Thursday, 28 June 2012

Euroswearing 2012, second semi-final
So, boastfully, I can still claim a perfect score. Five games, all correctly predicted by my (completely scientific) swearing algorithm. Now to the sixth . . .

Germany vs Italy

As before, I first take into account the two team’s previous. In particular, what are the two nations’ favourite swear. So . . .

Germany: Scheisse! Italy: Strongo! Both shit. Both two syllable words starting with the same sibilant, both with a feminine (unstressed) ending. Neither that fantastic compared with, say, fuck! Nothing to separate them there then.

How to figure it? I put some thought into this and eventually decided on comparing the two languages’ swearing capabilities via  genital analogies from the natural world.

Germany first. Its women have a prune (Pflaume). Italy? Its women have figs (la figa). Young German boys have snails (die Schnecke). Italian men have artichokes (carciofi). Well, I make that one each. Figs trump prunes and snails make more sense than artichokes.

So to the final round. Flicking through my book, Filthy English, I found a head-to-head comparison of slang words for the clitoris  in Anthropophyteia, a 19th century German publication which collected European 'Idiotica' - popular words and phrases. It was quoted by psychoanalyst Leo Kanner in A Philological Note on Sex Organ Nomenclature, a paper written at the depths of WW2. It’s an investigation of the comparative rareness of slang words for the clitoris.

The relevant findings by Kanner? Two from each of tonight’s competing nations. Italian allegria (gaiety) and the southern Italian ribrenzulo (seat of shivers). Germany was represented by a pair of regional examples, the Prussian Schiepe (little strip) and the Westphalian Kujon (bad man). There is a little more, though . . .

He also found one word for the clitoris common right across German-speaking central Europe: der Jud, the Jew. Which, given what was going on in that part of the world at that time, is something of a surprise, not to mention shock. In Viennese German, there was even the phrase, 'Am Jud'n spiel'n'. Like all early psychoanalysts, like Freud himself, when faced with uncomfortably direct sexual expression, Kanner retreated into fanciful Latin, translating the phrase as 'fellare vel irrumare clitorem'. In simple English its meaning is clear: 'play with the Jew'. Or rather, play with the male Jew. If this clitoris were female, it would be die Jude. But it's not. There, I guess, is the derivation. The reference is to the glans of an uncircumcized penis. Which suggests that at least some central-Europea German-speaking women must have known the visual reality of their masturbation metaphor.

So, it’s got to be Italy, hasn’t. Simply a better class of clitoral metaphor.

My footballing brain would go for Germany. So this really is a test of my algorithm.

Next The final prediction. I’ll post this over the weekend, possibly on Saturday.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Euroswearing 2012: the first semi-final

But first . . . a little trumpet-blowing. So far, I should remind my many readers, the swearing algorithm has correctly predicted the results of all four matches assessed.

Yes, I know hubris is a dish best enjoyed cold-heartedly — and I expect, even welcome, being slapped about when I do fail. Still, I’m enjoying my moment of triumph.

And, as there are now only three matches to go, that means I am already over the 50-50 line. If I could always do better than chance and consistently bet money that way, I would — eventually — own the whole world.

Enough of that, though. To tonight’s head-to-head.

Spain vs Portugal

In the previous round, I gave assessments of both countries’ swearing talents and capacities. So first I will briefly revisit what I uncovered there.

Portugal first. The national swearing standard is filho da puta! — which I spelt wrong last time, putting de where I meant da. (Oh well. De-da, de-da.)

Now Spain. It’s hijo de puta!

Both phrase translate as son of a whore. So no way of separating the two Iberian cultures there. Still, I’ll pause to consider the underlying meaning of the insult — which has no direct English equivalent. I quote myself, Filthy English, page 141.

Telling someone they're a hijo de puta means they were born of a woman who had so much sex with so many different men that, therefore - and this is the point and punch of the slur - they are effectively fatherless, illegitimate both literally and metaphorically.

It’s an insult about social exile. Bastard is the closest English equivalent. A bastard, though, can know his or her father — even be acknowledged by him. So bastard not a social but a legal insult: a bastard can’t inherit the farm. Just keep that in mind when one of tonight’s combatants shouts hijo de puta/filho da puta at an ‘enemy’. Or ‘team mate’.

With no way to separate the two countries there, I’ll move straight to a match-decider. I chose two football-derived pieces of filthy Iberian as the weapons of choice.

Portugal first: estou com o Benfica. Translation: I am a supporter of Benfica — the famous Lisbon football club. Eh? It’s a woman speaking. She is — euphemistically — informing you that she is currently menstruating. Eh? Benfica play in red shirts — cf the English ‘Arsenal are playing at home’.

Now Spain: two samples, both regional. First one from the north-east of the country. Filthy English, page 207.

