Obscenic Words

paskalevThere is something obscene about the title of some recent recordings of a Norwegian/Bulgarian musician. He labeled the collection “Obscenic Sessions.”

Now, I realize that English may be his third or fourth language, but surely someone involved in the project knew that obscenic is not really a word. And, if a person is attempting to coin a new word, there are more creative ways than simply changing the ending of an adjective to alter it into another adjective. (I suppose there is a slim chance it’s either a Norwegian or Bulgarian word, but I suspect not.)

There’s something else about the collection that also strikes me as potentially obscene. Apparently the music was recorded during a live performance at an actual Anglican church. The full title reads: “Obscenic Sessions Live From St. Margaret’s Of Antioch (Liverpool, UK).”

Why, I wonder, would a priest allow his sanctuary to be used for obscenic sessions? Certainly no Christian congregation could be that desperate for income. They could, however, be proving their open-mindedness by hosting just such an event . . . but that’s another matter.

Now, I am aware that the use of the neologisms may simply be provocative. There might not be anything at all that’s edgy about the music or performance. I wasn’t there, and I haven’t taken the time to read the lyrics to all of the music.

Returning to the subject of coining new words, it’s a rather tricky venture. You have to be just creative or witty enough to do it well. Falling short of that is either completely confusing, or simply lame.

Some people have a knack for this. Lewis Carroll, for example, created a handful of words in a single literary piece that have remained vibrant for many years. In his 1871 Through the Looking Glass, he included the nonsense poem, “Jabberwocky.” Some of the words Carroll created as nonce words—intended for a single use—have lived on beyond their appearance in the poem.

Not long ago, as a matter of fact, I read about someone “chortling.” That would not have been possible before Carroll minted this means of communication. “Mimsy” and others have found their way into dictionaries, as well.

We have written in the past about the Bandersnatch on these very pages. C.S. Lewis described J.R.R. Tolkien’s stubborn resistance to editorial suggestions by saying “you might as well try to influence a bander-snatch.”

Returning to the music of Mr. Paskalev, if his music is more uplifting than the adjective implies, I wish him the best of luck in his career. However, if it is truly obscenic (in the sense the root of that word implies) I wish him an epiphany that will transform his work. And, finally, in light of the picture above (from his official website), I suggest that he try to get a little more rest.

8 thoughts on “Obscenic Words

  1. I wonder about the artist’s use of the word, obscene. In its basic definition, the word implies things that are sexual in nature and generally impolite. However, a secondary definition is “shocking or scandalous.”

    In the second definition of the word, I might shock or scandalize you, but the problem might be yours – not mine. If you are shocked by the truth, or scandalized by frankness, you may regard this as obscenity, but the person who needs to change is you.

    If we define obscene as “shocking or scandalous,” then I can imagine some obscene things I would like to have blurted out in church a time or two.

    The problem in the idea of “Obscenic Sessions” might be artistic pretense, rather than actual obscenity. Artists often believe they are “pushing the boundaries” or “making us think” as an excuse for plain old bad art. This can be especially true in a church setting, where outsiders often believe that sexual taboos or outrageous statements might shock the church people, rather than bore them – which is more common than sputtering outrage Church people are more likely to roll their eyes than gasp in shock.

    In this context, “obscenic” might be more appropriate than “obscene.” Obscenic is not a real word, but I think I understand what it means: “bordering on the obscene.” And then I would most likely roll my eyes at this guy’s performance.

    1. Your response is quite thoughtful and very likely on target. That’s why I find it obscene… I mean scandalous. But the problem lies with me, not you.

      Seriously, I agree with your analysis. Just as I concur that the entire exercise would likely both of us, inexorably, to the concluding sentence in your comment.

  2. If I were to define “obscenic” in the context of Mr. Paskalev and his use of it in association with St. Margaret’s of Antioch, I would have to conclude that “obscenic” is synonymous with any ploy to appear outré in a predictably obscene wedding of the sacred and the profane. Alas, though again predictably, it makes me even less curious to sample his music! He does seem rather bored with himself though, doesn’t he?

  3. It sort of rhymes with “Coptic”. Word sounds must be considered , too for meaning. He does look bored…or is that supposed to be an intellect’s/artist’s ennui? (Oh, that’s my problem, I suppose, not his….annoyed that anyone has to accept “the problem” these days…Better when people could just have opposing views with respect and no one had to have a “problem” which implies one is wrong and should change.)
    Bid for audience, I would guess. (Actually my brain simply read “obscene” which has various definitions)
    In any case, I love the vocabulary and usage by Carroll, Lewis, and Tolkien….and guilty of bending words on occassion

    1. Bidding for an audience. Alas, that is the unadulterated goal of most entertainers today. You can easily distinguish them, though, but those who pursue their vocations out of love of their art. So sad living in an era when exhibitionism reigns.

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