Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Paper Boat

Reading in this history of slang about a cool Elizabethan guy named John Taylor who did all kinds of crazy things, including rowing "some forty miles in a boat of varnished brown paper, kept buoyant by eight inflated bullocks' bladders, and powered by 'oars' made of giant dried fish tied to canes." PLUS I just got back from the post office, where I picked up my expensive used copy of Green's three-volume DICTIONARY OF SLANG, which by definition (Green's own definition! In this history of slang he writes that "the need for a level of perceived secrecy remains: when a slang word is coined it may well enjoy a period, however brief, of 'invisibility'. But once it has become 'revealed', then the immediate need is for re-coinage") is a foolish purchase, obsolete from the moment it was published, but I like obsolete things. The first thing I'm going to do is look up owls, and not because it will force me to put GREEN'S DICTIONARY OF SLANG on my list of books with owls in them, which is frankly a grim chore, but because maybe I'll finally find out why owls are portrayed as drunken in so many forms of expression. But I'm kind of scared to look! Is it that I'm reluctant to solve one of the mysteries that haunt me? Is it that I'm afraid the answer won't be there? Honestly, who cares. I'm going to lie down now.