Daily Archives: September 14, 2011

Worse than a Clown: How to Metamorphose like Marcel Marceau

If you’re brave enough, or perhaps foolish enough, you might one day venture across the seas to a faraway land with little grasp of the native language and attempt to teach them your own peculiarly nuanced interpretation of your own native tongue.

Your first task, learning to simplify your natural language, to slow it down, to enunciate and avoid slang at all costs is something you expect to do. Thinking about how to describe things in the simplest terms possible will come soon after.

These developments you might consider only natural. After all you’ve experienced someone doing this for you first hand, though you don’t remember it. We all do it for young children, we break down our speech into smaller and smaller fragments, reducing an idea to its core meaning, into a single phrase to make it that much simpler to grasp. It feels only natural to do it for the incredibly young; it feels rather patronizing (though often entirely necessary) to do so for adults.

So you get used to this process, over time you begin to get more skillful at distilling ideas, getting to the bare bones of it all. But there will come a point when you realise it’s gone too far. You’ve begun to warp out of shape.

Specifically into the shape of random adjectives, verbs and abstract concepts galore. You’ve boiled beauty and ugly down into silly faces and you’ve taken moral grey areas and difficult definitions and dragged them kicking and screaming into the black and white.

On a side note: thank you to Tiger Woods for providing the distinction between, ‘shame’ and ‘embarrassment.’ Alas the Japanese only have one word for the two concepts, but you’ve cleared it right up for them. 

You kinda thought you’d turn into a clown working with kids, but this is worse. You see, most of the time you’re not even an actor. That sordid career choice you could live with. No, this horror is different; it has crept up on you and encased you in an invisible box that no one else can see or appreciate (well maybe the French). You’re pawing at the walls, a desperate look painted on your pale face as you scream the words in silence…