According to a study by linguists at the University of York, the ‘th’ sound (voiced dental non-sibilant fricative), that vexing English lisp, will have disappeared in London by 2066 as a result of the spread of Multicultural London English.
Thugs will be fugs.
Thought will be fought,
The thickset thug thwacked the throaty theologian’s thorax then throttled theism through the theoretical thought that things, though thunderously threatening, thriftily thrive. Thus the thong, thrust thither, threshing thorny thickets, thwarting thievish Thanatos, threading throngs together, thud, thud, thud…
“I heard a light thud followed by a heavier thud,” Oliver Hull told the coroner. His dad, Rod, had fallen to his death after going to fiddle with the aerial on his roof to improve the sound of the game they were watching (the 1999 Champions League quarterfinal between Manchester United and Inter Milan). The veteran entertainer, who was famous for his double act with a hand puppet called Emu (a mischievously aggressive bird), probably died because of his “habit of placing ladders at too sharp an angle to the wall.”
The word ‘thud’ soothes me, feels like love. It is the sound of a thug thumping you in the face. It is the punch line of a veteran entertainer bowing out of life. It is apples falling to the earth in autumn, pensioners keeling over while vacuuming the living room, the sonic grunt expelled when two (dull, heavy) opposing forces meet.
The ‘th’ sound is rare. According to Wikipedia: “Almost all languages of Europe and Asia, such as German, French, Persian, Japanese, and Mandarin, lack the sound. Native speakers of languages without the sound often have difficulty enunciating or distinguishing it, and they replace it with a voiced alveolar sibilant [z], a voiced dental stop or voiced alveolar stop [d], or a voiced labiodental fricative [v]; known respectively as th-alveolarization, th-stopping, and th-fronting.”
The loss of the ‘th’ sound will be no skin off the nose for English thugs. They have long sidestepped the socially thorny ‘th’ through the blustery art of th-fronting (they proudly catapult their f’s and v’s forth with skilled flicks of the lips). The problem facing English thugs (chavs, geezers, hoodies) is not whether they love their mother or muvver: it is the inferior quality of their thuggery (compared to their Eastern European counterparts).
An acquaintance of mine said she would be scared if she saw a group of Lithuanian thugs (marozai) walking towards her at night; she would avoid eye contact, put her head down and hope for the best. She told me she would cross the street to avoid contact with Polish marozai. Worst of all are Russian marozai: they are so brutal, she said, she would go all the way round the block rather than risk an encounter with them.
Lithuanian thugs can be scary but there is at least a ritualized element to their aggression: violence brews (before a flurry of kicks and punches ensue). Violence for an English thug is tantamount to a fit of hatefulness; it has no ritualistic value or symbolic pretext (the first punch often comes from behind, lunges out of nowhere). In this respect, Emu was an exemplary English thug: the tinselly puppet’s violent behaviour was sociopathy dressed up as light entertainment.
England has always been violent but its violence was in the spirit of a weekend hobby. The violence, though nasty, was roughly commensurate with the culture of exaggerated civility that helped repress it on workdays. It was random (“You looking at me?”) and drunkenly charged. It did not possess the psychopathic edge exhibited today, where hate is emotionally ingrained in the fabric of language, where bitterness and resentfulness have become a normalized response to an imaginary loss of identity and power.
This septic isle is now in the throes of a violent identity crisis, but, in the lingering spirit of Emu, it is euphemistically referred to as Road Rage, Computer Rage and Plane Rage (in short: the Age of Rage) when its plague-like boils pop up. Rage happens in spasmodic outbursts caught on CCTV and referendums on EU membership. It is not a symptom of systematic inequality and emotional estrangement from reality.
The English identity crisis has been going on for decades but it will never resolve itself. Englishness sounds nice, like a fluffy pillow filled with the quills of lakeside poets, but in reality it is more like a Victorian factory where children once worked, which later fell into disuse when the owners relocated to cheaper climes, which then stood empty for decades save for the occasional rave, which was then bought by developers and converted into luxury apartments (helping regenerate a once rundown area and preserve architectural heritage). Words like “freedom” and “values” abound in conjunction with Englishness but they sound hollow and wrong (like a badly clanged gong). Just as a child endlessly writes out their name to practice their signature, Englishness has become a creepily infantile assertion.
Women, in London at least, will be wearing fongs by 2066 (thong comes from the Proto-Germanic Zwang). In Middle English the word ‘fong’ meant to attack someone, molest, seize, snatch: “I’ll fong you!”
It seems appropriate that 2066 will herald a linguistic return to the Middle Ages. There will be many fongs, much fudding.
My ladder stands at a sharp angle to the wall.
I never believed in Rod.
I will ascend to the 9th of the 12 rungs.
Where thongs are things in themselves.
Where fugs fong.
Fink on it.
Sharp, angular fug.
Kids on bikes will be heads on pikes.
Things atop each other.
Queens in thongs
Made of palm fronds.
Kings in a fug.
Anything to quiet this thudding heart.