Narrowing Down

I knew when I chose my GCSEs I’d hanker after everything I didn’t choose, and envy anyone who chose differently to me. I knew I’d regret what I did choose, in the end. I found it incredibly difficult, but in the end I settled on Business Studies and History—boring, perhaps, but the most useful to a general academic not stretched in any particular direction. (Writer, mathematician, marathon runner, musician, lawyer, bridge master, director of a large financial company, fluent speaker of ten different languages, iconic movie villain, film director and screenwriter…I fancied myself as at least that many things. Stupidly arrogant, isn’t it?)

Now it’s worse. Well, it’s what I feared. A friend asks me for help with her Biology homework and I’ve never even heard of half the words she throws at me. But then she asks for help with her French and even though I don’t understand any of the vocabulary I’m using I can still construct a grammatically-passable sentence. Sort of.

Yet we’ve only had five teaching days (yes, I began this post three months ago). Soon I won’t have a clue. And that’s partially good, because I will no longer be plied with questions by people who don’t even care about what they’re supposed to be learning. It’s a relief.

And also a torment, to relinquish so many disciplines in one fell swoop.

I’m overly jealous and competitive, I suppose. I want to do things by the whole. Know everything, or know nothing.

SO WHAT DID I CHOOSE?

English Literature. Although it’s not said to particularly increase a writer’s chances of whatever, and loads of writers never did study English Literature, I thought I might as well take it. It could teach me a few things, and is so well-respected it certainly won’t be a waste of time whatever I end up doing with my life. And my sanity requires a creative outlet. Couldn’t forget that. It must be said I preferred Lang at GCSE, but Lang involves speaking, and that doesn’t appeal! At the beginning of the year I had no friends in my English class; it’s good now, though. I prefer strangers, because I’m interested in how they prejudge me, and gratified when they do on the terms I try to impress.

Philosophy and Ethics. Now, I wanted both this and Psychology, because they both interest me, but Philosophy and Ethics won out in the end because as a religious and idealistic person, I want to learn about theories and concepts relating to the Big Questions of this universe. I want to learn how to form and argue a point of view, and I’m hoping to procure story inspiration from this subject.

How is it in practice? I’m not sure whether I made the correct decision. I already knew all about Plato the dualist, his Cave, his Republic, his everything. In the first month I learnt nothing. And the teacher seems slightly ‘clueless’. She didn’t know whether ‘A priori’ and ‘A posteriori’ were Latin or Greek—and it confuses me why anyone wouldn’t look at them and immediately desire to know! (Latin, by the way.) But I’ve already told that story.

Plato again, ALWAYS WATCHING *Ros voice* from a 'better place'

Plato again, ALWAYS WATCHING *Ros voice* from a ‘better place’

On the first day I also found myself sandwiched between two hardcore atheists, which both excited and unsettled me. Both of them are old friends of mine, fortunately, and the one I used to delight in teasing for his atheism has moved seats since I reminded him of my religious views. Honestly, we can’t have a conversation without his thinking I’m trying to impose my awful Catholicism upon him. Recipe for disaster, it seems. The atheist on my other side has a hyperactive influence on me, so I can foresee Philosophy being a rowdy lesson.

Three months later… Philosophy is my comedic relief of the day. Crazy class. At first I thought it was really difficult to get the marks; now I ‘get’ the technique it’s going better. I still don’t know how useful it’ll prove to be, since most of the theories we’ve studied have already occurred to me in one form or another over the years. But yes. Crazy class. We have a book of the random things that have unwittingly (or otherwise!) been said between us.

 

Finally—and these the two subjects I knew I’d take even before I took my first GCSE exam in March 2011, aged thirteen and a half—I’ve chosen Maths and Further Maths.

It either surprises people or it doesn’t. Usually they make faces so hideous I know I can never justify my enthusiasm in their minds. This subject satisfies my ambition. Not wholly, but sufficiently. It tides me over. I couldn’t do without the challenge, the stress, the impression.

But…maths…! My passions work together: mathematics and writing. Without one I lose the other, as happened in the summer when I couldn’t write for fear of it driving me insane. And without writing I lose my creative outlet and lose sight of my aspirations. I can’t solve equations if I can’t write. They’re totally the opposite pursuits, but that’s just why they work. There are two sides to me and for nothing would I give up either.

 

On Tuesday someone asked me what my favourite subject was. I answered something senseless and unprepared, but in truth, I can’t take a broad view like that. They’re too different; they each fulfil a different need in me, and each as important as each other. I have no favourite; I like them for different reasons–and mayhap I can apply that to a whole spectrum of collectives.

Advertisements

Floccinaucinihilipilification: Hashtag That

Today it’s floccinaucinihilipilification.

No, I didn’t just make that up. The term ‘creatio ex nihilo’, meaning the creation of something from nothing, cropped up in my Philosophy class. To give this a bit of background, I’d previously asked my teacher whether ‘a priori’ and ‘a posteriori’ had Greek or Latin roots. And she didn’t know, which completely baffled me—after all, why would you be happy to remain in ignorance of the etymology of terms you use and teach all the time? I guess not everyone can be a linguist, but…but… *bites lip* Since then, she’s taken to translating all the foreign terms that come up in the syllabus, including their roots (though she couldn’t define ‘despotic’. Meh).

To return to the tale in question, I’d never seen the fragment ‘nihil’ anywhere else, except in this word I’d known since I was eight: floccinaucinihilipilification. Strange how our minds work!

I looked it up later in the day, and found that not only had I spelt it correctly all those years in my mind, but that I was correct about the ‘nihil’ bit.

A bunch of boys from Eton found a list of nouns in their Latin grammar books: ‘flocci, nauci, etc’. (Sorry if I got all the cases and declensions wrong.) They collected a loads of semi-synonymic words and made them into the twenty-nine-letter monster ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’.

Longest word used in the British House of Commons, as of February 2012.

If you haven’t Googled this word yet, don’t. Give me a moment, and I’ll deign to explain.

*deep breath*

Flocci—a wisp (of wool, for example)

+Nauci—a trifle

+Nihili—nothing

+Pili—a hair/something insignificant

+fication

= the act of regarding something as unimportant, worthless or having no value

I floccinaucinihilipilificate long words. And make sure you pronounce it with optimum ease and fluency.

I spent my lunch period yesterday teaching a few strangers that word. I didn’t bring it up; they caught sight of it doodled in my planner.

To digress, one of them is a Lord of the Rings fan. Like, a real hardcore one, who makes me feel like a fraud.

She has read The Lord of the Rings (and that includes all three volumes and The Hobbit, not much less than 450,000 words) eight hundred and forty-eight times. Each of them.

I couldn’t resist taking out my calculator and pumping the sums. Taking that as four books, she’s read 3392 books at least in her lifetime. That’s like reading a book (and we’re talking about long books) every day of your life for nine years three and a half months. I’m almost inclined to disbelieve her, but she started when she was five and has read nothing else ever since. It’s just too incredible to contradict. Even if she added a couple of hundred on for effect (though she did consult a note on her phone to give me this figure), five or six hundred times is scarcely less staggering.

But I digress. I’ve made new acquaintances. That’s basically what’s going on in my life at the moment. Oh, and I’m doing my Silver Qualifying from Thursday till Tuesday. Wish me luck! (If I can only stay out of A&E, I’ll be delighted!)

Floccinaucinihilipilification.

Eat that!