Saturday, February 16, 2013


I sat there with my pen poised, unsure of the word I wanted.  The sonnet (Shakespeare's, not mine) stared back up at me, saucily flaunting the rather obvious pun that I had decided to annotate.  But annotate how?  One little pun didn't deserve a full-page commentary (pace Booth, whose edition I was suffering); even if it dad, I hadn't the time to rewrite Booth's commentary in the course of a single reading for a single class.

And yet, somehow, it didn't feel right to label the incident "pun" and move one.  Shakespeare deserves better than that, even when he's being outrageous.  Besides, there are dozens kinds of word-play at work in the sonnets, most with impressive poetic terms belonging to them; but I wasn't going to resort to checking off each figure of speech—pun, conceit, metaphor; anacoluthon, aphorismus, asyndeton ... asy-what?—as it cropped up.  It would be good practice for—something, no doubt; maybe comps, although I rather doubt even that; but once again the legwork would be overmuch to complete in a sitting or two.

Will and I measured each other doubtfully for a moment.  The pen hovered, hesitated—plunged in decision.  I leaned back and drew a breath.

"Wiggle?" I said, half aloud.  "Wiggle?"

But why not?  The sense is clear and diverse at the same time; it is at once a more precise and more imaginative term than the stale fallback ambiguity. The old double-G-L-E is a reverend English ending, descending from such distinguished forbears as waggle, giggle, and Niggle, and suffering in dignified silence the upstart aspirations of the new-created Muggle.  It could use an extra layer of meaning, a wee poetic shine; nay, it would bear it proudly, like the old beggar with the bright new blade.

Who knows, maybe it will enter the lexicon.  Webster and Oxford shall not scorn its signification, and Norton shall footnote Donne, Vaughan, and Herbert with "wiggle" after every fourth word.  It shall be the foundation of a new school of humor theory, in which all ambiguities leading to laughter are characterized by that blest noble catch-all,

The Wiggle.      

At the very least, my homework will be yea much shorter.

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