Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Fit Three, Page 18, Panel 2 … ecce pistor!
When at length he sat up and was able to speak,
His sad story he offered to tell;
And the Bellman cried "Silence! Not even a shriek!"
And excitedly tingled his bell.
There was silence supreme! Not a shriek, not a scream,
Scarcely even a howl or a groan,
As the man they called "Ho!" told his story of woe
In an antediluvian tone.
Martin Gardner, in his indispensible Annotated Snark, cites Eric Partridge’s assertion that the Baker’s use of antediluvian is "one of those rare instances in which Carroll uses a standard word in a completely whimsical sense". Gardner also notes the opposing theory of antediluvian being used as a foreshadowing of the Baker’s tears-to-come.
However, you and I know that he’s speaking Adamic, the universal language spoken before the Flood and the dispersal of tongues at the Tower of Babel. This antediluvian language, designed to facilitate Edenic communication between discreet data points in a secure and lossless environment (think FORTRAN or KVIKKALKUL), remains the Baker’s preferred flavor of postlapsarian blarney*. If we waxed poetic, we might even say it’s the angelic language in which animals dream and children babble when the adults are gone to bed.
But we’ll wax not, as yet, for deep, deep, deep underneath the surface, the Baker’s very shallow. Bless his simple Adamic soul but he’s just a Chomskian idiot-savant suffering from untreated postdiluvian stress syndrome. He sees the sun going down and the world spinning round and he macadamizes a postmodern, postlapsarian, postdiluvian and postbabelian man of sorrows on the comeback trail.
As for the Baker’s curious epithet of Ho; it is a typical bit of Snarkolinguistic bandinage, an orientalist snarkwallah’s reference to the eponymous language spoken in eastern India and Bangladesh, a language whose word for man is ho.
The word, the language, the man — all together now — tally ho!
* The reconstruction of the Adamic language is a wholesome pastime for the protosurrealist insomniac. Its a priori ontological perfection requires an infinite vocabulary in which every word is a homophone of the other. All conjugations in the infinitive, all declensions nominative, no prepositions needed since every speaker is every thing and thus consubstantial, no interrogatives since they imply a lack of faith, etc. Might we not conjecture that Adamic survives today as the uneasy silence between phonemes?