You find yourself thinking in such predictable ways—predictable even to yourself.
How do you get out of the boring loop of knowing too much about where you’re going? No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.
This is why I love rhyme. It creates an intervention. It calls in words you had absolutely no intention of using.
Yesterday, I was thinking about scallops. I won’t go into why. Scallop shell of quiet, popped into my mind... and the way the ‘l’ consonants swell between the scallop and the shell, and how it reminds me of the softness of waves.
Collops, I thought. What are they again? Little slices of meat, in old recipe books. Derived from ‘escalopes’ apparently. Give me a dollop of collops. Which made me think of roll mops. Which made me think of Pickleherring, in Robert Nye’s The Late Mr Shakespeare.
Wallops arrived with a wallop. Good old English language for keeping the sound the same but changing the vowel.
Trollop. Now there’s a word that’s gone out of circulation. ‘You Trollop!’ we used to say in mock horror. Why is a combination of ‘l’ and ‘p’ so satisfying to the ear? There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip. Plop, slop, slip, slap, clippety clop.
Which made me starting singing
Horsey, horsey, don’t you stop.
Just let your feet go clippety clop.
Your tail goes swish and your wheels go round.
Giddy up, we’re homeward bound
I sing this, or a version of it, to my grandchildren, and always thought it was an old nursery rhyme. Thank you, Wikipedia for putting me right. It’s part of a longer piece written in only 1937 and so less than two decades older than me.
How did I get here? I was thinking about unexpected interventions and where they take you, and I haven’t even mentioned Coleridge’s person from Porlock yet, though the ‘l’ and ‘p’ sounds of that phrase have had it hovering on the edge of my mind for some time.
All this, really, because of that lovely bit of intervention that went viral yesterday, when a little girl interrupted her dad’s bit of TV expertise. I hope nobody got a wallop, even metaphorically speaking. We yearn for unpredictable delight: surprise, scallops, astonishment, upheaval. And when it arrives (without hurting anybody) we rightly celebrate it.
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...which leads me to codswallop, which wallops without alluding to walloping or cods. Thence back to rollmops, and it's too early on a Sunday to be thinking about herring. Unless it's Cherry Heering, which I once drank at a wedding in little chocolate cups.
Where I'm from a collop was a disc of battered potato (and a real treat). But then, we couldn't afford meat. Or shoes. Just books.