Great Britain is different than the United States. I lived there for a year, doing a M.A. degree in Science Fiction Studies at the University of Liverpool, but it’s been over a decade, and I’ve forgotten things.
“All I ask is that Vincent Prague be remembered as the corniest asshole in literature,” I said to my audience by way of preface. The lighting crew had set up chairs in Wordsworth’s bedroom and there were about 100 people crowded together, sitting and standing. A few people sat on other people’s laps, and there were a number of children. More babies than I can ever remember at a reading of mine. Nobody cried, though.
The audience didn’t understand my assertion. They had expected me to read a poem – I had promised a Pride & Prejudice & Zombies version of The Prelude – but I figured since the purpose of the Zero Degree of Meaning Tour is to promote Codename Prague I might as well say something about it.
I changed asshole to wanker: “All I ask is that Vincent Prague be remembered as the corniest wanker in literature.” This garnered more acclaim, but I still detected a considerable degree of confusion. I suspect the audience didn’t like the juxtaposition of corniest with wanker. They may not have known what corny meant. Full of corn? I was unsure of its etymology.
According to the OED, corny means any of the following: “Of or pertaining to corn . . . As grain or meal . . . Of such a type as appeals to country-folk; rustic or unsophisticated . . . Of ale? . . . Abounding in grains of corn . . . Intoxicated, tipsy.” It says nothing about humor, bad or otherwise, or a lack of savoir-faire and stylishness. I prefer the Urban Dictionary’s definitions: “Trying to be cool, but ultimately very uncool indeed, and often even extremely embarrassing.” First definition. Others include: “Something presented as fresh or original, which is actually tired and/or lame, especially when its lameness derives from being obvious or done to death . . . Really stupid, or using ironic situations . . . Obviously stupid. Usually enacted by people who are desperate for attention . . . Achieved when something picks up old and overused fads just to ‘fit in,’ falsely believes it is cool, and then takes itself too seriously, resulting in a complete destruction of its social life [most accurate definition re Vincent Prague] . . . Stupid to the point that may cause laughter . . . George Lopez.”
As always, the Urban Dictionary speaks more pointedly to us twenty-first century hipsters. Death to antiquarians.
Third time’s an alarm. I changed corniest to dumbest: “All I ask is that Vincent Prague be remembered as the dumbest wanker in literature, ever.” But Vincent Prague isn’t dumb. He isn’t a wanker either. He’s an asshole. A corny asshole. Nobody beats him . . .