Last fall, my children and I listened to the entire Roald Dahl CD library. It is the only thing that has made being in the car with those two whizzpoppers tolerable. An hour's drive to hockey practice where I once wanted to tape pucks over my ears like a pathetic Princess Leia searching for silence during an NHL Brawl, became an hour of silence, except for the serene and wise British voice reading great literature to my progeny.
It was like hiring a tutor without the pricey, hourly fee.
During the audiobook of "The BFG," read by the incomparable late Natasha Richardson, something wonderful happened. All of the amazing words, the entirely new and fabulous language that Dahl invented, came back to me! I remembered reading that book for the first time and falling in love with the sheer fun of expression.
"Don't gobblefunk around with words," the Big Friendly Giant tells Sophie, and therein lies the joke: Roald Dahl is king of gobblefunk. If Monty Python has the Ministry of Silly Walks, then Dahl has of the Ministry of Silly Words. But I couldn't stop thinking of the BFG's admonishment. What did it mean? The whole book is a gobblefunk and that's what makes it magical. And then something occurred to me. Maybe it's not the BFG who's gobblefunking around with words, it's Sophie, the young girl who speaks English perfectly! In this book, maybe Dahl is saying that the BFG's language is superior. That it is richer, more descriptive, a phonetic fun house, while the Queen's English is limiting, boring, unimaginative. To speak English is to gobblefunk around with words.
Whew! I feel like for once I'm on the right side of things - at least in a Dahlian universe. I'm a writer. I LOVE gobblefunking around with words. It's what I do. I have a silly name for every single person and animal I know. Yes, including you. I sing silly songs and write silly poems. Of course, I also sing Edith Piaf and do very, very serious journaling. I believe in the power of words - both silly and "real," their ability to heal, to release emotion, to solve conflict. Maybe Roald Dahl's silly words and my silly words aren't so silly after all.
Maybe there's a time and a place to gobblefunk. I don't, after all, want the president of my country to gobblefunk around with words. I don't want him to gobblefunk on Twitter or to People Magazine. I don't want him to gobblefunk with the president of China or Vladimir Putin. I want him to think about his words before he says them. To weigh each of them on a tiny word scale and when they reach a healthy ounce of compassion and intelligence, to send them off like beacons to the country he serves.
The BFG, who struggled with words, getting them all jumbly proclaimed that words "is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me all my life.” Is our President a BFG for the modern age? A BFC - or Big Fucking Cofeve, if you will? Is he a man unequipped to wield the power of words, limited by mental capacity and a giant-sized ego, or is he the shrewdest of them all, a giant from the land of monsters, who somehow made his way into the palace to sit at the table, gobblefunking his words in the savviest and most terrible of ways?
"Don't gobblefunk around with words," wrote Roald Dahl, king of the gobblefunk.
"With great gobblefunk comes great responsibility," wrote Tarja Parssinen, fan of gobblefunking.
Here's to the beauty, joy, and exuberance of words.