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Solid Citizens, Drunk on Language

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: literature, language, logophilia, New Letters, great writing, Keith Goetzman,

Keats quote, National Museum of Singapore

B.H. Fairchild is afflicted with logophilia, a love for language. He writes in the literary journal New Letters about his lifelong affinity for the well-turned phrase:

I remember, around the age of four, being delighted with the onomatopoeia the writers of Captain Marvel and Batman would invent for certain sounds: KAPOW, VROOM, or my favorite, POIT!, used (without any auditory connection I can locate) to described something soft (the bad guy’s head) bouncing off something hard (a brick wall).

Later, when I was a teenager, there was the poetry of the oil fields … often disguised as profanity: “Colder than a well digger’s ass,” “Colder than a witch’s tit,” “I whipped the bastard like a rented mule” … . My father, who was embarrassed by poetry and refused to read anything but nonfiction, one time for just a moment became the Prince of Language when Joe Whisnatt, a large man who for unknown reasons rode a very small motorcycle, was pulling out of the driveway. As he drove away, my father said, “You know, Whisnatt on that little bike looks like a monkey fucking a football.”

Fairchild traces his taste for colorful locutions back to Keats and, before him, Shakespeare, admitting that he is a “fool for language” and thus the foolishness

of Catullus, Li Po, Villon, Marlowe, Byron, Christina Rossetti, Yeats, Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas, Anne Sexton, and a thousand others, drunk on language—but without the drunkenness, that is, the logophilia, just solid citizens who read the newspaper and pay mortgages and vote regularly and live sensible, organized lives.

Source: New Letters, Vol. 76, No. 4 (article not available online)

Image by hslo, licensed under Creative Commons.