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A dire problem of diphthongs and diacritics

Ired on May 16, 2021.

A firetruck sped by my window, lights on and sirens blaring. “Oh my doG, something’s on fire!” I shouted, then went about setting more things ablaze. Now, if the other call was a false alarm, their trip would have been worth the effort.

I wondered if the fire, wherever it was, was caused by some kind of flip-flop accident. My more devout readers may remember my own misadventures with this style of barebones footwear yesterweek. My flip-flops flipped… but wouldn’t flop. And before I knew what was happening, I had gone headlong down my walkway, bumbled head-over-heels into Bouillabaisse Boulevard, and ultimately landed in the back of a waiting ambulance. The flip-flops themselves landed twenty feet up in a tree.

On Tuesday I emerged from the morgue—good as new. The ER docs sent me there, but the coroner contended I wasn’t dead enough so she discharged me. I thanked her and headed home (flip-flopless). My mind was on new shoes and new shoes were on my mind: I considered an oversized pair of bright yellow galoshes or perhaps surplus army boots—shoes most unlike the neon purple thongs I had donned on Sunday. Looking upward, at the three concentric hats (literally) on my mind, I pondered, would those would make passable shoes?—but then the sight of a dog chasing its own tail down the sidewalk sent me into such an eruption of tittering and guffaws that I forgot what I was doing with all these hats.

Full-on forgetting, however, was not to be mine this day: Army boots called to mind the hobnailing accident I suffered in late 2010 after a confabular kicking spree using a size 15. That accident, involving a possibly nonexistent but no less umbrageous alabaster skink, made last week’s misflopping mishap look like mere child’s play. I decided to just go barefoot.

On Wednesday I pondered, could “poetry” be written as “pœtry” without getting dirty looks from anyone? I decided to try the experiment on my geese—carefully at first, and then very loudly. My geese were largely illiterate but that didn’t prevent them from enjoying a good pœm.

Time trundled forward like a tired old hound and still my geese cast no dirty looks my way. I honked out pœtry and they honked back. That clinched it: I would spell “pœtry” like so, henceforth and forevermore. In fact this coming Sunday, I would unleash this newfound spelling upon this here docile & perfunctory page, fœr all the wœrld tœ witness and behœld. Nœ œne cœuld stœp me: Not my supercilious readers, not all the uppish twitterati who took umbrage and unfriended me over that duck-rowing fracas three weeks ago, and not even the new language police that Mayor Rhoodie commissioned to guard our sacred English from abuse.

Not even that sempiternal enemy of my nose hairs could stop me, who right now was watching me through my bathroom mirror.

I dove behind the couch and curled into a fœtal position. I cowered, waiting for the gargoylish fiend to dissipate back into the mists whence he came. Some may judge me a paranœic, but this seemed sensible to me at the time—until I recalled there is no couch in my bathroom and what I had dove behind was actually the toilet. Meeping sheepishly, I slunk out of the bathroom on all fours and hid behind my actual couch (the one in the living room).

My ceiling clock ticked out the seconds and tolled the hours. Finally the coast was clear. I emerged, comforted in the knowledge my nose hairs could continue to grow long and free. My mirror now reflected nothing more than the vigintillions of photons madly pelting it from every direction. Half my house was on fire, but that was a side issue. The firetruck was out and about somewhere, hunting down fires, and would soon be back this way to douse my house in foamy, foamy foam. If not—I could set my roof on fire to get its attention.

Time barked and growled loudly at me, like a tired old hound having cornered prey in a hole too small for the dog to enter. Perhaps if time had been more terrier-like, it would have fit, but time being the lumbering Great Dane it was, the situation appeared hopeless.

Thursday I took a Sunday drive up to Nizgidge Ridge, a high and winding eskar at the edge of town that some say was made by glaciers and others by Paul Bunyan’s buttocks. (I know which theory I believe.) That sempiternal ally of my earlobes had been watching me through a hole in my ceiling as I donned my pants and hats, but I wouldn’t let him hinder me either: It was mid-spring, the pine trees up on the ridge were all in full bloom, and I wanted to go suck in enough golden yellow pollen to put myself into an anaphylactic shock that would make killer bees and murder hornets blush.

I parked under the biggest, orneriest-looking pine tree and went for a hike in slow circles around the ridge. The pines were indeed in a high dudgeon today. The pollen flew, bursting forth from the trees at the slightest breeze, saffron clouds billowing up and out. I rambled aimlessly for hours.

A car passed down the road, away from Nizgidge Ridge, toward Panoply Point and the nameless towns beyond. Out of the blue the car sprouted wings—large, gray, angel-like wings—and took to the air as it passed beyond the horizon—back into the blue sky whence it most certainly did not come. “That’s funny,” I mumblemuttered, “That car can’t do that.” It was an old Dodge Dart, yet as everyone knows, only Volkswagens and some Toyotas could sprout wings and fly. Domestic cars are relegated to ground travel only—some, such as the Oldsmobile 88, are amphibious, but nothing short of a gas tank explosion can render an American car airborne. I took another sip of my potato juice and went back to enjoying pusillanimous grumnuttery beneath graceful, polleniferous pines.

Sufficiently pollinated, I finally made my way back to my Trabi, which was now a featureless yellow mass of fine powder in the rough shape of an East German motorcar. A slight gust of wind shook the pine boughs above and brought forth another blizzard of swirling, lurid haze. I coughed and sputtered. I wondered if the pollen raining down on me like dry golden snow was psychotropic or propsychotic, like the large quantity of jimsonweed pollen I insufflated last autumn. One thing was for sure: 2021’s pineal pollenpalooza was certainly off to an admirable start. I drove home, my Trabi coughing and sputtering with me.

Time moved in slow circles and then halted, like a tired old hound about to bed down for the night, perhaps never to wake again. It was Friday. Not even that sempiternal frenemy of my earlobe hairs (who was watching me through my bedroom window all night) could ruin this day. I cast about for something useful to do with the day rather than squander it on more pusillanimous grumnuttery. I spun in small, slow circles myself as I contemplated, considered, and cogitated.

This entire week had been a middling, meandering mishmash of mumblage, murblery, and mudgeon-dunnery, amounting to nary more than a lax litany of loosely linked yet vaguely comical sans-serif words on a page. These words were separated by spaces, periods, commas (far, far too many commas), and an embarrassingly large number of dashes. The whole of it possessed all the semantic value of a long-form “lorem ipsum” article—yet with none of the elegance nor sanity. The week was nigh over and I had made nothing of it. I cranched: I had to do something at flunce.

Yet then Friday hurried off, like it was going bald on its buttocks.

Saturday barged in uninvited, boorish as always. It wasn’t even midnight, yet here the boor was. I told it to get lost. It did.

Sunday. Today I learned that “pœtry” is correctly spelled not “pœtry,” not “poetry,” but… “poëtry.” This brought a vacillant mixture of emotions that nearly sent me into an infinite loop of paroxysm, mental cifrection, and intense blepharospasm. I first bemoaned and bewailed my shameful mistake of ligating two vowels as if they were a diphthong when they are in truth the exact opposite. Second, the unforeseen appearance of a new diaeresis reminded me of (and re-infatuated me with) the dainty Chloë Moretz—clad in nothing more than a purple diphthong bikini and sporting a pair of neon purple diphthongs on her feet. My brain lurched to and fro, from one of these polar opposites to the other; I went all wall-eyed again.

The rest of Sunday was a blur—of mooblespouting, mumblesputtering, and fervid goonflayvination. And at the end of this gorgothine, hours-long noöspasm, I learned for the first time in my life that the word is not pronounced /poit-tree/ either.

—Poit, poit, poit!!