Friday, March 27, 2009

Allegro Ma Non Troppo

One of the things that I hate most about tax season is that the crushing fatigue dulls my mind. There's nothing worse than a dull mind, and it's not like the world needs any more of them. I try to compensate by keeping better notes. It's a nuisance, but it's necessary; otherwise, all of my daytime thoughts will be like my near-sleep thoughts. When I'm about to fall asleep, my mind is still very active but it doesn't quite work right. Or at least I can't remember whether it works right. I start at point A, and by the time I've gotten to point E, I can't remember what point C was. I can try to get back there via D, but I might not even remember D anymore if I'm close enough to falling asleep. This would be more troubling if I didn't fall asleep and forget about it. (When it happens during the day, I don't have that advantage.) Also, the thoughts you have when you're not constrained by things like wakefulness and logic can be very entertaining, like a journal you kept when you were stoned. Not that I would know anything about that, of course.

Writing things down is good (of course: how could a blogger feel otherwise?) but it's not without its pitfalls. Perhaps you've never been unfortunate enough to have this experience, but I sometimes have ideas that I'm convinced are sound, but when I try to write them down, I can't explain them, which has to mean either that the idea wasn't sound or that I'm not skilled enough to explain it. I'm not sure whether an unsound idea or the inability to explain a sound idea is worse. The latter is more troubling to me, somehow, but it's also more amenable to time and effort.

Sometimes it's not even a matter of writing something down so much as it is taking an idea that's felt in some manner other than words and mentally putting it into words. I mostly think in words, but I don't always, and the inability to encapsulate an elusive notion, that I feel sure must be valuable, in words is horrifically frustrating. At least until I forget it. Forgetting it is also troubling, but I believe that if an idea is sound, it doesn't really disappear: it just recedes into a different part of your consciousness until the time is ripe for it to reappear.

I don't think there's any evidence to support my belief in the permanency and eventual reappearance of ideas, but there are times when it's okay to accept things on faith, just as there are times when it's okay for ideas to be wordless. I used to quip that "ineffable" was my favorite word, but then I realized that it wasn't a joke. When your life and your mind are filled so much and so much of the time with words, the idea that there are things that transcend words is very powerful. But also intimidating: if you can't put the idea into words, you can't explain it to anyone else, and things that you can't explain to someone else don't seem real. But perhaps that they are real is just another article of faith.

Anyway, this (worded) line of thought brought to mind, without conscious summoning and through a pathway that is either immediately obvious or entirely inconsequential, Tom Swifties. If you don't know what a Tom Swifty is, the Wikipedia explanation is more than adequate, but since sending you somewhere else for an explanation is a bit rude, I'll say that it's a form of pun that usually involves an adverb. Here's a typical example, from Wikipedia:

"Pass me the shellfish," said Tom crabbily.

This sort of wordplay has, I believe, fallen out of favor, which may or may not be a bad thing. Back in the day, though, I had a group of friends who engaged in them at some length. I'm not a particularly skilled Swiftian, but I occasionally came up with something I liked. Here's one of my favorites:

"Every time I press my tongue against the battery terminals, I get a little frisson of pleasure," said Tom revoltingly.

What? You were expecting something profound? Profundity may become me, but not so much lately. Anyway, here are my last words for today:

"Do not order from that bartender; he's an ex-boyfriend of mine, and God only knows what he put in the wine," said Tom vindictively.


  1. "Whip me up a dessert," said Tom foolishly.

  2. No desserts for you, Tom barked, until you quiet that dog.

  3. Com'on, please, I want a snow cone and ice cream, Mike replied coldly.