Can I have a word – Part 2

Another contribution from the reader who gave us last week’s ‘Can I have a word?’

Here’s a quote from Alice Through The Looking Glass (1872):

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I want it to mean – neither more nor less’. I wasn’t going to use it but on reflection (see what I did there?) I think it’s quite appropriate. You’ll see why…

I was writing last time (Weds 28.3.12) about words, communication and authors using uncommon words. I’ve been thinking about how this could apply, imaginatively, to the overpopulated towns and cities in the world of words. In this world of words (from now on abbreviated to WOW) you still need to travel about so you can work to earn money & learn more. A good way to travel around WOW is by public transport – on what are called word-buses. The government in WOW want to improve people’s knowledge and introduced this innovative scheme: the bus driver will only let you on if you can give him the definition of the word on the front of the bus.

When I travelled into work the other day the first bus along was the “honey-bus” – a man at the front of the queue was saying good-bye to his girlfriend, Maggie, but as she went to get on the bus he pulled her back and said to me, “I can’t let Maggie go!” I looked at the advert for Nimble bread on the side of the bus and wondered if I’d seen her before – eating a sandwich strapped in a harness hanging under a hot air balloon flying across the countryside…

Next along was the “magic-bus” and Who was on that one? Not sure, but I could see Roger & Pete looking through the window; the next one was the “novel-bus” going to ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ but who the dickens would want to go there – David Copperfield maybe? But shouldn’t he have got on the bus before this one?; next up was the “sesquipedalian-bus” which was nearly empty so I got on that one. (See “Can I have a Word?” (part 1) if you don’t know what it means).

However I know what will happen – everyone will see that empty bus and learn what that word means so they can get on it next time; and then that bus will get full; and then people will start learning a new word so they can get on a less crowded bus. Perhaps it will work; perhaps the government’s plan will increase individuals’ vocabularies after all.

Standing at the bus stop one day, I met a man called Dick and he was able to get on any bus that came along. I was impressed. If I saw a word on a bus I didn’t know I just asked him. He explained it and I could then get on. For example along came the “Porphry-bus” and he got me on; the next day the “Psephology-bus” and he got me on that one.

After a while, he’d got me onto loads of buses with odd words on the front. I was amazed. I could control my curiosity no longer – “What’s your full name?” I asked. “Just Dick,” he replied quietly. “You have to tell me your surname”, I persisted. “Ok…. it’s Shunnery” he said walking away, dressed in his red and blue jacket with white lettering on. “You can look me up some time, if you want to find out more,” he said. Odd name I thought to myself – Dick Shunnery! I found out later that he works in a legal practice called The Chambers. That’s why people sometimes refer to him as “The Chambers” Dick Shunnery! Sounds quite authoritative, doesn’t it? (By the way the boss of that legal office is a man called Barry Sturr and he has an assistant who he always sticks up for – Laura Norder!).

So, if you want to make sure you can get on any word-bus that comes along, try and meet this guy, Dick, and make friends with him. He also told me the word ‘bus’ is actually short for omnibus which is Latin, meaning ‘for all’; now I know why it’s always crowded!

It’s great living in… WOW! And don’t forget, whether you like it or not, you live there too and you’ll have to use those word-buses. Will you learn some more words so you can get on more buses? You might not see me, though, because I’ll be on one of those with plenty of empty seats. I’ve been learning some more of those unusual words, from my friend Dick, you see.

Can I have a word? Yes, speak to Dick – he’s got loads. Oh, and thanks Humpty for the ‘word-bus’.


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