or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sound Effects

Have you listened to that aria yet? Because you should. I can't get it out of my head. I have decided that it is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard in my life. Suddenly I understand a story told of the legendary castrato Farinelli: "during ten years, until the death of Philip V, he sang four songs to the King every night without change of any kind." Jaroussky could sing me that song every night for the rest of my life and I would never tire of it. I mean, as long as he brought his orchestra with him.


Last night just after I went to bed I got hiccups. After waiting a minute to see if they might subside on their own--they never do, I don't know why I bothered--I got up to cure them. My Newfoundland grandmother's sure cure for hiccups wasn't a teaspoonful of sugar, or a sudden fright: it was nine glutches of water.

"Glutch"! Don't you love it? Isn't it fantastically vivid and onomatopoetic? It's even better spoken with a proper Newfoundland vowel, just halfway between "ah" and the more usual "uh", which is to say a short "-u-" with the jaw dropped a little.

The word was likely brought over to the island by British settlers. The OED neglects to mention it, but, rather surprisingly, Dictionary.com has a listing for it, noting that it is both a verb ("to swallow") and a noun ("a mouthful"). The Dictionary of Newfoundland English lists it, of course, and in fact repeats my grandmother's sage advice verbatim: "If a person has hiccups and wants to get rid of them he can do so by taking nine glutches of water." "Of uncert. origin," says Dictionary.com, but I think Dictionary.com is just not willing to go out on a limb, because "glutch", like "gulp", is one of the most obviously onomatopoetic words imaginable.

The nine glutches did their trick, the hiccups were stayed, I went back to bed, and all was well. I mean, until three hours later when I woke up to use the conveniences and could not get back to sleep and so got up and began writing this. But that is the usual state of my life.


Post a Comment

<< Home