when you are choosing words once the holiday is over and you have returned home.  Using endangered words or simply more troublesome words than normal, might not be the most obvious way to communicate, or the speediest way but I strongly believe that the results are worth it.

And now, drum roll please . This week’s . . .

Carnaby’s Off-Kilter Prize goes to the American military food scientists who have developed a battlefield sandwich that stays fresh for three years. They’ve perfected barbeque chicken and now they’re working on long-life peanut butter. A spokesman for the British forces  says it sounds no better than an army biscuit.

The Brabbler’s Sizzling Squib for Endangered Words goes to PG Wodehouse for his artful use of the word zareba. ‘Vladimir Brusiloff had permitted his face to become almost entirely concealed behind a dense zareba of hair. . .’ EXTRACT FROM:  P G WODEHOUSE ‘The Unexpected Clicking of Cuthbert’ Strand Magazine 1921 London.

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