Sunday, November 16, 2008

Word Nerd Corner (now with bonus nostalgia and film critique)

And today we have two:

1) "Fraudster"

Where did this bit of nonsense excess come from? It looks like tongue-in-cheek vaudeville Yiddish, or possibly Lolkitteh, whose construction is based partly on the addification of superfluitude. Whatever happened to the perfectly good, indeed lovely, word "fraud"? By this logic I could write you a list of some of my favourite blogs: The Viewster from Elsewhere, Hoydenster About Town, Pea Soupster, Baristaster, Humanities Researcherster ...

2) Socialite

In yet another cautionary tale about over-trustful reliance on the spell-checker, this week's TV guide, courtesy of News Ltd via the Adelaide Advertiser, contains a plot précis of tonight's ABC movie A Room With a View: 'Much to the disapproval of her chaperone, a young woman is drawn to the son of a socialite while visiting Florence in search of adventure.'

Now I wrote an Honours thesis on Forster back in the mists of time and to this day remember whole chunks of A Room With a View by heart ('Most excellent Honeychurches, but you know what I mean') and this does not sound to me like Forster's plot. For a start, the heroine is already engaged to the son of a socialite (a strange way to put it, I thought) and her arrival in Florence precipitates the new romantic direction away from him, not towards. And secondly, her chaperone, far from disapproving, is in fact excited and inspired by her new romantic adventure.

[UPDATE: well, I've watched it now and I take some of this back. What I was remembering was the chaperone Charlotte's own repressions and projections; chaperone is indeed outwardly over-horrified about Lucy's attraction to George but later proves to have been excited and stimulated by the romance, and a friend to it in the end. That was what I was remembering, not helped by conflating the character of the chaperone with her friend the novelist Miss Lavish, who finds it all terribly romantic and colourful. My bad. NB although I could sort of see what Davies was doing turning so many of the subtexts into super-texts (one of which in particular Forster would have been relieved to see end its long sojourn in the closet, so props to Davies for that) and obliterating others altogether, I thought this new version pedestrian, heavy-handed and literal-minded, though some of the casting was good, the music was nice, and Florence was Florence even though the cinematographer tried very hard to make it look ordinary with a palette of bleached Dickensian greys.]

I thought I'd solved the first mystery after two minutes' thought when I recalled that the new love interest is the son of a socialist (something Forster barely mentions in passing), and either some twelve-year-old sub had never seen the word 'socialist' but was intimately acquainted with the life and works of Paris Hilton, or (slightly more likely) they simply hadn't bothered to check. After all, it's not so long ago that I used the word 'interiority' in a book review and was subsequently horrified to see it rendered in both the online and the dead-tree edition of the paper in question as 'inferiority', which still made a kind of sense but, as you might expect, grotesquely changed the meaning of the sentence. (Both 'socialite' and 'inferiority' in these instances are variations on the theme of the eggcorn.) However, I remained bewildered by the chaperone part.

The TV guide gives the date of this production as 2007 so it is clearly not, I thought, alas, I thought, the substantial, sumptuous and multiply-Oscar-nominated Merchant Ivory adaptation of 1985 with Daniel Day-Lewis, Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Rupert Graves and Denholm Elliot.

No, a quick Google revealed that it is this adaptation by the ubiquitous Andrew Davies, who for reasons best known to himself has decided to change the ending in a way that would have Forster turning (or, more probably, knowing Forster, smiling gently) in his grave. And for all I know, not only has he made the chaperone disapproving but he's turned the love interest's father from a socialist into a socialite. Heck, why not.

Just as well I Googled it, or I would be spending an hour and a half tonight intermittently tearing my hair out and screaming at the TV. But Forster, as I say, is beyond caring. And as though to underline the point about spell-checking, up there in that last paragraph I originally typed 'smiling gently in his grace'.

Knowing Forster, that too.

20 comments:

Barry Leiba said...

Fraudster: clearly taken from "gangster" and "mobster", and I bet it started life as a jocular thing, soon overtaking its more traditional cousin in the race for popularity.

A couple that we hear around here ("here" being the business world, which uses a patois of its own) that make me want to run down the street, screaming and naked[1], are

1. "delegatee", for what we should otherwise call "delegate" (the noun form, with the schwa for the "a"), and

2. "mentee". I guess "acolyte" doesn't work for them, and I understand that. I don't have a good answer, but I do know that "mentee" isn't it.

——
[1] No, trust me; you don't want that.

ThirdCat said...

I think you meant to say 'midsts of time'.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Well indeed. Or, if I were a certain South Australian weatherperson who shall remain nameless oh all right it's Jane Whatsername on Ten, miss. The miss of time.

Barry, you're probably right about it starting as a joke. Could this be the origin of that Bee Gees classic?

