A Clockwork Orange

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 3 05:28:54 UTC 2012

Intriguing. Thanks Jeff.

Here is some text extracted from a GB copy of the Listener. It appears
to be Anthony Burgess talking:

The Listener: Volume 87
British Broadcasting Corporation - 1972 - Snippet view
[Extracted text]
In 1945, back from the army, I heard an 80-year-old Cockney in a
London pub say that somebody was 'as queer as a clockwork orange'. The
'queer' did not mean homosexual: it meant mad. The phrase intrigued me
with its unlikely fusion of demotic and surrealistic. For nearly
twenty years I wanted to use it as the title of something. During
those twenty years I heard it several times more - in Underground
stations, in pubs, in television plays - but always from aged
Cockneys, never from the young.
[End extracted text]

On Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 12:17 AM, Jeff Prucher <jprucher at yahoo.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jeff Prucher <jprucher at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: A Clockwork Orange
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Perhaps also apropos is this entry from Jonathon Green's blog about Burgess, slang, and A Clockwork Orange:
> "The phrase queer as a clockwork orange, which means eccentric or
> bizarre, and can be applied sexually or otherwise, was sourced by
> Anthony Burgess to late World War II when, as a serving soldier, he
> heard it in the mess. I am quite willing to believe him: the phrase is
> cognate with similar slang similes such as queer as a coot, first
> ascribed to his acquaintance Julian McLaren Ross, queer as a three
> dollar bill, queer as duck soup, a coinage of the 1930s and oldest of
> all queer as Dick’s hatband, which seems as impenetrable a construct as
> Burgess’s borrowing and has been recorded in this sense since at least
> 1835 (meaning ‘below par, or ‘out of sorts’ it goes back a further
> half-century). As I say, I wish to believe, but…the problem is that we
> have no proof. Despite the resources of the Internet, and other than in
> scholarly articles that quote Burgess himself, the first recorded
> citation comes as late as 1977, in a glossary appended to a book
> designed to help policemen battle with the contemporary world."
> http://jonathongreen.co.uk/dollops-of-mud-and-demonic-poetry/
> Â
> Jeff Prucher
>> From: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>>Sent: Thursday, August 2, 2012 4:41 PM
>>Subject: Re: A Clockwork Orange
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>>Sender:Â  Â  Â Â Â American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:Â  Â  Â Â Â Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>>Subject:Â  Â  Â  Re: A Clockwork Orange
>>On Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 3:29 AM, Randy Alexander
>><strangeguitars at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> I had never been able to give the title real meaning, and assumed it was just a surreal group of words.
>>> [M]aybe because having something so organic be made out of something so inorganic seems to make it semantically empty[.]
>>Yes. I fully agree with your comments, Randy. But, don't leave me
>>hanging! WTF *is* the concept that underlies that title?! Perhaps I'm
>>somewhat slow, but _A Clockwork Orange_ remains for me, in your
>>asskickingly-felicitous phrase, "just a surreal group of words."
>>All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
>>to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>>-Mark Twain
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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