Posts Tagged ‘words’
I just started at a jovial sort of community band, funded by a local university. I had been having plenty of fun, and though I was busy trying to recruit other but better trombone players for it, I had run into little success. This week, the two guys I had recruited flaked out.
In a jovial, faux-exasperated tone of voice, our director asked me where the two of them were. In a jovial, faux-exasperated tone of voice, I answered.
Hell if I know.
Half of the band gasped. Our director sent me an amused but officially disapproving glare. The community-made half of our band laughed upon recognizing either reaction.
I was as shocked at that shock as half of the band was with my language. I come from bands where instructors will cuss out a band if they feel the band would be better motivated by doing so, and that’s the least of my stories.
One director, upon hearing cacophony where there should be ordered dissonance in stacked seconds, said what he heard sounded like an abortion looks.
Saying “hell” is nothing.
More ironically, I consciously don’t cuss — a habit I most definitely did not pick up from my family, and at the same time one I most definitely picked up because of them. My words don’t get saltier than the silly-sounding “douchenozzle,” and that’s just about the only word I take pains not to say around schoolkids.
Yet I made some college freshman blush because I used language I’ve heard on the playground — the elementary school playground — and I don’t think it’s because she’s a flute player. Either way, I don’t think I’ll ever be in her good graces.
Something tells me I would have spared some nerves if only I had remembered that our sponsoring university was founded in 1944. By Mennonites. Freakin’ Mennonites.
I can say freakin’, right?
Politics is universal, and a sham. So much of what we see is theatre put on for our benefit, as demonstrated by a British series from the 1980s called Yes, Minister.
Yes, Minister — and, eventually, Yes, Prime Minister — is a show about the internal workings of the British Department of Administrative Affairs, analogous to our Department of the Interior. As a satiric sitcom, this television show has to be a thousand times more realistic than the bunk you see on The West Wing.
Although Great Britain’s constitutional monarchy is an odd beast, and although its parliament is just different enough to warrant brushing up on comparative government before watching an episode or two, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu as I breeze through the 38 or so episodes. I’ve seen all this intrigue somewhere before.
One of the great tropes of the series is when one of the characters gets into a monologue about how government really works, patiently explaining that the job of the civil service is to prevent the elected officials from messing up the government. The best official, the civil service frequently says, is a puppet. Later that episode, when main character and career puppet Jim Hacker is coerced into making an ultimately successful mid-term campaign for Prime Minister, his advisers tell him exactly what he has to do.
If asked if he wants to be Prime Minister, the generally acceptable answer for a politician is that while he does not seek the office, he has pledged himself to the service of his country, and that should his colleagues persuade him that that is the best way he can serve, he might reluctantly have to accept the responsibility, whatever his personal wishes might be.
Hacker does this.
Hacker: The next Prime Minister would have to be someone you could trust. An old friend.
Duncan: Do you mean you?
Hacker: I have absolutely no ambition in that direction.
Duncan: You do mean you.
Eric: So Duncan would get No. 10. My God.
Hacker: Not if I can help it. [takes a drink] Cheers.
Eric: You don’t mean you?
Hacker: Me? My children are at the age where my wife and I would like to spend much more time with each other.
Eric: You do mean you.
I don’t know about you, but I saw more than a little bit of Fred Thompson, whose campaign peaked just before he announced his candidacy. Before that, he had no ambition. He wanted to spend time with his family.
He wanted to be the head of government, no doubt about it.
The eeriest scene involved what turns out to be Jim Hacker’s campaign speech. It’s full of melodrama, patriotism, triviality and overdone pomp. In other words, though him crying out against repressed British sausage will sound foreign to our ears, his rhetoric will remain very, very familiar.
Why is it that British shows always seem so American?