Tuesday 21 July 2009

The Dictionary Game and The Boy Who Likes Chocolate

Angus, sixteen - who likes chocolate - has been feeling restless after a year of The Joys of ChocoLATE living industriously in preparation for pending GCSEs and more latterly deprived by temporary injury of the explosive relief of his beloved rugby.

The really hard times begin when the exams are done and dusted. Being advised to rest! chill! take it easy! is difficult when one has a black hole in a head which had - until very recently - been packed with facts and figures, concepts and theories, poems, plays and sophisticated equations. Games on TV and occasional sessions with the guitar go nowhere near filling the black hole in the head. And this, I feel, is where the restlessness comes in.

I want to help, and - being the pedant I am - I suggest a bit of challenging reading to fill the black hole. I have just been reading about the Dead Sea Scrolls (research for At The Villa d’Estella) and had come upon a very sharp series of Very Short Guides by OUP, including one very well written one on my subject, by Timothy H Lim. In the back of the book is a very comprehensive list of subjects from Archaeology to Machiavelli, from World Music to The Russian Revolution.

The chocolate eater gets his eye on the VSG s to Philosophy, to Consciousness, and to Logic. Then, while the little books whirr here from the Planet Amazon, he picks up from my shelves Fear of Freedom by the wonderful Erich Fromm. As he gets stuck into this book he whoops with delight, discovering that Erich Fromm has ideas that fit in with his own – sometimes very original – worldview. Then the little books arrive and the whoops continue right through the consumption of the books on Philosophy, Logic and Consciousness.

Then one day he throws the last little book aside and asks I fancy playing a game ‘for a bit of a rest’? He calls it The Dictionary Game. He’ll pick ten words at random and test me on them and I have to pick ten words to test him. And so on. We amaze ourselves with how many words we actually seem to know.

Then something strikes me and I tell Angus that when I was even younger than he is, my mother used to play this very game with my brothers and sister and me. That was in a tiny house a tenth of this size of this one, where the money was in very much shorter supply than the love and the language.

So we agree, he and I, that playing these clever games does not depend on wealth or privilege but on the nature of the people who play. And he tells me of this new word he has just invented – lucaviatic. He says it means eccentric but brilliant.

That must be a compliment.


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  1. I loved this - it reminded me of just how wonderful it is when we discover that writers and philosphers are actually talking about the things that matter to us - maybe even the things we have been daring to think! Keep reading and enjoying Angus,this will be a summer to remember,always,and keep eating chocolate too!

    A x

  2. My term ends tomorrow, and like Angus, I long to have time to devour books and chocolate. Who knows, perhaps I will enjoy a little painting too!
    Fiona X

  3. The pleasure of discovering all those ideas and books for the first time, also know a teenager on a similar voyage through books. Love the word games, isn't it great when someone is experimental with language. I have known children who create words like that, one of my favourites was 'fragious', I was emphatically informed that is how you describe something that is fragile and precious. The world needs more 'eccentric but brilliant', bring on the creative play with language.
    Enjoying catching up on your blog.

  4. Yes, the word game, brilliant Wendy.
    Went to a fascinating presentation day at Amble RNLI lifeboat station recently and the wonderful coxswain - a writer of great talent - told us about a specially evil wave, shaped like a small pyramid, that can capsize a boat if it accidently gets sucked into its interior. All the mariners call it a "clipotic" wave but no one as yet has discovered this word, or anything like it, in any dictionary or research site. Can anyone help?

    Good luck to the chocolate eater!

    Love your blog Wendy and so happy that there is now a fool's guide to entering a comment.
    Anne O



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