“It is told in sounds,” Joyce says, “in polygluttural, in each auxiliary neutral idiom…and anythongue athall” (Finnegans Wake, 117).
“– Is it so exaltated, eximious, extraoldanddairy and excelssiorising?
– Amengst menlike trees walking or trees like angels weeping nobirdy aviar soar anywing to eagle it!” (Finnegans Wake, 505).
Here Joyce takes a common, neutral cliché, defrocked by virtue of its clichéd repetition (nobody ever saw anything to equal it), and gives it wings so it can take off again, renewed, refreshed. “Poetry is the foundation of writing,” Beckett says. “When language consisted of gesture, the spoken and the written were identical” (Exagmination, 11).
Just so, Thoreau, a monk amongst trees, delights in the poetry found in sounds and tries to locate the sounds in human language, and we see him building the foundation for his own writing. An example of this is found in the “Sounds” chapter of Walden.
Thoreau has heard a hooting owl, to him a “melancholy sound,” and tries to imitate the owl’s sound: “I find myself beginning with the letters gl when I try to imitate it.” And in the passage, he repeats the gl letters so that the reader, if reading for sounds, must hear his meaning: “gurgling melodiousness…,” “gelatinous mildewy stage….” “It reminded me of ghouls…howlings” (118), this last, the gl inverted. And we thus find Thoreau a polyglot at work, in at least two languages, the language of nature and the language of the human, and the combination of the two might be what Joyce meant, repeating Thoreau’s gl, by “polygluttural,” the mouth flooded with the sounds of nature.
Par for the course has changed, and Finnegans today must hit from tees so far away they can’t see the green, let alone the flag. They move to the park, where the fruit rusts, but the green is real. In Finnegans Wake (1939), Joyce juxtaposes Wall Street with Phoenix Park, foreshadowing Occupy Wall Street:
“The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner
ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy.” (para. 3)
Off the wall, Wall Street, in Finnegan’s retail-priced nighttime view, fall the archetypal financial partners, the “oldparr,” finding themselves now in dire straits, closed streets. The short notice is the layoff, the cancelled contract, down the shoot, out to the park. The fat egg Humpty Dumpty is enjoying a baseball game when he gets the news. A ball is knocked out of the park, and Humpty, once a solid egg, looks to the West for an answer, but is hit in the head and knocked out. The rest is a dream.
Whenever challenged with words unknown we go first to the OED then to Finnegans Wake. We did so this morning looking for meep, following yet another Language Log thread. We found meep in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, on page 276, in footnote number 4:
“Parley vows the Askinwhose? I do, Ida. And how to call the cattle black. Moopetsi meepotsi.”
A meep, then, is a calf, and a moop, the calf’s mom.
The moral of me epistle can be found in today’s Boston Globe, where the principal barning the word learns who abuses meep, steps in moop, for the pot (principal), trying to silence the kettles (students) back, starts them whistling, creating a word stampede:
“That was the first joke of Willingdone, tic for tac. Hee, hee, hee! This is me Belchum in his twelvemile cowchooks, weet, tweet and stampforth foremost, footing the camp for the jinnies. Drink a sip, drankasup, for he’s as sooner buy a guinness than he’d stale store stout” (p. 9).
Let the peeps meep, for as Robert Frost said, “…there must something wrong / In wanting to silence any song” (“A Minor Bird”).