Saturday 13 April 2013

Ineluctable Modality Of The Visible

The major financial news of the day is a “buy” opportunity for collectors; up to a point.  The Central Bank of Ireland has issued ten thousand 10 Euro coins for a price of 46 Euro’s each.  Well, it is one way of dealing with the deficit.

But, and an interesting one, is that the coin celebrates James Joyce, one of Ireland’s literary giants, depending on how you look at giants and the quote comes from “Ulysses”, reckoned to be a major work in the English Language but not alas on the English curriculum.

Perhaps because it uses more words than most books in the sense of the variety plucked from either the language or the dictionaries, whichever might be the preferred linguistic source? 

It is argued that Joyce sometimes chose words of own making.  If a word which did not exist then comes into existence does it matter who made it?  If the word was a variant or an ancient one revived what then?

The answers to any of these questions are not available from the Central Bank despite its mission statements and management documents sometimes being more Joycean than Joyce. 

They often seem to be conversations with nobody in particular in that people are not intended to assume that they bear on the present, past or future, only with the words themselves.

The problem is a “that” put into the quote in a way that tidies up what is intended to be slightly untidy and on the whole directly oblique.  The coin has a pretty design but may not have attracted much attention.  So is the error an act of purpose?

Joyce was in Bray for a time as a youngster.  At the time the Treasurer of India, Auckland Colvin was the grandson of a former Curate of Bray.  It was Colvin who presided over the Fall Of The Rupee owed to international changes in money values.

The Joyce coin story is in “The Mail” which may be a warning in itself about accuracy and the use of language:

It is alleged that the coins were minted in Germany.  Perhaps the Central Bank in Dublin felt safer with a German maker especially as The Republic's monetary and economic policies are determined there.

There are many manufacturers of coins around the world.  One place which has a goodly number of them is China, where the demand for coins is high and the cost of making them low.  There, however, they may have been diligent enough to use Joyce’s own words.

In that case, possibly, nobody in Dublin or Berlin would have been able to understand a word of them.

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