Chiennage, a literal response, is cast aside,
its laziness the thin end of the wedge, reminder
that the Anglophones are twenty miles across
the ruffled sleeve of water, typing into blogues
and laughing in their pockets at le yé-yé, snide
and covetous and lacking in élan. They ponder
whether poetry would work, consider coarse
equivalents – attroupement de rut, though stags
are cheapened by comparison with sleazy
rosbifs blundering priapically in leisurewear.
Dehorgie is a possibility, a cut-and-shut creation
with a pleasing wit. Etranger-plonger – smirks
from younger duffers round the room – easy
on the ear but too contrived. Onomatopoeia
puts its hand up after momentary hesitation,
volunteers ouambam. Chairman says it doesn’t work
for him, and dingue-dongue, shique-shaque, fouhaha
make shagging in a layby sound okay.
Someone mentions gender – masculin ou feminin? –
and that’s enough to force adjournment for the day.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2011. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2011 was Roddy Lumsden.
This poem, which I found in the long-running and unconventional London little magazine Rising, manages to be both funny and clever. And a bit naughty too. It plays on the French authorities’ desire for a purer French without adopted words. The loose metre and rhyme scheme make it a sort of sonnet-and-a-half.
First, I should say that this poem has nothing to do with dogging. It’s an admittedly light piece about the ludicrous idea of having a Committee regulate a national vocabulary. I don’t feel our language can be controlled by convention and absolute definition – it will change over time, and poetry should reflect that. I picked ‘dogging’ as a word for the Académie Française to look into as it seemed a uniquely British invention (though I haven’t done any research to confirm this). Despite satirising the attempted formalization of language, the poem itself is quite formal. The French words I invented would never get past the real Académie Française, but I doubt that this poem will appear on their radar, so I should be okay. The poem first appeared in Tim Wells’ sharp and sassy Rising magazine (the Sniffin’ Glue of poetry), and also on Martin Parker’s Lighten Up Online website. Thanks to both for publishing it.