The CBC is stealing my ideas!
By Sam Linton
Well, we all knew that it was high time for me to start writing another Lexipoeia. It really has been too long. And oh, I had the beginnings of a beauty this week, to be sure. But what should I hear as I turned on the CBC Radio Friday morning to start my day with the fresh voices of Sounds Like Canada? A language piece. But not just any language piece, oh no. A piece on the revival of old, abandoned pop-culture expressions. Hey, sounds like a winning idea, right? A Canadian institution running a piece on hilarious expressions of yesteryear that have fallen by the wayside? Yeah, and it was a great idea — when I first wrote it! Sounds Like Canada, eh? Sounds like plagiarism to me! Now, a lot of people would be justified in saying that the readership of MONDO does not contest that of the CBC’s audience, that the concept of linguistic revival is really quite broad, that my article and the CBC’s rip-off job actually examined quite different sources for the expressions they took, and that my accusing a government organization of stealing my intellectual property speaks more to my own delusions of grandeur than it does to any legitimate grievance. But these people would be wrong. The CBC is stealing my ideas. Period.
If you ask me, it’s high time that somebody did a Cross-Country Checkup on those thieves at the CBC, because what they’re doing is Definitely Not The Opera, but rather blatant theft! It’s like they’ve been listening in to my thoughts on a Wiretap! Oh, I’m sure that the CBC has it’s own explanations for this baldfaced robbery, and in this Age of Persuasion the company with the most resources is bound to get its message out more effectively than the little guy. But mark my words, soon the CBC’s entire Tapestry of lies will come crashing down around it, and it will Spark enough anger that their entire system of lies will run Madly Off in All Directions! Just you wait! (Yes, that last show has been cancelled for two years, but I couldn’t think of a satisfactory way to work in its replacement, The Debaters).
Needless to say, this blatant intellectual property theft has me a little rattled, so please excuse me if this column comes off as being a bit truncated. It’s just that when one’s own government begins to turn against them, the experience can be jarring (American readers will know what I mean. Today, we are as brothers, my Southern friends). So yes, normally, when I do these “vocabulary builder” columns, I like to go for at least five entries. However, as of this Friday, most of my vocabulary has consisted of barely-coherent railings against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, so bear with me. The following is an abbreviated list of revived and/or recontextualized terms to take English to the next level. I know, I’d have liked the list to be longer, too. But hey, blame the CBC, not me (while you’re at it, blame ‘em for canceling jPod, too). And now, the list.
Künstleroman: Students of literature will no doubt be familiar with this term. A German word, künstleroman describes a narrative in which the central character’s development as an artist is chronicled, from humble beginnings to artistic maturity (German-speakers will also know this word). It also makes a great expletive! Seriously! Sounding Risque-ly enough like the much dreaded “C-Word” to function effectively in the expletive world, as well as possessing both a hard first syllable and an ending you can use to trail off into dark muttering, küntstleroman also holds a hidden optimism which makes it a truly wonderful expletive for those minor, personal tragedies that necessitate swearing in the situations of the everyday. Stub your toe? Künstleroman! Miss the bus? Künstleroman! Künstleroman, by definition, says that even though you have experienced temporary adversity and are frustrated by it, ultimately these experiences will serve to shape your character into a stronger one, to the benefit of your life and your art.
Doubloons: I can hardly take credit for this one, but I can damn well try and popularize it! No, this one goes out to the crew of the anti-sealing vessel Farley Mowat, as well as the author of the same name. The full story can be read here, but basically it sums up to this: anti-sealers in a boat named “Farley Mowat” were arrested in international waters, prompting the real Farley Mowat to post bail money for them. To commemorate the folly of this arrest, the organization responsible for the anti-sealing protest took Mowat’s $10,000 bail money and converted it into toonies before posting it as bail, likening the bail money to a ship’s ransom in “doubloons”. This incident got me thinking, though: why “toonies?” I had never really considered the name of the Canadian two-dollar coin before now, but why must our two-dollar terminology be a slave to our one-dollar name? Especially when we have terms like “doubloon” at our disposal. Think about it; doubloon practically already has “double” in its name, so it’s not a stretch at all to link it to the two-dollar coin. Also, should Canada ever fulfill its long-held pipe dream of incorporating the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos into itself, the name “doubloon” would act as a signal that Canada as a country is ready to embrace a Caribbean, as well as northern, identity. So let us all take a page from the book of Farley Mowat (Never Cry Wolf is a good one, but Sea of Slaughter is just so appropriate for doubloons) and take back the toonie!
Crummy: Ultimate thanks for this one go out to the writers of Futurama for incorporating this word into the dialogue of Turanga Leela, but really, I have to thank my friend Neil for introducing this into his everyday speech. Crummy is a perfect counter-word for a world operating in extremes. It is so mundane, so bland that it is only justifiably used under the most mundane of circumstances. It’s like a revival word from a simpler, duller time, when the greatest thrill one could expect of life was to eat a banana and life’s greatest disappointments were butter-churns that leaked. Crummy is a word with the power to scale back and minimize, almost trivialize, any situation. For that reason, we have to take it back, and fast!
Well, that’s it for now. Hopefully, the CBC considers itself sufficiently “warned off.” Still, I have the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’m destined to turn on Q later this week to hear Jian Ghomeshi talking about how crummy it is that his doubloons don’t go as far as they used to, but that the adversity builds his character as a broadcaster. Ah well, such is the price of being me.
Until next time, it’s a living language, let’s keep it that way!
(But not at the expense of credit where it’s due, The CBC!)