Misrule said...

So what's the verdict on tonight's "A Room with a View" screening--to watch, or not to watch? I kind of don't see the point of a new adaptation, given how glorious the 85 version was. And what the hell have they done to the ending? Off to google...

TimT said...

'Socialite', it's a version of 'socialist' available for health-conscious people who worry about what communism will do to their waistline.

Penthe said...

I would like to find myself buried in a grace after I die. Perhaps it only happens to people who write books like Forster (which means he'll be the only one I suppose).

I am hating 'oversighted', as in 'the project will be oversighted by Mr Idiot'.

Misrule said...

Just catching up with Wednesday night's "House" and this beauty came to my attention in the ad breaks: moisturisation. Apparently "moisturiser" doesn't suffice any longer...

Pavlov's Cat said...

Judith, yes, I'm going to watch it. It's not that I think Andrew Davies does bad adaptations -- more that he seems to have cornered the market on the entire (novel) canon; over the last decade or two he's adapted most of Austen, some of the Brontes, some of George Eliot and now Forster. As far as the women writers are concerned I have gender issues with it (once is fine, but fifteen times is about thirteen times too many), and in general it kind of bothers me that the entire history of the novel in English looks set to be homogenised through a single sensibility for the screen -- for many people the Davies version will be the version they know, not unlike the wretched Disnification of the Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh.

Banjo said...

Does "fraudster" refer to someone who commits a fraud, whereas "fraud" refers to someone who is, well, just a fraud?

Zoe said...

If the name you want for your gmail account isn't available, ie "pav", it will suggest "pavster".

Amanda said...

IMHO, the more vaudeville Yiddish there is in the world, the better. You will have to take take "fraudster" from my cold dead hands.

I am now reminded of Ed Begley, Jr's character in A Mighty Wind and am extremely disappointed that bit isn't on YouTube.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Well, I thought it was pretty much Forster-lite, actually. I thought the Lucy character was good, and the scene where Miss Lavish et al. were indulging their class snobbery on the hillside was devastating, but I agree about the colours. It all seemed a bit washed out, pointless and passionless, really.

genevieve said...

Could not believe they would even bother remaking that lovely early version. HORRORS. I saw the promo and thought I was watching a preview for a comedy sketch show at first.

Then I realised it wasn't a bad dream, but a particularly twisted example of reality period TV programming. We get to vote for our favourite versions next week, don't we?
Fucking with Forster's endings; shee-it, what is next?

And there is, of course, the quite attractive neologism 'scenester' to consider when inventing new Yiddish.

*schlerap*

kathleen said...

Stephanie took the words out of my mouth: the Davies version lacked the passion of the Merchant Ivory production, I felt. I missed Julian Sands yelling "Beauty!" and the phallocentrism of the Piazza Signoria scene. I felt that the Merchant Ivory production captured Lucy's fascination (i.e. both attraction + repulsion) with brute, masculine force so much better in that scene.

And...I missed Rupert Graves and Helena Bonham Carter's hair. Sigh.

Elsewhere007 said...

Well, said the Elsester or the Viewster...I thought the Room with a View *was* rather grey or dulled down. I wondered if the end was 'borrowed' from the film _Atonement_ ...not the ultimate end of Atonement, but the war bit.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yep, I thought that too, while I was watching, in fact it looked to me like a shameless pinch -- not just the war bit but the whole 'This is all retrospective' schtick. I didn't catch on, either, I just kept thinking 'What's with the hair that keeps going up and down like a blind?' Der.

Tell you what else I thought was a pinch -- the direction and cinematograpy of the sequence where Lucy is wandering round Florence looking at huge holy places and sensuously entwined naked statues from strange angles and having strange responses she's too innocent to understand -- I thought that was straight out of David Lean's A Passage to India. Except that that was Lean, and Judy Davis (not to belittle the actress playing Lucy who I thought was the best thing about last night's effort), and they got the colours of the country right.

Oh and I also thought they stuffed up the stabbing scene completely -- that was wildly unbelievable.

ThirdCat said...

Whereas I chose to watch Legally Blonde, and did not feel let down at all (okay, the ending is a bit schmaltzy, but apart from that).

Elsewhere007 said...

Is that what they're showing in Abu Dhabi?

I love Reese, most of the time. I think she's quite a smart dumb blonde.

genevieve said...

Election was a terrific fillum. And Legally is hilarious. She has quite good comic timing, the Spoonster.

I heard two young 'uns in the legal precinct in Melbourne today bagging "Legally" - they just didn't get it.
Male and female, mind you.

Owen Richardson said...

If you didn't like what Andrew Davies did to A Room with a View, you ought to see what he's done to Brideshead Revisited. Pedestrian, literal-minded, heavy-handed x5