Changes in the way we pronounce certain sounds tell us a lot about our changing values

Damien Hall’s article in The Conversation got me thinking about language as a virus.

William S. Burroughs once wrote that “language is a virus from outer space”. Hall’s insights might go some way to understand how the virus mutates and spreads power.

The article argues that regional variations of language spoken in Normandy reflect changes in the language spoken in Paris. The people of Normandy look to Paris for the “best way” to speak French. When the language in Paris mutates, the Parisian strain spreads to Normandy, taking with it the power of Paris.

We all learn to talk by listening to those around us. The way we speak organises the way we think. How words are spoken, and sentences structured, communicates a logic. That logic organises a specific way of understanding the world. Regional accents not only connect people to a specific area, but also to unique way of life.

Take for example the different ways English is spoken throughout the United Kingdom. The dominant culture in the UK is centred in the South. The way people think in the South is not the same as people in the North. The culture is different, because the logic is different, because the language is different. We may all speak English, but Northern English is not the same as Southern English. It’s more than just an accent, it’s a set of values.

I think there’s a strong argument to be made, that the media spreads the Londoncentric virus, allowing it to dominate the farthest reaches of the country. It changes the way people speak, and think, and understand the world.

Burroughs’ “cut up” technique may offer a way of immunising ourselves against this homogenising virus. By cutting into his text Burroughs was able to create new words, new sentence structures, new logics, and releases his own mutations into the culture.

We should all think seriously about how to do the same.


Stephen Joseph becomes John Quays

I’m changing the name of Christine Leigh’s boyfriend from Stephen Joseph to John Quays because I think it sounds like “junkies”. As his fate reflects the fate of all the users in the story, it seems fitting to giving him a name that reflects that.

I took it from a track on The Fall’s “Live At The Witch Trials” album “No Xmas For John Quays”.

John Quays is said to be either a reference to seventies politician Hugh Jabaals. His name in the song was changed at the last minute to avoid any libel. Then again, it could be a reference to a former member of The Fall who succumbed to the lure of heroin. My favourite, is that it’s “riff” on William S. Burroughs story “The Junkie’s Christmas”.

A junkie gets the immaculate fix when he gives away his junk on Christmas eve.

Mark E. Smith’s lyrics are significantly obscure to make any definitive interpretation impossible.

Adam Leigh

Adam Leigh is a character in Carrion. His forename comes from early research. Adam is a colloquialism for MDMA or ecstasy. In the early seventies scientists researching MDMA’s use in psychotherapy nicknamed the drug “Adam”, referring to the state of “primal innocence” induced by the drug.

Adam’s surname is a derivation of the name Lee. William Lee was a pseudonym used by William S. Burroughs. I’m interested in his work, and took some inspiration from his first book Junkie. Leigh is an oblique reference to drugs.

Born in 1980, when Carrion starts Adam Leigh is in his early thirties. He’s old enough to have some understanding of the world, made some mistakes in life, have a weariness about him, but still young enough to be engaged, see the world differently.

As a younger man, unwilling to saddle himself with the debts associated with obtaining a university education, he went out to work. He’s known first-hand the damage debt can cause. In the financial collapse of the 1980’s his father was made redundant. Out of work, and unable to pay the mortgage, on the council house they had bought in Thatcher’s right to buy scheme, the bank repossessed.

As they had technically made themselves homeless, by defaulting on the mortgage, the council refused to rehouse them. They ended up living in bed and breakfast, until his father was able to get a job in a local supermarket. Adam watched the experience take its toll on his parents, and vowed never to put himself in that same position.

In his late teens, when his contemporaries were starting university, Adam joined the army. He thought whatever skills he learned in the service, would stand him in good stead when he returned to civilian life.

Early in 2002 he saw combat in Afghanistan, where he was wounded. An improvised explosive device detonated in close proximity, killed one his comrades, and left Adam with shrapnel scars across his back.

During his recovery, he met and married a local teacher Joan. Their marriage only lasted a couple of years. She was unable to deal with the rigours of life as an army wife. A tour of duty took him away for several months soon after their wedding, and when he returned, carrying the weight of post-traumatic-stress-disorder, his emotional distance pushed a wedge between them.

The final straw came when Adam transferred into the military police, and they were forced to relocate. Joan refused to follow him. They finally divorced in 2005.

Adam dedicated himself to his work, until 2007, when his parents were killed in a car crash.

Their death forced him to take guardianship of his baby sister Christine. Born in 1995, she was two years old when Adam joined up. She knew him only as an occasional visitor, and saw him more as a distant uncle than a brother.

In the months that followed Adam bought himself out of the army, moved back into the family home with Christine, and joined the Metropolitan Police. He tried to offer her stability, but the grief of loosing her parents, the tribulations of adolescents, and his dedication to his work, meant Adam found her difficult to deal with.

A growing resentment developed between them. The older she got, the more defiant she became, until finally, in the summer of 2012, she moved in with her drug dealing boyfriend.

Angry, Adam was left with an unresolved sense of guilt that he didn’t do better by her. A year later, and they’re on opposite sides of the war on drugs, no closer to resolving their differences, until drug eating insects attack Christine’s boyfriend.

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