Here’s a thing that ticks all my boxes – in the same way that The Sound of Music has everything one wants in a film (Nazis, nuns and goats), this story has hippies (actually, an unbeatable combination of American and hippy), made-up words and food trends. I don’t know whether to squeal with delight or explode into incandescent rage and spontaneously combust. At least I know that, working (I use the word loosely) in close proximity to airlines, my ashes would be well taken care of.
So, for your delectation on a wintry Friday, here’s a story from The Wall Street Journal entitled ‘Brooklyn Foodies Supper In Silence’. Do the light clicktastic and have a look for yourselves. OK, OK, I know that you won’t – so many links unclick’d ‘pon, as the Bard might have said, o brave new communications medium that hath such pages in’t. So, as you persist in your churlish reticence and simple bloody-minded refusal to play along, I will tell you what the article says.
In brief, it seems that a restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (which I believe to be a suburb of the American capital, New Amsterdam), called Eat (got to love that ol’ US no-frills, does-what-it-says-on-the-tinness) recently hosted a pop-up dinner in which all 17 or so guests committed to a vow of silence during the meal. What I think is more surprising here is not that there was a silent rule for the meal, but rather that the guests found it difficult to succeed in the endeavour. There was a threat of plates being taken outside to finish meals in a ‘loudmouth’ fashion. Others went to the toilet to give themselves pep talks – out loud. It is not made plain whether smartphones and other devices were outlawed also – if not, I’m certain others kept their silence by concentrating furiously on Facebook.
Apparently, in the end, the silence became ‘good – the good kind of quiet’. On so many levels I find this beyond strange. The fact that one pop-up silent dinner makes a trend. The fact that the silent diners couldn’t hack it. The fact that silent dining is – in itself – considered so out of the ordinary that it’s newsworthy. The fact that hipsters are so unaccustomed to quiet that they’d never experienced comfortable quiet before. (Only in America, I’m afraid.) it’s not even as if it was the food that rendered the diners silent. No. They had to be ‘implored to ‘speak now, or forever hold your peace” in a rather unhealthy confusion of the spiritual and the corporeal.
How do you think this lot would have managed in Dans Le Noir? (Where you dine in the dark.)
Anyway, so far, so privileged American nonsense. Ridiculous hippies, with tales of ‘silent breakfasts (…) enjoyed at a monastery in the Indian Buddhist pilgrimage city of Bodh Gaya and stints in silence at meditative retreats, (and) hoping to rediscover that pastoral energy in a city-bound context’. ( Oi! Wall Street Journal! This is satire, isn’t it? We’re not actually taking these people seriously? Just checking.)
But then – oh, then. Why is it that our colonial cousins feel that it’s acceptable to select words. seemingly at random, and then forcibly bend them to their will, regardless of context or meaning? And, if they fail in this endeavour, to simply make something up, often without needing to do so, as there are (of course) a plethora of perfectly acceptable words that could be employed in most situations. I suspect it is because the United States and America are, clearly the homes of the brave and the lands of the free and if I can carry a high-powered automatic weapon in public, perfectly legally, wear dubious clothes at will and be umpteen stone overweight as a right, then I can most certainly obligate the American language to manglify itself around my need for expression without thought. I wish to engage mouth without having brain in gear.
Back to our silent dinner – one of the guests (Jessica Laser, a 27-year-old writer from Greenpoint, since you ask) (great name, Ms Laser, btw) who – just in case you missed it – is a writer, had this to say. “I tend to pride myself on my ability to articulate, so I’m eager to see what happens here.” Ms Laser is, by the way, a writer. She is also using the adjective as a verb – which at least shows some arms-length familiarity with the intended meaning – but is, of course, wrong. ‘To articulate’ does not mean ‘to speak’. ‘Articulate’ describes someone who can converse fluently, but it is not (Ms Laser) a doing word.
Thing is, I know where this came from. And it is insidious. A sort of creeping malaise. An American ill. I shall make up a word to describe it. In fact I already have done. Manglify. Only, were I a US citizen, that would not be enough. I would have to go a step further. Yes, gentle reader, I would have to go to ‘manglificate’. So, for example, the perfectly good verb ‘to oblige’ becomes ‘to obligate’ (‘he was obligated’), and – I shudder inside – the generally acceptable verb ‘to converse’ becomes ‘to conversate’ (‘we should conversate around this’). I suspect that the erroneous use of the word articulate was because of a confusion around conversate – and here I will simply say that when language is destroyed based on a misunderstanding over a word that doesn’t exist, all is pretty much lost.
Finally – because I know you’re almost bursting with the desire to know what our silent chums ate, at their inarticulate dinner – I shall tell you what the Quiet Ones aterated for their mute repast. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was simply too much trouble for Nicholas Nauman (Eat’s 28-year-old managing chef and events planner) to describe his cuisine as organic and locally-sourced, so he called it – or maybe it’s not him (horrible thought strikes), maybe this is everywhere in the colonies – ‘organic locavore fare’.
Herbivore. Carnivore. Locavore. I went on t’interweb. I typed in ‘loca’ and requested a translation. I got the answer I thought I might. It appears that a locavore would be one who mainly consumes Spanish madwomen.