Nay, Neigh

About a month ago, I finished Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. I’ve never seen the movie; the only McCarthy movie adaptation I’ve seen is No Country for Old Men, which I thought did a terrific job. I do know that Pretty Horses stars Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz, and I wonder if I could let myself believe that Damon’s character is 16/17 years old. I’d probably be okay with it, only because I adore Matt Damon. But I don’t know if I could accept Billy Bob Thornton making a movie from a Cormac McCarthy novel, only because I just don’t know about that guy. He creeps me out.

The movie also stars Henry Thomas, who takes me back to E.T. and especially Cloak & Dagger. I guess I can understand casting men in their late 20s (or so) in a movie meant to portray young men in their late teens aged and roughed up by the Wild West. But since I didn’t see All the Pretty Horses, instead of imagining Matt Damon and Henry Thomas, I actually used my imagination.

Of course, McCarthy’s language gets to me every single time. His integration of Spanish in this novel feels perfectly natural, and the lexicon referring to ranching in Mexico helped keep me engaged.  On my Kindle, I can put my finger on a word, and its definition pops up. That tool is pretty nifty. With some of the words in this novel, however, a few of them made it into the English dictionary, but most of them did not. I was okay with that.

One of my favorite excerpts:

The world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.

Right? How about that contrast and almost palpable effect? Here’s another:

They stood and watched him pass and watched him vanish upon that landscape solely because he was passing. Solely because he would vanish.

For me, this captures the entire tone of the novel. Vanishing points provide lengthen a field, deepen perspective, and create a little pocket of time-space to help us grasp the present before it becomes the past.

And, finally:

Sweeter for the larceny of time and flesh, sweeter for the betrayal.

When I first came across this phrase (which comes earlier than the previous excerpts), I looked around on the train and wondered if any of the other passengers felt the sheer power of the combination of these words. Larceny of time! Larceny of flesh! Could a word be so perfect, just so utterly perfect?

What should I read next?

Because No One Knows How to Spell

No one’s going to get my response to a friend’s recent Facebook status.

Friend: Is it wrong that I want to put up my Christmas tree before I find our forks, knives, and spoons?

Me: The tree has to go up before the utinsels! Also, I love groaning and rolling my eyes at my own jokes.

And I just feel like I’m betraying myself to explain the wordplay between tinsel and utensils.

I’ve said too much already.

Ironic Quote from Class Yesterday

“Are there normalforms for the pronounciation [sic] of words?”

Then I said under my breath, but loud enough for the person sitting in front of me, “Like the word pronounciation?”

Then the person in front of me turned her head and whispered, “That word is so ironic.”

When I was in third grade, my young brain was just starting to make associations between words. I knew the word pronounce, and I figured its noun derivative describing the act of pronouncing would be pronounciation. When I heard my third grade teacher, Mrs. Hamlin, say – or, pronounce – it,  I thought she said it incorrectly. You see, Mrs. Hamlin got me into watching Jeopardy!, which came on right after Wheel of Fortune. This was especially fun, because it lengthened the TV lineup on Tuesdays, which included Who’s the Boss? (with Growing Pains and Perfect Strangers the next year) and on Fridays, which aired Webster and Mr. Belvedere.

Anyway, I couldn’t imagine my teacher being wrong, because Jeopardy! is awesome with all their smart people, so I made a mental note that it was pronounced “pronunciation.” Just like how it’s spelled. No O for a blended vowel sound. My tender, eight-year-old brain absorbed that.  My classmate was right to imply how people mispronounce a word describing how words are uttered. And it seems that the person who posed the question holds to what I consider my third-grade association. And when I look up the pronunciations of the word in a current dictionary, two are correct, one of them being the wrong one.

And that’s because everyone else got stuck in the third-grade place in their brains, and somebody got tired of correcting everyone else, so some grand arbiter of the dictionary allowed the faulty pronunciation. I can make some concessions in the evolution of our language, but man, I feel so sorry for English.

So, yes, classmate. My normalform for the pronunciation of pronunciation also happens to be the only true pronunciation in my mind. All others are corrupt and incorrect. Which is what normalform means.