Great Scott! Back in mid-2005 I posted about the British comedy show A Bit of Fry and Laurie, but missed the perfect sketch for LH. Nothing wrong with “Gordon and Stuart eat Greek,” mind you, but Language Conversation is… well, let me quote the final exchange:
Stephen: Imagine a piano keyboard, eighty-eight keys,
only eighty-eight and yet, and yet, new tunes,
melodies, harmonies are being composed upon
hundreds of keyboards every day in Dorset alone.
Our language, Tiger, our language, hundreds
of thousands of available words, frillions of
possible legitimate new ideas, so that I can
say this sentence and be confident it has never
been uttered before in the history of human
communication: “Hold the newsreader’s nose
squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand
my trousers.” One sentence, common words, but
never before placed in that order. And yet, oh
and yet, all of us spend our days saying the same
things to each other, time after weary time, living
by clichaic, learned response: “I love you”, “Don’t
go in there”, “You have no right to say that”, “shut
up”, “I’m hungry”, “that hurt”, “why should I?”, “it’s
not my fault”, “help”, “Marjorie is dead”. You see?
That surely is a thought to take out for a cream
tea on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Hugh looks at camera, opens mouth as if to speak,
decides against it. Speaks to Stephen instead.
Hugh: So to you language is more than just a means of
Stephen: Er, of course it is, of course it is, of course it is.
Language is a whore, a mistress, a wife, a pen-
friend, a check-out girl, a complimentary moist
lemon-scented cleansing square or handy freshen-
up wipette. Language is the breath of God, the
dew on a fresh apple, it’s the soft rain of dust
that falls into a shaft of morning sun when you
pull from an old bookshelf a forgotten volume of
erotic diaries; language is the faint scent of urine
on a pair of boxer shorts, it’s a half-remembered
childhood birthday party, a creak on the stair, a
spluttering match held to a frosted pane, the warm
wet, trusting touch of a leaking nappy, the hulk
of a charred Panzer, the underside of a granite
boulder, the first downy growth on the upper lip of
a Mediterranean girl, cobwebs long since overrun
by an old Wellington boot.
As enjoyable as it is to read, it’s a thousand times better to see and hear (just seeing Fry trying desperately not to burst out laughing is worth the price of admission); fortunately, in the age of YouTube, you can do just that, either here or at the post from Lemuel Kolkava’s non-nihilist “blog about nothing” Deleted by Tomorrow, where I discovered it.