A citizen of Barcelona, wishing to suggest that someone was what a similarly angry black American would call a motherfucker, might call them a 'Hugo Sanchez'. It's a football analogy. Hugo Sanchez was a Mexican-born striker who played for Real Madrid, Barcelona's great rival. He helped them win five consecutive league titles, 1986-90, scoring 207 goals, a ratio of 1.37 per game, each one celebrated with a somersault. For a Barcelona supporter, therefore, a Hugo Sanchez is about the worst thing a man could be.

Now one from the centre of the county, the capital. Filthy English page 168.

Atletico Madrid's ultras are among the world's most perniciously racist football fans. Their behaviour at a 2008 Champions League match resulted in FIFA threatening the club with having to play future matches away from not just its home ground but from Madrid. One of these ultras' favourite chants is, to the tune of the Spanish national anthem, 'Fuera, fuera, maricones, negros, Vascos, Catalanes'.

Death, death to homosexuals, blacks, inhabitants of the Basque region, even before citizens of Barcelona and its hinterland.

Now that really is what you call an insult. My only question is: are the targets of the ultras death-wishes in ascending or descending order? Who do they hate more, homosexuals or Barcelona supporters?

Still, I think it’s clear. The Spanish use of football in their curses is simply superior. And that is why they will win tonight. No other reason. Believe me. Trust me.

Tomorrow The second semi-final, Germany vs Italy.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Journey to the island of Pic Tocome

Yesterday, I said I was going to give examples of inadvertent errors — in the context of French penseur Derrida's appearance in Apple ad. I said it was probably left in by mistake from an early private draft.

I see similar things most days. I now get The Guardian delivered direct - which means it's there on my door mat every morning before I wake up. But it is, of course, an early edition. So mistakes haven't always been cleared away. A regular error is leaving the typesetting or subs instructions on the printed page. It'd be text boxes in Quark or something like that. They'd be using a template and there would be dummy words in the text boxes to indicate what should go there. 

Example? Invented in detail but typical and frequent in type. If a football match has kicked off late, there will be no result. Rather, on my printed copy, there will be words such as: Score to go here.

I do have one real example, though. It's not from the Guardian - where I did work for a while so I do know whereof I speak. It's from the Mail on Sunday - where I also worked for a while so I do . . . etc etc.

It's about a man named Roddy. He was deputy editor at the time. Being deputy editor of a major newspaper is much like being a vice president of the US. It's elevation without the fun of being able to actually do something important. So Roddy, among other duties, looked after the travel pages - which, if I remember right, came with the added responsibility that the ski writer was the son of Daily Mail's editor. Responsibility without power. A situation which makes it difficult to stay awake. Or stop heading off to lunch around 11am.

So there he is looking at a layout for a travel spread. Quick glance. Quick read of the display copy. Still hard to concentrate. Thinking of what he's going to see at the theatre that night — he was (and is) an extremely cultivated and charming and smart man. If a little . . .well, let me finish the story.

He has to say something. Like he cares. So he sees on the page what he thinks is the holiday spot being written about. And he comments on it. This is what he says: 'Pic Tocome. Excellent. Everyone tells me that's the island to go to this year.'

Only it wasn't, of course. He had just read the dummy phrase written in a blank box on the layout. It said: pic to come. That is, a photograph would be put there but it had yet to arrive.

Did anyone laugh? Come on. This was the Mail on Sunday and he was the deputy editor.

Did anyone point out his error? Ditto.

Did anyone tell him later? I just have.

Do I think it's news to him? Yes.

Tomorrow Euroswearing 2012 is back. Whose filthy mouths will propel them to victory in the semi-finals

Monday, 25 June 2012

Football, Apple and the undecideable chiasmus*

First a little smugness, though . . . My (completely scientific) swearing algorithm has correctly predicted the result of all four Euro 2012 finals. As one of the commenters below remarks, I should perhaps start thinking of myself as Euro 2012’s own Paul the Octopus. Next prediction will be with you some time on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I’m surprised there hasn’t been much comment on something I saw in one of the Euro 2012 ad breaks — I think it was the one right after England beat Ukraine.

It was for Apple – the iPod, iThink. (Ha, ha.) It showed a young woman flashing her screen. And on it was what looked like a to-be-done list. At the top of the list were the words Jacques Derrida and below it, iThink, was something like ‘literary theory’.

It came and went so quickly, I was barely certain I’d actually seen it. Apple promoting a product by name dropping a French deconstructivist penseur? I mean, I know the bite out of the side of the Apple is meant to be a reference to Alan Turing’s suicide — by cyanide poisoning, via the apple-with-a-bite-out-of-it found beside his bed. But, really, a French philosophe? Or, as I prefer to think of him, as a regular correspondent of the NME in the 1980s.

