Jem Beedoo: Four words that trip off the tongue

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Just hearing the word 'drunk' puts you on a wave of music, poetry, worry, regret, engagement and explicit and implicit physical vividness, writes Beedoo. Photo / Thinkstock
Just hearing the word 'drunk' puts you on a wave of music, poetry, worry, regret, engagement and explicit and implicit physical vividness, writes Beedoo. Photo / Thinkstock

The four most physically descriptive English words are sick, dead, drunk and fat.

When you hear of an ailing person, for instance, it rocks you, shocks you. There's a gasp of sheer fright at the undertow of life - frailty. Sick is the word that engenders a stark element of guilt/sympathy in people. It's a hell of a lot more vivid and physical than the term healthy. For it's as if we always knew so-and-so was sick, and yet the grim realisation is far more jarring, jilting and disconcerting than any subconscious knowledge of it. And then we realise collectively how defenceless we are.

In the words of Cesar Vallejo, "And man? Poor, poor / He turns his eyes as when a slap on the shoulder summons us / turns his crazed eyes / And everything lived wells up in his look like a pool of guilt."

Dead is all the more physical and vivid, because of its finality and melodramatic, dare I say it, sense of humour. In other words, dead has funnier connotations than sick.

At least with death there is relief, release and, in some people's eyes, reprise. It's hard to explain, but there's something so physical about it.

"How's Davis?"

"He's dead."

I'm sorry, but that sounds way more engrossing and engaging than if the answer was, "Oh, he's still with Guthrie Bowron." Why so? Davis has finally grabbed your utmost attention in leaving you alone. And he leaves alone in three ways: he left the world on his own, he left you on your own with mere memories of him and he leaves you alone in never practically bothering you again. In addition dead, in its sweeping melodrama, could mean a great deal more than alive.

Drunk. Just hearing about it puts you on a wave of music, poetry, worry, regret, engagement and explicit and implicit physical vividness.

"Shane was there last night; he was drunk again - a horrible man."

The term drips, drops, dreams and drives you into another realm as it entails a rejection of convention. Convention in the sense "time", as a sober person knows it, is twisted, as are values, manners, colours, movements, reactions, inhibitions, sounds and sensations when drunk. I mean, even to the sober ear the term drunk involves you - it's so physical. It's so heightened, and it is not unlike other physical/vivid words such as drip, drop, drink, drown, dream, drive, drove, drench. It is infinitely more interesting to the sober ear than sober is to the drunk. It almost takes your breath away, in its instilling "Oh-here-we-go-what-did-he-do-now?", seductive sense of resignation.

And, finally, fat. There's a sense of celebration and a real exuberance in its saying and telling. But only if the fat is on the other foot. People are all too pleased for you to be fat so long as they're not. In any event, it's almightily physical.

"Have you seen Jem Beedoo recently? Remember how he was an athlete in school? Yeah, now he's fat."

There's a resounding "clap" sound to it, a sense of, "SMACK", he's fffaaattt, which illumines one's imagination into wondering how he got FAT. The punters permeate the possibilities of food, booze and lack of exercise, lack of self-restraint and a disproportionate element of portion control. Further, they delight in the thought of your excesses but gleefully thank God it's not they who have drifted along the path of slobbery. There's a real vicarious luxury in the term fat.

- NZ Herald

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