A Clockwork Orange

Randy Alexander strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 2 07:29:35 UTC 2012

I finally found some time to read A Clockwork Orange, having wanted to for
some time, and having seen the movie many times over the decades (it's one
of my top five favorite movies).

One thing I discovered was that my interpretation of the title, though
quite vague, was completely off.  I'd always taken it to have a very
strange grammatical structure, with "orange" being a post-head modifier, a
bit like "red" in "code red".  I had never been able to give the title real
meaning, and assumed it was just a surreal group of words.

I don't know why, but it never occurred to me that "clockwork" should
modify "orange", maybe because having something so organic be made out of
something so inorganic seems to make it semantically empty, I don't know,
but I was very surprised to discover in the book that it describes an
orange made out of clockwork.  I was equally surprised in discovering that
Kubrick had completely ignored this concept in his movie.  It would have
only taken a few seconds of monologue to explain it.

With this new knowledge, it still bothered me that I had always known the
book and movie as "A Clockwork *Orange*", and not "A *Clockwork* Orange" --
the accent should be on the modifier.  Was this because I had heard it that

In this short documentary on the making of the movie, the title is
mentioned several times:


The first couple times the title is mentioned, it's not so clearly one way
or the other, but later:


it's very clearly accented on "orange".

Randy Alexander
Xiamen, China
Manchu studies: http://www.sinoglot.com/manchu
Chinese characters: http://www.sinoglot.com/yuwen
Language in China (group blog): http://www.sinoglot.com/blog

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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