Stuff Cometh and Wenteth

The Iceman Cometh

Since the sixties I’ve been bothered by the title of a play by someone called Eugene O’Neill – The Iceman Cometh. Who was this blasted Iceman, and why was he cometh-ing? I could never quite be bothered to find out. In those days it was not that easy to just Find Out. You had to go to the library and order books and stuff, then wait three weeks. And in any case, I knew the answer would be dull.

And I was right. It’s some sort of 1939 American play about a group of hopeless drunks and dreamers awaiting the return of a salesman, a charismatic chap who is likely to “get the party started”. Eventually he does turn up – unlike Godot, who never turns up in spite of all the wordy Waiting actors have done for him over the years.

But who is the Iceman? The Iceman is apparently not the charismatic salesman. No, after exhaustive further Googling I can reveal that the Iceman is, on one level, a kind of joke. The Iceman is the man your wife is most likely being unfaithful with – he’s the American version of the Milkman. But on another level, the Iceman symbolises Death. Death cometh to all men, etc., etc.

Did you really want to know that? I’m not sure I did either, but it’s one of those things you just have to – cross off, finally, from a bucket list of lifelong minor annoyances.

The Mosquito Cometh

One of my current annoyances is Mervyn the Mosquito. He/she lives in my living room and materialises somewhere on my leg, ankle or foot whenever my attention is distracted. Try to swat him/her and he/she vanishes – poof – leaving behind a trail of little red bites, some of which metamorphose into blooming great swollen, infected and fiercely itchy areas necessitating visits to the doctor and yet more antibiotics. I have to be careful of stuff like this, nowadays. My immune system is not what it was.

The Fence Man Wenteth

So, one of my fence panels fell over in a strong wind. Yes, in August when there aren’t supposed to be any strong winds. It fell into my neighbours’ garden. It is their fault it fell because they viciously slashed away all the lovely shrubbery (on their side) that had successfully held my fence panel up for the last ten years or so. I went out in my dressing gown and dragged the broken panel through to my side. It disintegrated into a further two parts. I regarded the six foot empty space that represented My Privacy. They have been progressively invading My Privacy, the neighbours, since they arrived. And now I also had to pay, money I hadn’t got, to replace this lump of wood, since the boundary is mine.

I thought it would be easy enough, if not cheap. I would call a fencing firm and they would come, with splendid fence panel, and manoeuvre it into the hole. Many visits by men in shorts, big boots and dangly tool-belts later; many non-materialising emailed quotes and non-returned phone calls later, and I was disabused of this simplistic notion. Nobody, basically, could be bothered to replace my fence panel. It wasn’t a big enough job to warrant them coming “all the way out here”. Not worth the petrol. In any case, the concrete supporting posts had moved over the years so any panel, I was told, would have to be custom-made in situ, ie even more expensive.

Next Door were all away in Tenerife or Barbados or somewhere. Two whole families of them, plus screaming baby, plus mountains of luggage – all mercifully, if temporarily, gone. Before they came back I was going to have to come up with an alternative solution. In the end I ordered the fence panel from Amazon. It turned up in a lorry next day. It turned out that I would have to treat it with two coats of preservative stuff – even though it was advertised as ‘dipped’. I ordered a big plastic tub of the ‘stuff’ from Amazon, plus a paintbrush and a paint kettle (I do not decorate, so did not have them). The expense was mounting.

I spent some time out in the back garden in a pair of old leggings and the top half of a redundant nightie, slopping the stuff on. Then I phoned a local all-purpose gardening couple. They arrived – very large and scary in matching green tee-shirts – and within half an hour the panel was in place. All they had done was wrench the concrete fence posts apart and slide the panel down in.

Life is just full of these dull littleΒ dramas, isn’t it?

14 thoughts on “Stuff Cometh and Wenteth

  1. I too wondered about the Iceman…but never roused the energy to investigate further…so thank you!
    No job too small in Costa Rica….coupled with an attempt to charge an enormous price seeing as one is a foreigner. A few sharp words in the local lingo usually sorts that one…but it is a nuisance that news of the scottish reputation for parsimony has niot reached these parts to save my breath.

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    1. Yes, it’s King James’ Bible vintage English, so (guessing) early 17th Century. There’s a saying “Cometh the Man, Cometh the Hour” or “Cometh the Man, Cometh the Moment” meaning that if situation is dire enough, a saviour/exactly the right leader will emerge. Often applied to Churchill. It’s a kind of melodious version of the singular present tense, so he/she/it cometh. Second cometh wouldn’t work because the second coming is a kind of thing (abstract noun?) whereas cometh is part of a verb. ‘Wenteth’ and ‘Wentething’ I just made up to be silly. The opposite of Cometh should really be Goeth. I just love the English language, don’t you? Especially around the 17th century when it was at its most elaborate and beautiful.

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      1. I had to go back to internet. The -th suffix rule I found is not the same as the -eth suffix used in cometh. I am now at two new pieces of knowledge about Middle English suffixes.

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      2. I always had a shelf of reference books but they would not have helped me with this. I am not that interested in Middle English πŸ™‚ Just the occasional factoid. πŸ™‚

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      3. Was impressed by the shelf of reference books, but slightly troubled by the reference to Middle English and prompted to do further research. Sorry, bit obsessive it just interests me. Middle English was from 1066 – the Norman Conquest – to around 1500, just before the invention of the printing press. Chaucer wrote in Middle English and you and I both would struggle to read or pronounce it. It was the language of the common man; the King and nobles all spoke French. Early Modern English starts around 1500, and Modern English begins around the late 17th Century. So technically both the King James Bible (1611) and Shakespeare’s plays are written in Early Modern English. The main difference is that most modern day English people can still read and pronounce Early Modern English, though they might need to look up quite a few archaic words in a dictionary. Eventually of course, as the language is changing all the time, Modern English will have travelled so far from Early Modern English that Shakespeare will start to sound as ‘foreign’ as Chaucer, and English people will need translations to read him. All the poetry will be lost.

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      4. Yes. I went down my own rabbit holes. -eth morphed to an ‘s’ sometime in Early Modern English which apparently mirrored how people were talking. A lisp reversed. πŸ™‚
        I also found a few interesting words during the -th research. Words where we still use the noun but the original verb/adjective was left behind in the older forms of English.
        Curiosity can be time consuming. πŸ™‚

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