Who do Apple think they might reach with that name-dropping? I really have no idea but I’d say it was an awful small market. The only person I can think of who it might persuade was the friend of a friend who was so keen on Derrida, she decided he was in love with her so she followed him everywhere. She also stole the only Derrida book I had — and had never read, of course — on the grounds that I was far too base and stupid to appreciate the words and truths of her beloved. Stalker logic, you have to be impressed. She was, of course, almost certainly correct. If bonkers.

But still . . . I haven’t seen the Apple/Derrida ad again. If you have, let me know. So, as iThink about it, I come to this conclusion (of sorts): it was unintended. I reckon the ad agency did a mock-up and some clever-arse (think of someone like me, perhaps) decided they’d show off by referencing French deconstructionism (most likely, as they remembered it from the NME in the 1980s) and it got left in the finished version by mistake. Then it was shown and someone at Apple spotted it, got Steve Jobsy about it, pulled it and ordered it redone. Now it’s back in post-production — ad rehab, you could call it.

Why do I think this? Because, in my experience, things like that do happen. A lot.

Next A cracking example of that kind of thing happening.

* No, I’ve no idea what it means but it’s one of Derrida’s catch-phrases. Think of it as his version of Forsyth’s paradox: nice to see you, to see you nice.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Euroswearing 2012 QF4

First, though, a little smugness. Last night’s 2-0 victory for Spain gave another uptick for my completely scientific swearing algorithm. So far, that’s three out of three. And so to tonight’s contest . . .

4. England vs Italy

I have, of course, washed away all personal considerations. For the moment, at least, I will focus on the Irish part of my self. (See recent postings for an explanation of that previous sentence.)

I have decided to follow a similar format to the one used for the previous quarter final. Two rounds, with each country given the opportunity to put forward its best swear, followed, if necessary, be a final decider — ideally, an independent view of some sort.

I’ll start with the basic as yesterday: each country’s archetypal swear. In English, obviously, it’s fuck!. In Italian, it’s probably stronzo! Shit, that is.

Verdict: As in the previous quarter final, it’s effectively decided by the stress. Fuck! is a stressed phoneme. Stronzo! has the stress on the first phoneme and, therefore, a feminine ending. Again, try yesterday’s test — a variant, anyway. Peer into the future and receive the information that — whether you are an English or Italian supporter — your team has lost. First shout stronzo! Now shout fuck! There really is no contest, is there? England pulls ahead.

Again as yesterday, I’ll consider oral sex. Given that cocksucker is essentially American, the English standard here is blow job. An Italian favourite? L’arte bolognese — a speciality of the women of Bologna.

Verdict: Well, the English is not just unevocative and unimaginative but displays such ignorance of the mechanisms of the actual process that it seems more than likely that the coiner of the word had no personal knowledge of the activity. The Italian phrase, meanwhile, not only elevates the matter to the realms of art but throws in an intranational slur. Given, as is often said, that the Italian football is primarily a continuation by other means of the wars between Renaissance city states, it is hard to exaggerate the import of intranational slurs in Italian civic society. Also, it throws a whole new light on how to cook an authentic ragu bolognese. Italy draw level.

And so to the tie-breaker. External judges. England first. Well, Italian students in London are, I’m told by their tutors, staggered by the level and intensity of swearing in London. Impressed, too. And so to the Italians. Or rather one Italian, in particular. Filthy English, page 25, details the first printed appearance of the word fuck . . .

. . . in A Worlde of Wordes or more copious and exact dictionarie in Italian and English (1598), compiled by John Florio - Anglo-Italian writer, translator, royal language tutor, possibly the model for Holofernes in Love's Labours Lost, probably a friend of Shakespeare's, most likely the man from whom the playwright acquired the rich knowledge of Italian life and manners that's on show in Romeo and Juliet. Some even think Florio was Shakespeare.
In this precursor of modern dictionaries, Florio offered fuck as one of five alternative translations of fottere, the Italian cousin of the French foutre — the word that, in Henry IV, Shakespeare has Pistol shout out, 'A foutra for the world.'

Verdict. It’s clear, isn’t it, that while modern Italians are — suitably — impressed by the filth of London streets, it was them who got there first. It was an Italian (well, an Anglo-Italian) who introduced us (in print, anyway) to fuck. No Italians, no fuck. So my scientific algorithm predicts: Italy wins and England gets fuck-all. Or should that be fuck-nothing?

PS More confirmation of my algorithms predictive power. Accounts of Nasri's post-match statement to the press indicate that he told them to go fuck themselves. That is, he had to use English not French to get his point across.

Next Back for the first semi on Wednesday (Portugal vs Spain) but before that I might post something about Apple, Derrida and the beautiful game.