Saturday, 3 April 2010

Bloggled and Bantered

"Well I'm the King of Boggle", raps one of the Beastie Boys, 'There is none higher, I get eleven points off the word quagmire." (If only all rap lyrics could be so geeky.) My new phone (under the heading 'Achievements') tells me that this week I have spent 3 hrs and 55 minutes playing Boggle, and that my longest word (scoring the same as the NYC DJ) was 'bantered', followed closely by 'bustard' and 'ponders'. What this says about my vocabulary, I'm not sure. What I do find immeasurably irritating with this version of Boggle is that it is incredibly prudish. It is the lipsticked, powdered maiden aunt of board games, whom you visit for tea and cakes once a year. Boggle the Prude will not allow the following words - whore, slut or queer - all of which, surely, are real, actual words with a long and distinguished heritage. Whore comes direct from Old English 'hore', which stems from ProtoGermanic *khoraz, which means simply 'one who desires.' Slut (also from German) was used by Chaucer - to mean an untidy man; and queer is from the Proto Indo European base *twerk, which simply means to twist. Slut and queer have only recently gained secondary connotations. I wonder why Boggle allows this censorship? The game allows some very odd 'words' indeed, just like some games of Scrabble. If anyone can give me the meaning of the following, I'll be extremely grateful: "Ens" "Esne" "Peh" being just three of the least obscure. This kind of prudery is pointless and damaging - it is like Don Juan's mother allowing him to read every kind of text, except the ones that had anything to do with human reproduction - and look what happened to him. And in an age when far worse things can be found by anybody at the click of a mouse, and where children run riot in Underground stations, it seems slightly disingenuous.

In other news, after a dearth of literary parties, several hundred (well, about five) came along at once. Monday saw me squashed into a corner at the launch of "Victoria and Abdul" by Sharbani Basu, about the Empress of India's relationship with her Urdu teacher, a dashing young munshi who, at the age of 24, caught the Queen's eye and was immediately transported to heights of power - well, he was given some land and all the other servants resented him. It's a fascinating story, and excerpts were beautifully read. (I'm going to try 'munshi' on Boggle, but I have a feeling it won't play). Kingfisher beer flowed afterwards, and what food there was vanished almost immediately under the hungry claws of journalists, well-wishers, High Commissioners and assorted grandees. Thursday brought a party (with enormous amounts of Chinese food) to celebrate Hilary Spurling's magnificent new biography of Pearl Buck, the Nobel Laureate, which has garnered brilliant reviews across the board (and was the Literary Review's cover piece for March). I'm certainly going to give it a try: it's called 'Burying the Bones'. It is heartening that a subject which is off most people's radar can be given so much prominence. Who says the book is dead?

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