Thursday, 10 April 2014

Compound Fracture - Friday Flash



The Engineer studied the Entrance to the London Underground Station. It was dark and foreboding as Soot picked out the outlines of Commuters whilom impressed against the Tiles. A Wind squeezed up from below ground and buffeted his Face, its force impelling him backwards. A concatenation of displacement he mused. Basic design fault. The gust stilled as quickly as it arose. Next was a thunderousdrummingcadence drawing towards him, but to his Earattunedthroughexpertlongprescription it was a nonmechanicalgenerativesound. Suddenly a human host swarmed over the Stairs and out through the Exit, knocking him this way and that like a Bagatelle, as they did to each other.  When they had finally dispersed into London’s Thoroughfares and Alleyways, he took out his Notebook:


Traindisgorgementpedestrianflowpinchpointfrictionalchaos.



He resumed his own Perambulationwithpurposethoughwithoutspecifieddestination. He noticed how the Denizens of London all had their Heads bowed as they walked. Was this because of the reputed Rats that supposedly possessed the filth laden Streets? London as one giant Rat-run he smirked to himself. His countryfolk had a word for it Umweltverschmutzung. It was only ever applied to other races.


Or perhaps was it prompted byeyecontactaversionthroughfearofprovokingviolenceinonemotivatedbyperceiveddisrespectFor he’d heard how dangerous this particular Capital City had become, the polar opposite of the order that was tightly maintained in that of his own Country’s Capital.

In thrall to Rats and Thugs, he pitied the Citizens of this formerimperialpowerprostratedrunningitscoloniesandbankruptedoncewealthofitsdominionsnolongerbeingsequestratedIt’s grandiose Edifices and Statues now merely bombastic as they sat smeared in grime and bird droppings, the masonry crumbling and eroded. Military heroes from long-forgotten wars. Buildings that used to house retired Governor-Generals and High Commissioners, now converted into flats for divorced spouses with spare bedrooms for their weekend-lodging Kinder. Even the verdancy of London’s central Parks had withered and become eclipsed by traffic fumes and degraded by the volume of footfalls. Certainly hadn’t been browned by the Sun!

To him this was a decadent City. A City in decline. That’s why its citizens had their Heads down, they lacked the confidence to look the World in its Eye. Unlike his own proud Nation. A sudden bolt of that Painwhichstartsoffstupefyinguntilneuralmessaginghitsbrainwholebodybecomingwrackedwithmountingagony hit him. Also his vision was filled with the prospect of people’s Shoes about to boot him in the Face until they veered away at the last moment. His processing Mind elicited that he was prone on the Pavement. His Knee was radiating excruciating sheets of pain, as if it were Metal being beaten white hot in a Forge. He gazed down and was confronted with an unsettling, unaesthetic disparity. Something awry from the anatomical blueprint. His Leg was twisted at an ugly angle, the Kneecap clearly being unable to pinion it naturally. None of the passersby offered to help him, but sniggered as they pivoted and swerved around him. Schadenfreude he thought miserably to himself until a bolt of pain blotted out any further possibility of coherent cogitation.

Lying in a hospital Bed with a compound fracture of his Patella, the tidal waves of pain and the tsunami clotting of his chemically sedated brain meant he was strikingly unable to string his thoughts together. But he did at least appreciate now why the English kept their Eyes pinned to the ground. To avoid all the cracks and pitfalls of subsidence in their Pavements that had caused him to trip and fall as portentously as Lucifer’s tumble from Heaven. Subsidence, another marker of venerability. His thoughts were too fragmented to compound into a precise analysis of this event. Welt Schmerz.

*


I wish English had the facility German does, that when a word doesn't exist, in German you can formulate it by compounding words together to create it. So 'Weltschmerz' is 'world sorrow' or 'Umweltverschmutzung' is 'environmental dirt' or what we call 'pollution'.
The advantage this allows is that it can contribute to tightening up the precision of our meaning, when the existing words just won't cut the mustard. Such compound words more often than not infuse the concept with a philosophical tinge, the nuance coming from the joining of separate words together that tinge and shade their partners in the compound.
However the downside of this being  that the high-minded philosophical bent can be at the expense of any metaphorical or imagistic tenor of the concept. 'Weltschmerz' sounds great, but the high-minded concept of world sorrow is somehow divorced from a poetic idea of a world sorrow and the two scarcely can coexist because the philosophical tenor comes over so strongly.  This is odd given german's direct descendence from Anglo-Saxon which contained the beautifully poetic Kennings which absolutely embodied the metaphorical and the figurative through the compounding of two separate words.
So I wanted to write a story that played up the differences of the compounded words and the metaphorical phrases. I also wanted to write a story about how the facility of compounding in a language could perhaps also determine character, personality and how one expresses oneself. And then I wanted to assert the triumph of the metaphorical over the philosophical and fracture the compound!

Hope this helps in explaining the madness that precedes it! 

14 comments:

Steve Green said...

Wow, I'm so glad we don't have words of that length in our language, or do we? :)

Helen A. Howell said...

I'm with Steve Green with his thoughts - I actually found it hard to read when the words were strung together but maybe that has a lot to do with my eyesight failing....

Icy Sedgwick said...

I love German as a language and you're right, their compound words seem to better capture meaning than English ever does!

Janet Aldrich said...

German's not my favorite language, but I loved what you did with this and the precision that the compound words brought to his thoughts.

p.s. No offense and NOT complaining, but my aging eyes had a little problem with the font ...

Clara Zane said...

Quite an interesting look at how people view other countries, languages, and cultures.

Jon Jefferson said...

The compound words give an interesting nuance to the piece. In my mind I read them together really fast and merge the concept.

Sonia Lal said...

I know nothing about german so can't comment. But the story was interesting, even the parts where I to pause and parse the gone d words.

Stephen said...

I had only one semester of German back in the seventh grade (an elective that year). Unfortunately for me, that was close to 30 years ago, and I've forgotten just about everything. I like the realization that happens in this piece, how he now understands why they keep their eyes down. Too bad he had to learn it the hard way.

Larry Kollar said...

I wasn't sure where you were going with this until the end, but it delivered. The haughty German studying what he thought were the inferior English, making assumptions colored by his nationalism that literally tripped him up in the end. Schadenfreude, indeed!

I don't know that German has any advantage over English when it comes to expression. We're quick to take in stray words from all over the world… probably facilitated by modern English being a bastardization of Anglo-Saxon and French. (For example, my spell checker accepted "schadenfreude" as spelled correctly.)

Sulci Collective said...

I don't know about any superiority of one language over another, but I do know German is THE language of the pop song - which sounds more insistent - Je t'aime or Ich liber dich?

German is the language of romanticism!

Larry Kollar said...

Pop? Or heavy metal? :-D

Sulci Collective said...

Both!

Einsturzende Neubauten - 'Blume'

German - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35qIJ8oBvpw&list=RD35qIJ8oBvpw#t=96

French - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7lMRHamAf8

Cindy Vaskova said...

I for one know that if there had been such structuralized words in any language I am exposed to, I'd shoot myself. Verbaly.

Katherine Hajer said...

Brilliant!

It's interesting how the borrowing of noun capitalisation and compounding made the piece sound like you were channelling the 18th century (especially Swift or Defoe). English used to be so much more compound-friendly. This piece reminds me of how words like input and output, good medieval compounds with the same base construction as offputting, had to be reharnessed to explain computers -- to the the point that many people think them neologisms.