Excessive Pronunciation. How Summs got himself to fold the laundry

“For — later”: he is pronouncing the sounds and mouthing the words as slowly and carefully as he would write them.

“Fo-o-o-o-r”: it seems to him that the R-sound occurs in the same second and instant as the F-sound: as though a syllable were an indivisible unit, a circle with no front and no back.

“Fo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-r”: this time taking twice as long to say it.

“Fo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-r”: this time taking three or four times as long to say it.

In particular Summs could not figure out at what point the FO- sound became the OR-sound — did the O belong more to the R or the F? And when, as an experiment, he tried to say “for” with the R-sound first, he was astonished to find himself saying not ror but fur…!

Yet this was no mere idle attempt to understand the phonetic underpinnings of syllables, but a special trick he employed to motivate himself to do things he didn’t want to do. The idea behind the trick, which he called Excessive Pronunciation, was that by distorting the expression of his negative will and intention he could actually nullify or reverse the negative will or intention itself.

In the present situation, moments ago he had told himself “I’ll save folding the laundry for later,” displaying the negative will of procrastination, but now thanks to this special Will distorting technique, he was standing upright in front of the big pile, rubbing his hands together in excitement at the opportunity to fold.

People would ask him how it worked and he would say “who cares — just be happy that it does!” but so far as he could tell there were two possibilities: one was that you were making a mockery of your intentions, so that they just seemed too silly to follow, but this was a view he disfavored since it implied one’s good intentions might also be dispelled through self-ridicule. The other explanation was that, at the bottom of one’s expressions of will, was the will itself, and by pronouncing them with such painful slowness one was, in a manner of speaking, carefully untying this spiritual knot. This knot of Will you had tied from the inside with unarticulated thoughts you were now unwrapping from the outside with expressed words.

None of which of course helped him with the fact that he was not very good at folding laundry, for which he had long supposed he would need the “special trick” of having a wife. Which was a to say (he hastened to add, even in his thoughts) — a wife who was good at folding laundry and who would also be willing to fold his from time to time, perhaps in exchange for health advice or “other” services. Also, it would be good if she had a house. (Summs had not gotten in the market when he should have, it was to be admitted, and now the valuations were sky high, unless you wanted to move way out.) Of course, one couldn’t be too picky about a spouse at this time of life, but it would be good if she had a house, on top of sharing his views on politics and alternative medicine and such things.

He said again the entire phrase “for later”, this time normally, which was a bit of a relief, and laughed to see his laundry was done — folded a bit lumpily for sure — but ready to be put away, which he supposed he would do a little later.

%d bloggers like this: