wordsmiths

Tyre is the coolest word in England. If they were going to use a y to signify the sound of a long i, why not spell it fyre or dyre or conspyre? But, no, they all use i-consonant-e. Furthermore, if y supposedly always made the long i sound to begin with, why put an e at the end? Isn't that kind of redundant?

Jono rolled his eyes when I explained my obsession with the word. "It's just a bloody spelling anomally. People being too lazy to change a medieval spelling. Just shut up already!"

We were in the common room of our dorm, on the main floor. The dorm itself was extremely narrow-- probably just eighteen feet across and twenty deep with four bedrooms and a bathroom crammed in the top two floors. The common area was just big enough for a kitchenette, a table, and a couch. Believe it or not, we were the lucky ones. It was a good thing that the four of us got along or else there would have been homicide within a week.

"It's just interesting how words change." I shrugged, going back to chewing on my pen and conjugating French verbs.

"What about fag?" Joel put in, looking up from his copy of Milton. "Why does fag mean homosexual in North American but it means a cigarette here?"

"Or faggot," added Mira, her face hidden behind a scary pre-med monstrosity of a textbook. "Isn't a faggot supposed to be a bundle of sticks? What does that have to do with being gay?"

"Ask Joel." Jono nodded his head and his beer bottle at the guy beside him. "What does a bundle of sticks have to do with being gay, mate?"

Joel snorted. "I don't know, babe, but once I do, I guarantee I'll be giving you a lesson."

"So you keep saying." Pushing an artfully tousled lock from his eyes, Jono flicked away some crocodile tears. "Tease."

Mira pouted. "No fair. You just like him because he's a guy."

"That's usually the case with us flaming homos, dear." Joel reached over to pat Mira's hand.

"I wouldn't say you're flaming." Leaning back, I bit a finger and squinted. "You're more left of flaming. A fireplace flame, not a big bonfire flame."

"A Zippo lighter," was Jono's contribution. "You don't wear make-up or frocks."

Mira smacked his arm. "Don't be cruel. I think you're more a sparkler actually, Joel."

"He has better clothes and can walk better in heels than me," I pointed out. "That calls for more than a sparkler."

"That's more your problem," said Joel pointing an accusatory finger at my nose. "I swear, woman, I've got to take you shopping. I don't care if you absorb half of London, you cannot go on for the rest of your friendship with me looking like a hag."

Mira and Jono just went into peals of laughter at that.

The four of us becoming friends was a complete fluke. We were like the four cardinal directions. Listing the differences would take too long. There were really only two things we had in common; a deep respect for the band, Rhadasquat and the ability to turn every conversation into something with sexual connotations.

As soon as I moved in, I decided to let my roomies know about my power. I don't know if I was being practical or just trying to get the pain over with as soon as possible. The first night there, I told them in as much detail as possible (without implicating the X-Men of course) how my powers worked. Then I sat back, aching to run to my room in preparation for a lynching.

"Saran wrap," said Joel.

That came out of left field. "What?"

"Saran wrap," he repeated. "Cling film to you Brits. If you had a body suit made of cling film, you'd still be able to get it on without hurting anyone, right?"

Mira shook her head. "But right in the middle of everything, you'd be sweating like a pig. That's just disgusting. Not to mention smelly once she takes the suit off."

"What if we just used bits and pieces of cling film?" Jonothan tapped his cheek thoughtfully. "That might actually be a bit interesting."

"You can actually stand to do that?" Mira looked at him. Scornfully or doubtfully, I'm not sure. "Liar."

Jono shrugged. "It was a thought."

"Does that mean you know what sex is like as a man now?" Joel asked.

I blinked, nonplussed. "Uh, I guess. I try to turn that part off."

"What a bloody waste." Jono stuck a cigarette in his mouth. "If I had a girl running around in my head, I'd milk the information for as much as it was worth."

"Now silk," Mira continued as though no one else had spoken. "I think we can definitely do places with a full catsuit made of silk."

Joel half-hearted covered a yawn. "Old school. They've been using that one since silk was discovered. We could go for the classic Michelle-Pfeiffer-as-Catwoman look."

His head and hands wagging in disagreement, Jono said, "Vinyl is dead. I'm sticking to my bits of cling film."

Most likely, they were trying to cover up their surprise. I sure as hell expected to wake up to the twilight zone the next day. By now, though, it was little beans. I might as well complain about my hair colour.

Back in the present, I was seriously trying to concentrate on Rousseau but my mind kept straying back to more important subjects.

"What about cunt?" I said suddenly.

"I like 'em, too," replied Jono.

"Like a bloody adaptor, aren't you?" Mira muttered.

"Too hairy, too soft, and smells like bad tuna an hour after you wash 'em," was Joel's contribution.

Using Mira's eraser, I bopped Jono between the eyes. "I meant the word, you asses. Did you know that cunt was a polite term for female genitalia in the fifteenth century?"

"Back to linguistics, are we?" Bending his head closer to his guitar, Jono licked his fingers and tried another chord.

"What made 'cunt' go from a polite word to a bad one?" I closed my text, certain that I wouldn't be able to do anything until this burning question was answered.

