Post 9: The climax intercourse

Area: lexicon and cohesion
Topic: lack of coherence with duration

“You up for it, hon?” enquired Waverley in her usual direct manner.
“Absolutely, Wave; count me in.”
“Sor’ed. She’s from this coffee place.”
What coffee place?”
“Java or summat.”
“You mean Indonesia?”
“No, no, she said Java.”
“Yes, but Java is in Indonesia, Wave. It’s one of their islands; they have thousands of them.”
“Blimey! She’ll be well used to the rain, then, innit?”
“Well, that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose.”
This is how I acquired Utari, another delightful young executive keen to improve her English. Having duly consulted Google about the dietary proclivities of the Javanese, I had sourced a consignment of coconut milk and was now liberally lacing her tea with the product to the soundtrack of the excellent BBC Radio Cumbria.
“Listen, listen, this is about the D-Day, Utari.”
“What is D-Day?”
“Was. 70 years ago, the Allied forces landed in Normandy; this led to their victory over Nazi Germany.”
Utari nodded. “We had also victory.”
“What victory?”
“When we fighted for independence.”
Fought – not fighted.”
Fought for independence,” dutifully corrected herself the young lady.
“From whom?”
“Dutch.”
Before Utari had the chance to ponder the extent of my historical ignorance, Radio Cumbria presented me with an excellent diversionary opportunity. “But have you noticed what they said, Utari?”
“What?”

The climax to the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy has begun.

“About landings?”
“Yes, but the point is that a climax is reached.”
“I think it is not. Not often.”
“I don’t think it is.”
“You have the same experience?”
“No, no, I mean the so-called transferred negation; the place where English favours the negative form is the main clause. Here, it is I don’t think. But the point is that a climax is not a process but an event.”
“Awful rare.”
Awfully.”
“You have the same experience?”
“No, no, you need an adverb here.” Was I mistaken, or did Utari’s physiognomy assume the expression of melancholia at that point? “What I meant was that a climax has no duration – it’s momentary.”
“For man,” agreed my pupil.
“No, no, I mean in general. You see, people sometimes use verbs suggesting duration with nouns signifying brief happenings, which, by their very nature, have no duration. So they could have said: ‘A build-up to the climax has begun’, for example. Or perhaps ‘The main commemoration ceremony has begun’ – but not the climax itself.”
Her chin resting on her hands, Utari pondered my elucidation with visible concentration, which seemed to require further reinforcement.
“I have quite a few similar examples in my collection, Utari. I remember one from a letter to The Independent: this reader was complaining that his money had gone missing during a transfer between two banks and that he was losing interest on that money.”

I lost interest while the missing funds were found.

“Interest in Islam is banned,” proclaimed Utari with a solemn expression on her face.
“You mean forbidden?”
“Yes, by Allah.”
“Is it really?” I was beginning to regret not having researched Indonesia’s culture more extensively, but, Nartay having only just left, I hadn’t had all that much time. “Well, it certainly isn’t forbidden here, but the point is that, just like climax, the act of finding has no duration. So he should have written something like this.”

I lost interest while the missing funds were being looked for.

“He maybe did not go to university,” suggested my pupil, somewhat pensively.
“Well, correcting such stuff is not really a job for universities, Utari. Though they do end up having to do remedial English with those failed by our schools.”
“Our schools, they are the same,” concurred the young lady.
“A-a-a, but Britain is not Indonesia … uhrm, I mean … what I mean is … what I was trying to say … ” At that point, I developed one of the coughs which were proving surprisingly helpful in covering up my faux pas. “I remember another example from The Independent.”
“Is it awful bad?”
Awfully. No, it’s no worse than the other examples I’ve found.”
“I mean this Independent.”
“No, no, it’s supposed to be a quality newspaper. But they all blunder. Listen to this.”

The duration of the Prime Minister’s indecision is some indicator of his abiding desire not to offend people.

“It is good – to not offend people.”
Not to offend.”
“Yes.”
“No, no, we say ‘not to offend’. But the point is that indecision is a quality which has no duration, so we need to use another noun – perhaps procrastination. Or hesitation, vacillation, shilly-shallying, words like that, which denote processes. I remember another example; it’s from The Daily Telegraph.”

For the next couple of months, Profumo and Christine embarked on an affair.

“Who are they?”
Were; well, she still is. John Profumo was the Secretary of State for War who had a fling with Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a Russian intelligence officer. And then Stephen Ward, who’d introduced them in 1961, topped himself. Though some folk reckon he was assassinated by the security services. There was a big scandal over this.”
“Awful complicated,” opined the young lady with a slight frown.
Awfully.”
“You think as well?”
“No, no, it’s awfully. But the point is that the act of embarking has no duration – though an affair has.”
“Big duration sometimes,” concurred Utari with a sigh.
Long.”
“You have the same experience?”
“No, no, I mean duration can be long. Or short.”
“Adi, he had long.”
The deeply sorrowful look on Utari’s face prevented me from enquiring into Adi and his long affair, and I quickly tried to change the subject. “So you see, they should have written something like this.”

For the next couple of months, Profumo and Christine conducted an affair.

“Affair is awful bad,” persevered the young lady, given over to what was clearly an unhappy reminiscence.
“I know, I know, but it’s awfully. Listen, I have written this little ditty about how people use wrong verbs and nouns with things that have no duration.”

It would seem this brilliant nation
Has a problem with duration,
Using words which don’t, I fear,
Make much sense – that is, cohere.

“Awful good.”
“Thank you, Utari. But it’s awfully.”

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