Mixing up the Weird and the Normal

Do you know the story of the English-speaking kid who learned Spanish?  He learned that Spanish has another word for the second person plural — usted — used in polite contexts and for speaking to more than one person.  And he wondered why English had no such form of the second person.  So he sojourned forth into the world and asked everyone he met “Do you know the English second person?  Do you?  Do you?  Do you?”  Joke being that the word he was using — “you” — is the English second person plural, and in a foregone age due to excess of politeness and deference, English speakers stopped using the English second person singular — “thou.”

This kid was subject to a confusion.  He thought “thou” was a weird word, used only in old-timey contexts, by witches and Shakespearean kings, and “you” was the normal word.  But actually he had it reversed.  What he took for normal was weird and what he took for weird was normal.  He was making a mistake cousin to that of the fish who don’t know they swim in water because they have never experienced anything else.   But unlike the fish he had experienced the weird, and he sought for it, but didn’t realize as he sought for it asking “Do you?  Do you?  Do you?” he was an example of the weird thing he was looking for.

Similarly people seek out the monstrous and the strange and imagine it.  The minotaur: half-man and half-bull.  The sphinx: half-man and half lion.  The centaur: half-man and half horse.  But what do these monsters have in common that make them monstrous?   Not, bull lion and horse which are just animals, as normal as a spring rain.  They share their monstrous nature in the monstrous ingredient: the weird true and original monster: man.

We seek weird heavens and hells but the weirdest locale is the one we were born to: the world.

The world is cognate with the weird and both are cognate with “were” — the weird and spooky man for all of us.  The world is the were-held — the home of that original weirdo.




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