Thursday, July 27, 2006

Happy birthday, GBS ...

... Vikram Johri reminds me that yesterday was the 150th anniversary of George Bernard Shaw's birth. And he sends along this: Artist of the impossible. The author of that piece, Sunder Katwala, is general secretary of the Fabian Society. I didn't realize the Fabians still existed. How quaint.
Vikram also sends along this note: "As part of his argument for phonetic spelling, Bernard Shaw was fond of pointing out that 'fish' could reasonably be spelt 'ghoti' - gh as in trough, o as in women, ti as in station."
As it happens I did know this, but it's worth mentioning because it is a wonderful example of how an excess of reason can lead to absurdity. I have a fondness, not only for English orthography, but, like Auden, for irregular sytems of measurement. I'll take inches and ells over centimenters and liters any day.
Shaw is a wonderful example of how genuinely silly a highly intelligent man can manage to become, fond of dictators and fads, a proto health puritan living long enough to finally yearn for death. I think it wonderfuly ironic that his most lasting play has proved to be the one in which ideology gets least in the way: Pygmalion.

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