Friday, July 11, 2014

In the country of the two-eyed, the Cyclops is proud of the superior vision resulting from his freedom from binocular distraction

Gaw-lee, Hugh Kenner: you use your mouth purdier than a $20 whore!
...when words have lost meaning you may be very fluent with them, as fluent as the narrator of the "Eumaeus" section of Ulysses, who tells us how Parnell "notoriously stuck to his guns to the last drop even when clothed in the mantel of adultery." [...]
Such were the scribblers for Irish provincial newspapers who provided one model for the style of "Eumaeus," and "Eumaeus" in turn, where from end to end of every shapeless sentence the tropes wriggle in place like maggots, was one armature for the style of Finnegans Wake. ... You find, in short, a language that has died, but that like an unembalmed corpse is full of local life.
Kenner is describing the clown-car verbal pile-ups that result from entrusting a keyboard to someone whose thought process is a buzzing hive of cliches, all trying to escape at the same time and tangling themselves together in the process. Of course the style is not confined to Irish newspapers, and here (via bspenser) is Rev. Dr Hugh MacKenzie turning some fine phrases -- only to abandon his lathe and finish with some kind of hand-drill:

The cracks were already widening into the iron maw of total industrialized warfare
I mused that never in my life had I seen so much anarchy descending so fast. The center truly is not holding. Every day one looks for yet another shoe to drop on the world scene.
Didn't anyone ever tell you that so many times the only realist in the room is the person of catholic faith? We are the gimlet-eyed people.
Emphasis mine that of a dead
but unembalmed language

"I knew someone at university who could open beer-bottles with his eye-socket," Another Kiwi vouchsafed.
Below: tragic outcome of
excessive phrase-turning
By 'gimlet-eyed', MacKenzie seems to intend 'realistic' or 'unswayed by sentiment', although to me the epithet suggests "squinty" or "single-minded scrutiny for the main chance".* Perhaps it is a garbled form of 'cold-eyed' (perhaps he meant "vision affected by too many cocktails"; perhaps he had overdone the Habit of Tourneur).

The Great Gazoogle informs us that "cold-eyed", as a self-description of clear-eyed objectivity, is an increasingly popular macro in the collective right-wing word-processor.

Alas, the epithet has secondary connotations of angry ill-will, or the cold eyes of a sheep-killing dog Vladimir Putin. Thus the writers often quote Yeats and specify that the cold eye is being cast, in the manner of a fishing lure or a bronze figurine, to make it clear that the optic gelidity is of the objective kind. G.W. Bush's staff neglected that advice that back in 2000 when he gave the phrase his imprimatur.
I will be a cold-eyed realist when it comes to the world. I see the world the way it is, not the way folks hope it is.
J. K. Galbraith remarked somewhere that when the rightwingers of his acquaintance wanted to prove that their economic and military doctrines were simply fact-facing unsentimental realism, without resorting to evidence, "hard-headed" was their preferred self-description... in contrast to the soft-headed optimistic delusions of their opponents. He could never extract an explanation of how cranial impenetrability was linked with objectivity.

The N-Gram reveals that 'hard-headed' peaked during the Great Depression and the Isolationist period, with a minor revival during the Vietnam War, but was in decline over most of Galbraith's career. However, "cold-eyed" has a long way to go before supplanting it.

 photo cyclopes.gif
"No good can come of using an eyeball for a woodworking tool," said AK.

"It does not auger well," I agreed.
* Mrs Spat is gimlet-eyed when she suspects that there is food somewhere in the kitchen, but this is not coupled with a realistic expectation of being fed.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

"No good can come of using an eyeball for a woodworking tool," said AK.

That much is plane.

Smut Clyde said...

You could even say that Riddled is a site for saw-eyes.

Hamish Mack said...

This metaphor has been shaped with a sharpened implement with a bevelled edge. Chiz chiz,

Smut Clyde said...

I am waiting for Fish to comment so I can make a carpentry joke.

tigris said...

Every day one looks for yet another shoe to drop on the world scene.

The global octopus will soon be unshod.

Smut Clyde said...

That is the point where it sings its swan-song.

tigris said...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

The cold equations only work when your numbers are correct.

M. Bouffant said...

"mantel of adultery"
Not much room for that sort of thing on most mantels. (Not to mention the heat & sparks.)