Thirty-Six: Can Octopi Even Drool?

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04.10: Gravity’s Rainbow

In which we begin Book Two of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow with a look at the first two sections.

2 thoughts on “Thirty-Six: Can Octopi Even Drool?

  1. In the latest episode I heard you mention Slothrop’s odd verbal constructions with “that”. I had noticed those phrases also, as well as similar constructions in several other Pynchon books.

    I had wondered if it was meant as a (faux-)colloquialism related to the “‘at contraction” that Pynchon characters often use:

    Vineland
    (p. ?, from Google Books)
    “tryin to keep ‘at old unionkid cherry for your daddy”

    I also found a discussion of this construction (called “affective demonstratives”) on the linguistics blog Language Log (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=674 ), where in the midst of a post mostly about Sarah Palin’s English, they note

    “[SIde note #1: Though I’ve never tried to verify this impression by counting, I believe that there’s a rich vein of affective demonstratives in Thomas Pynchon’s interior monologues. Thus from Gravity’s Rainbow (p. 21 of the 1995 Penguin edition):

    This morning in his IN basket were order sending him TDY some hospital out in the East End. No explanation beyond an attached copy of a note to ACHTUNG requesting his reassignment “as part of the P.W.E. Testing Programme.” Testing? P.W.E. is Political Warfare Executive, he looked that up. Some more of *that Minnesota Multiphasic shit*, no doubt. But it will be a change from *this rocket-hunting routine*, which is beginning to get a little old.”

    Language Log follows a definition from the Oxford English Dictionary for *that* as a demonstrative adjective:
    “b. Indicating a person or thing assumed to be known, or to be known to be such as is stated. Often (esp. before a person’s name …) implying censure, dislike, or scorn; but sometimes commendation or admiration. Freq. standing before a noun or noun-phrase in apposition with another.”

    Anyways, just wanted to pass this along. Pynchon does seem to use these affective demonstratives as colloqualisms in a manner mostly consistent with Language Log’s analysis (censure/dislike/scorn in the 2 GR references). Like Chris was saying, I think that Slothrop’s use of this phrasing is another way of marking him as preterite, somewhat like Palin was intending to do in the 2008 election.

    Really enjoy the podcast, keep up the great work!

    -Aaron

    1. Thanks for this, Aaron. It’s really interesting and certainly adding to understanding some of the novel’s phrasings.

      And thanks for listening!!

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