Thursday, June 01, 2006

Nevertheless

Reading the Muriel Spark obituaries I came across a passage from her autobiography Curriculum Vitae which struck me at the time I read it but which I had since forgotten. Writing about her formative years in Edinburgh she remembers:
My whole education, in and out of school, seemed to pivot around the word "nevertheless". My teachers used it a great deal. All grades of society constructed sentences bridged by "nevertheless"...I can see the lips of tough elderly women in musquash coats taking tea at McVitie's, enunciating the word of final justification...I find that much of my literary composition is based on the nevertheless idea.

And this in turn reminded me of a passage I thought I'd read years ago in a book by Alastair Reid, Whereabouts: Notes on being a Foreigner. In my memory it was long reflection on the word "nevertheless", but looking at the book again, all I can find is this:
Nevertheless (a favourite Scottish qualification), places embody a consensus of attitudes;...

It's the Caledonian antisyzygy, the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, the fur coat and nae knickers image summed up in one word.
So, go on, what's the best one-word qualification of your national character?

6 comments:

Ms Mac said...

I suspect you're a bit obsessed with no
knickers today.

deborah said...

I don't think I have ever said the word 'nevertheless' outloud. But I said it in Spanish today, sin embargo .....

and I had to look up syzygy, as well as the meaning, the dictionary very kindly came up with : Syzygy is the shortest English word with three y's. Which made me idly wonder what the longest was.

Now I have to figure out antisyzygy ....

Lesley said...

Deborah: I think the phrase "Caledonian antisyzygy" was coined by Hugh MacDairmid. It's rahter hackneyed sin embargo I quite like the sound of it.

Lesley said...

Ms Mac: so you noticed. I took your lack of response for a "yes" by the way.

Dick said...

We're not going to improve on 'nevertheless'. What a delightful find. Thanks for that.

Lesley said...

Dick: I'm certainly trying to use it more often, both as a word and as a lifestyle.