Re: What's that spell?

Miles Z. Archer (webmaster@BRIGHT-IDEA.COM)
Wed, 12 Feb 1997 14:05:55 +0000

Bill Ehrhart ended his posting with the tongue-in-cheek: "Right on! Far
out! Groovy! Can you dig it?"

Interestingly enough, I believe that the dearth of 60's fictional
literature, and 60's based films, is rooted in that very language.

I believe that, to date, we are still close enough to the 60's that we
wince when we hear it's argot. It sounds old, tired, warn, passe,
creepy, or cliche. Pick one.

To our ears "groovy" does not sound like the legitimate word it once
was. It sounds like a parody. In the 60's the word "fuck" was used as
a means of liberating taboos on language and its liberal use (ranging
from "Fuckin' A", to "I'm so fucking tired", to "Fuck the system") was
part of a total assault on the remnants of our "uptight" Puritan ethos
(and no one used it to better effect than our good friend Country
Joe!). Now we tend to look at someone whose speech is peppered with
"fuck this" or "fuck that" as uncouth or crass. We even take great
pains to explain to our kids that certain "dirty" words are socially

Since fiction, both written and filmed, relies on dialogue, the
vernacular of the 60's posses a great dilemma for both the writer and
the reader/viewer.

For the author the question is, "Do I risk my character sounding
cartoonish, or do I try to convey the personality of the character, and
of the time, without including the language, which is an essential
element to understanding both." For the reader/viewer the challenge is,
"Can I hear this language as anything other than a parody? Are the
words being used leading me to be dismissive of these characters and to
not take them nor their situations seriously?

It seems to me that this enigma might very well lead authors to find
other times and topics to write about. Finding material that does not
fall prey to this obstacle may also be why publishers/producers have not
embraced the 60's.

Will the passage of time dull the reactive wince to "groovy", or "right
on", thereby making the era acceptable? Who knows?

I would be very interested to hear the opinions of others -- especially
those writers who have tried, or are trying, their hand at 60's fiction.

Miles Archer