Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Two into one

Ogden: what a man he was! Linguist, philosopher, inventor of Basic English, co-translator of Wittgenstein's great Tractatus, co-author of The Meaning of Meaning (which quoted the inimitable phrase "The gostak distims the goshes"), described as America's laureate of light verse, creator of memorable couplets such as "If called by a panther / Don't anther"; "You can have my jellyfish / I'm not sellyfish"; and "The Lord in His wisdom made the fly / And then forgot to tell us why" and, most famously, the poet who replied to Dorothy Parker's dictum "Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses" with:
A girl who is bespectacled
She may not get her nectacled
But safety pins and bassinets
Await the girl who fassinets.

But actually he wasn't a man; he was two men, and I foolishly conflated them in my mind for many years. Now I have got them sorted out: one of them was called C K Ogden (1889-1957) and the other wasn't; he was called Ogden Nash (1902-1971). W
hat I listed above were the achievements of one or the other of them, and very creditable too.

Confusion of this kind has not come to me with the passing of the years: I have always been prone to it. When I was very young I saw at a cinema in Dijon a film called Méfiez-Vous des Blondes, starring Martine Carol or possibly someone else. The behaviour of the character she was playing seemed to me to be quite inexplicable: sometimes she would be a sweet young blonde happily married to a bank clerk, and at others she would be member of a vicious gang planning a robbery; even her hair style would change from scene to scene in what seemed to be a random manner, though she remained startlingly blonde. The plot became a total mystery to me, for I couldn't understand her motivation at all, or anyone else's.

Yes, you've guessed it: towards the end of the film she appeared to meet herself in a bar, and I at last tumbled to the fact that there were two different blondes in the film. My grasp of French was such that I had simply failed to realise that they were not the same person. They weren't supposed to be twins or anything like that and when they were on the screen together I saw that they didn't even look much alike.

Ever since then I have méfied myself of all blondes, with the exception of my blonde daughters who are identical twins; they really do look alike, but when they were born I knew almost at once that there were two of them, and never had any difficulty at all in distinguishing between them, even when they were very small.

1 comment:

Amelita said...

Tony honey:
I'll bet you think that Al Gore Vidal is a remarkable man.