Language Is a Virus


I swear, this was going to be the week I finally got back on a regular blogging schedule, so of course, this would have to be the week I was whacked by a norovirus, which has made me useless for the past few days. (Here’s a great, gross norovirus fun fact for your inner 12-year-old boy:

Transmission is predominantly faecal-oral but may be airborne due to aerosolisation of vomitus

Ewwww. I spent a sleepless hour or two imagining ethereally audience-friendly Eric-Whitacre-esque five-part choral settings of that sentence, and the imaginary reaction of the equally imaginary bourgeois audience cheered me up.)

Anyway, one reason for the recent radio silence—though late-summer indolence has played a significant part, I’m not gonna lie—was in order to get a jump-start on a project which, now that all the glyphs have their requisite tittles, is no longer subject to my usual precipitately-announced-project jinx: a book on the cultural history of the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for Alfred A. Knopf (their logo is a dog! Moe approves). Is there anything at all more to be said about such an ubiquitous warhorse? Well, yeah, as it turns out—and a lot of what already has been said is long-lost fun, to say the least. Here’s a bit from today’s efforts:

Press corps parrot abducted

NICOSIA, Cyprus—A British journalist offered a $100 reward Wednesday for the safe return of Coco, the whistling parrot of the foreign press corps who was abducted by gunmen from a west Beirut hotel in last week’s fighting.

The cash reward was made in messages sent by Coco’s owner to west Beirut newspapers.

Coco, who for 10 years has lived at the Commodore hotel frequented by foreign journalists, was locally famous for imitating the whistling of an incoming shell. It also whistled the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the French national anthem.

—United Press International, February 25, 1987

As far as I can tell, Coco was never heard from again. For the near future, expect this space to be largely occupied by Beethovenian trivia.

2 comments

  1. As we all look forward to Mr. Whitacre's setting of the Norovirus Elegy, here's some recent cultural history of Beethoven's 5th. Imagine a time when most Americans would have understood this:

    Like

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