"What made bloody go from an extreme expletive to something you use to cover up an extreme expletive?" Mira flipped a page over. "It's in the delivery. Joel doesn't mind that we call him a flaming homosexual, do you Joel?"

"Only if you mean a Zippo flame," replied Joel. "I'd take that as a serious affront. I fully intend to be a Chicago-fire type of gay."

"It's just a word," sighed Jono impatiently. "Words are stupid. They're... they're useless. Practically, anyway."

"Words are essential," argued Joel. Then again, Joel and Jono argue about everything. "Information trade. Literature. Singing." He gave Jono's guitar a pointed nod.

Peering briefly over the image of a the digestive system, Mira said, "Rhadasquat's words are keen."

"They're dumb. Words, not Rhadasquat," Jono hurried to clarify. "I could take any pop lyric for a love song and spout it to the next person who crosses my path. Does that mean I'm sincere?"

"Delivery," Mira insisted. She put her book down this time, not bothering to pretend to study. "Lady Chatterley's Lover. D.H. Lawrence. Uses rather blunt words but are more effective because of it. He uses 'cunt'," she told me.

I made a mental note to read Lady Chatterley's Lover.

"And now no one gives a shit." Jono played a stacatto riff.

"But they banned it for thirty years," said Joel.

"That's in the eye of the reader."

"Delivery, exactly!" Mira pounded her fist on the table. "Dammit, just because I'm a natural blonde, you all bloody ignore me. See if I mention any of you in my Nobel Prize speech, you manky berks."

Jono laughed, going from dour to [happy] in a sneeze. He kissed Mira's forehead. "Yes, madam. You know all. You are all. Why are the prats making you go to school when you can obviously teach them a thing or two."

"Damn nilly, I can."

"So if I use cunt," I said slowly, savouring the word, "but I mean it in a non-confrontational way, it keeps it from being offensive?"

Joel shrugged. "I guess. Like black guys back home calling each other nigger."

"To their parents' horror no doubt," commented Mira. to me, she said, "Use cunt. It'll be like damn or bloody; the more it's used, the less harmful it becomes. Cunt, cunt. cunt, cunt. cunt."

"Or blonde." Joel dropped his book as well. "I'm a blonde, you're a blonde, everyone's a blonde, blonde."

"Yeah!" Mira pounded the table with her fist. "I hereby officially take back the term blonde. From now on, I wear the damned label with pride. I'm a blonde cunt. Jono's a pretty cock, Joel's a--"

"A faggy cock. A faggy Bombay cock." He giggled, looking as if he'd just put a whoopie cushion in the substitute teacher's chair. "My parents would shit bricks if they heard that."

"And I'm the mutie cunt." My smile stretched to my ears. "Let's make buttons!"

"Or a banner." Jono framed an imaginary sign. "Welcome to #5 Briar Terrace, home of the Cunts and Cocks. Leave all political correctness at the door."

"As well as superfluous articles of clothing," added Joel.

"Anything outside of a condom is superfluous to you." That comment garnered me an eraser aimed at my nose. I turned my head and it hit my ear instead, snagging on my earrings. "Ow!"

"I've got a question for you, Miss Language Major. Joel poised to throw another eraser-- where'd he get them all, anyway? Why do all expletives consist of four letters?

It does not. Mira listed words off on her fingers. Fag, git, mutie...

inserted Jono.

Thank you. Mira gave his addition a nod. Gene joke, bitch...

I put a hand on my heart and the other over my mouth. Do you kiss your daddy with a mouth like that?

Jono pursed his lips and pushed a dimple into his chin. Her dad would coo and call her precious, wouldn't he?

Mira only shrugged, smirking.

Monosyllabic then. Joel really wanted to get back on the topic, tapping the table surface with his index and middle fingers. "Why are most of them monosyllabic?"

"It comes off the mouth easier," I said. "In the heat of the moment with your temper popping, how are you supposed to come up with fie upon thee, thou goatish, tardy-gaited pumpion!'"

"Pumpion? Mira and Joel echoed.

"Pumpion." I pronounced each consonant with relish.

Joel's nose wrinkled. "Sounds like something obscene that happened in a garden."

"Right up her boat then," Mira said.

I flipped her the finger.

"So?" Joel looked at us all.

Jono let out a sigh, nibbling a bit on his guitar pick. "Well, it's easier for anyone with half a brain cell to spell when they make hate flyers." He started grunting. "Me hate muties. Me hate queers. Kill veggies."

Mira snorted. "You're an idiot."

"It's true."

"You're an idiot."

"It's true."

"You're still an idiot."

"I can accept that." He went back to plucking at his guitar but not without throwing me a half-hearted glare. "Now you've got Joel going on about words."

"It's interesting." I pressed Rousseau open.

"You're tapped." Jono leaned over to rap his knuckles on my head. "That mutant gene playing havoc with your brain."

Mira swatted Jono's arm several times. "Oh, shut up and go back to your Noel Gallagher imitation. It's slightly less annoying than the real you."

"Smooches love."

We put the sign up the next day.