Friday November 4, 2011
Of confused verbs
By ERIC CHRISTEN
I WENT out to get some beer when I unexpectedly came upon some confused verbs loitering near the betting shop. They seemed to be in a bad way so I started up a conversation with the one closest to me. It turned out to be “Rob” or “Steal”.
“What’s the matter?” I asked it.
“I’m confused about my identity,” it said.
“So is everyone. That’s perfectly normal,” I assured it.
“Yes, but my problem is not that deep. I’m only a word. I’m simply not sure whether I’m ‘Rob’ or ‘Steal’!” I considered this and explained that even people were often divided into dual or multiple personalities but rarely reflected at length upon this fact. It gave me a puzzled look.
“Which did it want to be?” I asked. It gazed at me sadly.
“Actually, I don’t wish to be either. They’re both despicable words!”
“Yes,” I agreed, “they are, but there is no reason for you to feel guilty. As a word you are just a symbol for what people do and it is people who should feel guilty. After all, most of our societies are founded and based on theft. Just visit the British Museum.”
“Thank you,” said the confused verb, “You know, sometimes I dream of being a verb like ‘Love’ or ‘Forgive’ but unfortunately my activity is in the blood ...”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It’s in the family. Generations of confused verbs being either ‘Rob’ or ‘Steal’. I feel the pressure of their historical use.”
“Historical use?” I repeated vacantly and then blabbered, “Everything is used. That’s life for you. I feel used when I pay my bills or taxes. When I have to wait in line at the bank or do a job that doesn’t even begin to test me, just so that I can pay my exorbitant rent!” I exclaimed. I felt sorry for this verb but its dilemma seemed to be part of the universal condition of life.
“Have you thought of becoming a noun?” I blurted carelessly.
The verb shook its idiomatic head with disgust.
“A noun is a kind of zombie, a paralysed toy!” It revealed.
“But what about nouns like ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and ‘philosophy’? ” I objected.
“Useless without action. What good are they without practice? It is us verbs which bring substance to nouns.” Presently, the verb looked up at me with relief. Clearly, it had been embarrassed on my behalf.
“I suppose we are all suffering in our own different ways,” the verb announced. “In fact, your suffering seems to be far more complicated than mine,” It concluded, and then scampered off towards the other confused verbs, presumably to share its newfound knowledge.
I ambled towards the grocery shop to get my beer but when I got there I found that my £5 note was missing.
At first I was shocked and then I smiled. The confused verb had found itself and robbed me.