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  • Gail Wilson Kenna

Transmangling the English Language

Edna O'Brien in the 1986 epilogue to her trilogy, The Country Girls, uses "transmangling" to describe American use of English. O'Brien's surviving protagonist, Baba Brennan, declares that a scroll of the King James Bible should be put in microchip to get Americans to utter a reasonable sentence. This quip from Edna and Baba was voiced over thirty years before King Donald began his reign. The wry comment initially was not religious in meaning; it was about a microchip in the brain that might give access to melodious, fluent prose. In case anyone has forgotten, that was the level of speech we enjoyed for eight years under President Obama. And his use of the English language momentarily lessened the mockery in the British Isles about American English. Furthermore, I will assume the graceful, elegant Obama would share Edna O'Brien's love of language, appreciate her delight in word play, and her infusion of an Irish word like eejit into her brilliant prose.

Need I state the obvious? Since 2017, a veritable eejit (mentally and morally speaking) has occupied the White House and badly infected American English. Yet the microchip needed for King Donald must include L and M: language and morality. Would that our current U.S. President were a tippler, drunken daily on port and ale, rather than splifficated on lies, and hourly regurgitating false and moronic tweets, as if his head and heart lack any channel for truthful words. And when we see King Donald in the flesh? What might be said about his streelish appearance: the long black, flapping coat, the unbuttoned suit jacket, the ever-clapping, congratulatory hands before his bloated body and plasticated hair?

When Edna O'Brien celebrates her 90th birthday on December 15th, 2020, may the eejit and transmangler have lost the election, find himself banjaxed, and join other brigands behind bars.

This is my Irish blessing for our King of the Day on Monday. And thanks to James Joyce for renaming the days of the week, beginning with Moansday.

Next week: Light in Evening, O'Brien's 2006 novel, written twenty years after Edna added her epilogue to The Country Girls, and following other fine novels like Wild December.

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