Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Contagion of Logorrhea


Bouncing off Pamela Robertson-Pearce’s post I saw out of the corner of my eye, while madly scrolling through Facebook which inexplicably conjoined, or congealed in my mind with a quote I had posted way back in 2009, I was off and running. Christopher Morley (1890-1957), an American journalist, novelist, essayist and poet, who, like Charles Dickens, was once paid by the word, said, "Words are a commodity in which there is never any slump." I wondered if he was referring to himself.

That thought had me googling both Morley’s unattributed quote (how and when and why did he say it?), to a relatively new-to-me word I wanted to use in a sentence, logorrhea. It wasn’t so much a new word, but it was close to being unpronounceable and next to impossible to spell. So Google helpfully fixed my spelling to Logokorea, a sports site, I think, but phonetic Korean is not my thing.

So at the risk of becoming labeled as manky littérateur, in order to use the newfangled, if awkward word in a sentence, I constructed a faux review, perhaps with a knockoff of Finnegan’s Wake in mind. “The valiant attempt at avant-garde novel resulted in a long-winded game of logorrheic scrabble.” An old boyfriend once quipped that I was vaccinated with a gramophone needle. Better than a broken record.

I must admit that I was spurred on by this hilarious logorrhea example, an unattributed quote: “To Tom Wolfe, a dandy with an incurable bout of logorrhoea, words are like chips in Las Vegas.” Certainly The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test comes to mind!!! It was a jejune glissand of verisimilitude. I never did find out who said that word gambling line. I’d like to think it was Neil Gaiman.

Sure, the coining of logorrhea could be attributed to the prolific works of Morley, but to my way of thinking, the grand master of logorrhea before the word was coined in 1878, was Charles Dickens (no, not Samuel Pepys) who wrote on foolscap, in longhand, and was published serially, in newspaper format, which means he never revised a damned thing. And he was paid by the word which only egged him on. 

Ok, so The Pickwick Papers was written in monthly installments, followed by Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol—which covered the rent from April 1836 to October of 1839—followed by David Copperfield Bleak House and Great Expectations. After all, verbosity was his friend and rent is rent. 

A highly gregarious man, Morley believed in the 3-hour lunch, which led to his founding The Baker Street Irregulars which included Isaac Asimov, Rex Stout, and Dame Jean Conan Doyle. Holmes, James! And if the Sherlockiana wasn’t enough, he founded the Saturday Review of Literature, and relentlessly revised and enlarged Bartlett's Familiar Quotations—plus a baker’s dozen of other literary accolades.

Morley invented the bibliomystery whodunit genre with his first novels, and much of his writing was humorous enough to tickle your humerous or maybe your ulna. (Bet you had to look that one up.) But his 1939 novel Kitty Foyle was edgy as it discussed abortion which probably cost him some readership audience. He commuted by train from Long Island to New York, I’m sure the metronome song of the train clacking and swaying, contributed to his corpulent opus of writing. It took a series of strokes to curtail Morley’s voluminous output, but he continued to write for five more years until his death in 1957. 

Morley’s last words of advice were to: “Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.” 

Great advice. Besides, my addled mind was already off, and running off the long mouth of the logorrheic cliff well before I uncovered that gem. AKA, this a day in the half-life life of my mind on caffeind.

Logorrhea, noun (early 20th c., coined from Greek logos ‘word’ + rhoia ‘flow’), given to prosy, rambling, or manic or tedious loquacity, garrulousness, excessive verbosity, wordiness, and repetitiveness, verbal diarrhea, AKA press speech. Sounds so much better, if not downright clinical, than calling a manic friend a loquacious loudmouth, or a manic off his meds.

Urban definition: “a condition suffered by an individual who has the inability to shut the f*** up.”

Synonyms: circumlocution, diffuseness, diffusion, garrulity, garrulousness, long-windedness, periphrasis, prolixity, redundancy, verbalism, verbiage, verboseness, verbosity, windiness, wordage, wordiness.

In other words, a schizophrenic’s thesaurus wet dream. Steve Jobs succinctly cut to the chase: Think different. OK, I’ll shut the fuck up now.

With thanks to Pamela Robertson-Pearce who recreated the graphic with the British spelling.

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