Monday, August 22, 2011

The many odd, meaningless things that people say

In today's Times a snarky columnist called Sathnam Sanghera rightly takes ex-Blur bassist turned Cotswold cheese-maker Alex James (yes really) to task for saying: "the people who used to spend money on Blur records now buy cheese at the weekends". It is indeed a strikingly bizarre statement meaning, what? That cheese and music purchases are mutually exclusive? That Blur fans are particularly cheese-loving compared to those who prefer other 1990s bands? That they spend all weekend buying cheese to the exclusion of other leisure activities, such as listening to music?

Now Alex James is a thundering plonker, but in fact people make similarly baffling statements in public all the time. A little further on in the paper David Seidler, writer of the excellent The King's Speech, says this:

"I believe certain written works produce a polarising effect. Seldom do you find someone who equally adores Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In children's literature it's Alice in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows. I was always a Willows lad, preferring naughty Mr Toad in his shiny motor car to a silly white bunny who can't keep track of the time. You can tell what sort of little boy I was."

Say what? Leaving aside the Tolstoy/Dostoevsky 'polarisation', is it really the case that you'll rarely find any child fond of both Alice and Wind in the Willows? If so, I must have been one of the lucky few. And is "a silly white bunny who can't keep track of the time" the salient feature of Alice for many readers? And can I tell what sort of little boy David Seidler was from any of this? No I can't, except perhaps the sort of little boy to make exceedingly strange statements.

But of course these weird non-sequiturs, presented as generally-recognised truths, litter all conversation everywhere, only in everyday life we are too polite and, frankly, time-pressed to continually interrupt others' flow by asking "Sorry, but what the hell are you talking about?"

No comments: