Saturday 28 January 2012

If Canute couldn't hold back change I've no Chance!

Not the post I intended but the 'two times' clowns have got to me. The lady giving the motoring news on Ken Bruce's Show on the radio announces a person was a 'two time' winner. Bob Wharman, presenter on the ITV Tonight programme, old enough to know better announces an event happened 'two times'. Sloppy, infantile, clumsy, strange, unnecessary, inappropriate choice of words. Whatever happened to the word TWICE for goodness sake. Where did the word TWICE go, when did it go and why. I honestly would love someone to tell me. Come on, any experts out there. (As a matter of interest, am I the only one whose noticed, or is it just another sign I'm cracking up, so to speak!) The following short story I wrote when I first became aware of the problem a year or two back. My apologies if I've used it 'two times' before! Just another sign the slide into oblivion becomes ever closer!

“If things were to be done twice, all would be wise.” G Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs, 1640

                                                                       Two’s Company

    Horacio lay on his bed in the Royal Kingswood Psychiatric Hospital, formally the Royal Derby and District Asylum, idly contemplating the fates that had contrived to incarcerate him in so fine an institution.
There was no history of mental instability in the family, at least not massively so. True, Cousin Walter had been thought of as eccentric, with a predisposition towards silk dresses, chiffon and lipstick. Plus Cousin Elsie was banned from the local park for nude sunbathing at eighty years of age, which amused the locals but frightened the ducks! But Horacio was the first to be an involuntary patient in the aforesaid establishment.
He smiled at the irony of being first at anything. Second, yes, he was definitely a number two person, that was the problem. Where had it all begun?
    Born at two am on the second of February 1922, Horacio was the second son of George and Clara Smith.
    The family lived at number two South Street, in a two up and two down cottage between two shops. His childhood was uneventful, though his mother often recalled his tantrums when negotiating the tribulations associated with children during the ‘terrible twos’.
    He had a special friend, George from his days in junior school, standard two, but tended not to associate with other children besides George, believing from an early age the maxim, ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd’. There were no two ways about it. Horacio and George were like two peas in a pod.
    At the local secondary school he enjoyed both football, as a full back, shirt number two, and also cricket, coming in to bat at number two. “Too right, two strings to my bow, works wonders,” thought Horacio.
Academically average, Horacio left school having gained a pass level in two minor subjects and joined Toogood the Tailors. He enjoyed the work, selling more Tootle and Double Two shirts than any other trainee. “What a pity they don’t sell tutu’s too,” Horacio thought to himself when praised for his salesmanship. Horacio could also be lackadaisical, though any attempt to jolly him into extra effort resulted in the muttered retort, “I can’t be in two places at once!” Nevertheless Horacio was happy at Toogoods and life was good, but not without its problems.
    Though it never occurred to Horacio that there was a problem at all. True, he caught a number twenty-two bus to work when a number nineteen passed the shop doorway and ran more frequently. Never mind the extra half-mile he had to walk to a number twenty-two bus stop. Plus the time taken waiting for a double-decker twenty-two bus. “Too bad,” Horacio used to say to himself.
    And Horacio would probably have continued his mundane, unobtrusive, happy existence had it not been for a strange inexplicable quirk on the part of the media that sent him over the top, so to speak. There’s no two ways about it! Horacio noticed that the word twice had inexplicably disappeared from the English language. The radio announced the Wimbledon Champion as a two-time winner. The local newspaper reported that Donald Peers was appearing two times nightly at the Hippodrome. Food evidently cost two times as much as three years previously. Runners ran two times round tracks and men were apparently two times more likely to die before retirement than women. The effect on Horacio was catastrophic. Too afraid to read the newspapers or listen to the radio, lest the deterioration of the language be too fearful even to contemplate, Horatio sank into a veritable pit of despair. It was all too much.
    The ever-indefatigable George persuaded Horatio to visit his doctor. The doctor was sympathetic, prescribing antidepressants and sending Horacio for two blood-tests. “Take two tablets twice a day and come back and see me in two weeks,” he had said. Two days later Horacio visited his local library and spent the entire morning surreptitiously tearing out all the page twos he could find from the books in the reference section. Ejected from the library, he made his way to the local supermarket. Two hours after his library escapade he was again apprehended, by two shop assistants. This time lining up all manner of produce in twos up and down the shop isles: two tins of beans, two loaves, two cabbages, two pumpkins, two bottles of lemonade, the pairings were endless. Only this time events took a sinister turn when the shop assistants were threatened with violence by an extremely excitable Horacio.
    “I’ll fetch my shotgun and shoot you both,” Horacio announced, “dead easy to do, it’s a double barrel.”
Which is why Horacio resided in the Royal Kingswood, having been overpowered by two policemen, certified by two doctors and carted off, so to speak, by two men in white coats.
    The resident psychologist at the Royal Kingswood had studied many unusual individuals. But he recognised Horacio was that little bit special, even measured amongst those who thought they were Napoleon, Jesus Christ or giant rabbits incarcerated in the confines of The Royal Kingswood.
    Two days after his committal the psychologist took Horacio into room two on the second floor.
    “Hi, I’m Doctor Russell. We are going to do an experiment, you and I,” he announced in his best patient friendly voice designed to put Horacio at ease. “Yours is a very interesting case.”
    “Too true,” thought Horacio.
    Dr Russell produced a number of cards, several, definitely more than two!
    “Now I want you to look at these cards, in your own time and tell me what they suggest to you.” The psychologist had used the cards many times in his illustrious career. Called Rorschach Cards, known to lesser mortals as the Inkblot Cards, they are meant to capture the unconscious thoughts of participating victims. The psychologist handed Horacio the first card.
    “In your own time.” He invited a response. Horacio studied the inkblot thoughtfully.
    “A car, my favourite car. Yes definitely a Deux Chevaux.”
    He handed Horacio a second card.
    “A bike. A tandem. Riding in the country with George on our tandem.” Horacio’s answer was immediately forthcoming. Dr Russell made no comment and showed no emotion.
    “Food, tea, biscuits, cream cakes.” The psychologist raised an eyebrow at Horacio’s answer to card number three. A possible change of direction, perhaps?
    “Tea for two and two for tea.” Horacio destroyed the illusion almost before it had begun.
    “Ireland, my favourite place.” Doctor Russell made no presumptions as to Horacio’s response to card number four. He was a fast learner.
    “Visiting Twomileborris, Two Mile Bridge and Toomore with George. In a two berth caravan on a two week holiday.” Dr Russell betrayed a nervous twitch in his left eye.
    The response to card number five was instant. “The Bible, definitely the Bible. It’s the animals in the Ark, Noah’s Ark.” Horacio needed no prompting.
    “As if,” thought Dr Russell somewhat unprofessionally.
    “There went in two and two unto Noah.” Horacio demonstrated his Biblical knowledge. Dr Russell demonstrated his inability to control a tendency to sweat as well as to twitch.
     “My favourite dance. The Tango.” Dr Russell’s eyes glazed as he contemplated the answer to number six.
Dr Russell steeled himself for the inevitable.
“It takes two to tango.” The psychologist’s body language suggested someone who was decidedly unwell.
    He tried one last card. Horacio for once reacted with indecision.
“My favourite song, ‘Two coins in a fountain’.” The psychologist broke the golden rule of Rorschach card testing. No comment and no involvement by the tester.
Dr Russell looked nervously at Horacio. “Surely it’s ‘Three coins in a fountain?’”
    “Not in my fountain it’s not!” Horacio’s withering look contemptuously dismissed the psychologist’s apparent lack of musical expertise. Not that Dr Russell noticed. He had gone for a lie down in a suitably darkened room!
    A panel was appointed to decide Horacio’s fate, so to speak. The panel debated the pros and cons of two possible treatments for the enigmatic Horacio.
    Both Lobotomy and Electric Shock Treatment (ECT) had supporters on the panel as well as detractors. The former involving surgical invasion of the brain, a procedure guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes. The latter using electrodes attached to the head in order to pass electricity through the brain. Two shocking alternatives, awesome choices indeed! The panel was in two minds but the ECT won by a short head, in this case, Horatio’s.
    Two sessions took place, both at two o’clock, two days apart. The treatment went well. Horacio had no memory whatsoever of life prior to his treatment.
George walked down the ward past the notice ‘Psychiatric Ward Rules. Strictly Only One Visitor At A Time.’ Something puzzled George but what he wasn’t sure.
Horacio was a good friend and one good turn deserved another.
Horacio saw him coming and put down the story by H G Well’s, ‘In the Country of the Blind the One Eyed Man is King.’
“How are you, my friend?” enquired George.
“Fine,” answered Horacio. “I really think my problems were a one off.”
“How’s that?” enquired the ever solicitous George
“Because I’m cured of the curse of the twos,” exclaimed Horacio.
    “One knows when one’s not ones self. And one knows when one’s cured. One way and another life can only get better. And that’s one in the eye for modern medicine.
    ''As soon as I’m out of here we’ll go riding in the country yet again.”
    “But I’ve sold the tandem,” stuttered George.
 “Don’t be silly,” said Horacio fondly. “What would we want a tandem for?”  “I’ve put an order in for two unicycles!”


Harlow said...

Once is still used for one time. Thrice has long disappeared for three times. Twice for two-times is still on the cusp. I think nonce is a word but if so I've forgotten what it means. No times perhaps?

VioletSky said...

I have noticed the decline of twice. there is a certain poetry to the words 'twice' and 'thrice' (and also to 'double' and 'treble') that 'two times' will never achieve.

CWMartin said...

Certainly an entertaining story. The problem is probably budget cuts in education- dropping the teaching of two phrases for the same thing, eh? Soon a thesarus will be just another extinct dinosaur, replaced by the "urban dictionary".

Andy said...

I read this twice and enjoyed it both times...........

Gill - That British Woman said...

interesting post, never thought of that.

Gill in Canada

Nota Bene said...

Twice as good as anything else I've read this morning

rhymeswithplague said...

Great story. May we expect one now on Dick Whittington, the fellow who was three times Lord Mayor of London?