Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Spirit of SNAIL

As the festive season of the country/culture I live in draws nigh (I'm trying not to offend or exclude anyone who doesn't live in a country or belong to a culture which doesn't celebrate the same festival as mine does... phew!) my mind turns, invariably and inevitably, it seems, to words.

As I type, my father is currently, for want of a better word, being chunnelised (or chunneliZed, I suppose, for American speakers of English, or is it the other way round, I can never remember). And should that be one 'l' or two? Which do you prefer?

Some of you will already be very familiar with the excellent blend, chunnel, mixing channel and tunnel in referring to that big tube under the sea between France and the UK. My father is currently sitting in a train, one of four, which is sitting stationary in the aforementioned chunnel, not going anywhere fast. He has been there for about 14 hours now by my calculation. Horror stories creeping out about lack of oxygen and heart attacks don't make me feel any more reassured although it must be said that papa is the stoic type so I'm assuming he'll pull through this ordeal in the true war spirit, stiff upper lip and all that.

Of course, the only way a new word can be successfully coined and then accepted into everyday usage is if it assumes a role of explaining something we want to say better than any other word or combination of words has done before. And to hope that my word, even if is genuinely new, which I doubt, is accepted the thing I'm using it to describe must be something widely acknowledged to exist for it even to have its own word assigned to it.


The phenomenon of getting stuck in the chunnel because of a change in temperature between chilly France and cozy seabed is probably a bit too specific to work. But this certainly isn't the first time a train has got stuck in the chunnel, although causes range from breakdowns, fire, people strolling through, rushhour and probably as many more as well as my dad's specific problem.

So I suggest chunnelise as a verb to be used principly in the passive (i.e. to be chunnelised) indicating that the great god Eurostar has been having problems again. I'm sure there will be plenty of occassions to use it over the next few years. I can imagine the British press headlines already:
Chunnelisation Major Cause Of Seasonal Discontent
Hapless Holiday Brits Chunnelised Again
Gay Vicar In 'Church of Chunnelisation' Sex-Factor Scandal
Any other contributions for new words or headlines to describe the Eurostar: Late Again! phenomenon will be received with interest.
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Sab Will is Course Director at TEFL Paris, a TEFL Certificate Teacher Training Centre

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