Friday, January 23, 2009


Is one of the more delightful words in Spanish; there's a wet cat in there somewhere.

When used in reference to private morality it is equivalent I believe to the English word prudery. But draw out a bit to the public sphere and it incorporates more explicitly the notion of hypocrisy.

García Márquez makes use of this word in his autobiography to reinforce a hypothesis that his (and other) families' domestic disturbances were somehow linked to the state of Colombian politics at the time; more gato encerrado than gato mojado.

Yesterday I listened to an interview with Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant who sees people as numbers, numbers as colours etc. He has learned eleven languages, including Icelandic which he mastered in a week, and has invented one of his own: Mänti.

One of his favourite words in English is buttercup — because of the way that an object and a foodstuff have been combined to create an evocative new noun with strong visual associations.

Tammet's latest book, Embracing the Wide Sky would appear to be a fascinating interior examination of a mind capable of perceiving vast architectures of meaning in almost everything it focuses on. One to add to the wish list...

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