If you take a tour of the offices where I work there’s a chance you’ll be spooked by a phantom laugh. Initially you’ll wonder if the laugh is actually taking place in the room or merely in your head, because nobody in the office stirs when it breaks, and boy does it break. Trace the madcap booming to its source though and you’ll discover a large man called Richard creasing away at his colleagues’ banter at the edge of the room in a department shielded by a high wall. The shell-shock effect his laugh once held over the staff has subsided into one of mild tedium and aggravation, and is now treated as if it were the chiming of an antique clock; it’s predictable and disruptive, but ultimately not worth crying over. That’s why newcomers like you are always equally surprised first by the laugh and then by the subsequent nothing reaction.
Unless it’s a particularly fervent or recurring outbreak, my membership team remains unruffled by Richard. When he does cross the line they scold him under their breath and exchange bewildered glances, and sometimes complain about being distracted from their work. I can be counted among their number as I’ve lost my concentration several times in a single day when I’ve needed to record long strings of information quickly and precisely. Then I feel guilty, for what has the man really done wrong? He’s only having fun more loudly than everyone else. We all run the risk of sounding insensitive. Might it be a disorder of the throat? Could it be that his team simply has terrific crack? Or maybe his parents never regulated ‘fun time’ when he was a boy? Is he trying to emulate Uncle Albert from Mary Poppins? Another possibility not to be ruled out is that he might be a hard-line Sensei-Davian, and therefore refuses ever to be told ‘no’.
So I was sat mulling over these amusing explanations for Richard’s laugh when an altogether more macabre one sparked in my head. In Metal Gear Solid 4, a stealth-centric videogame, there is a radio conversation that takes place after you defeat Laughing Octopus, a female boss who attacks with a tentacled machine frame. The conversation is between you (as Snake) and Drebin, and concerns the back-story of the Laughing Octopus and how she came to possess such a maniacal laugh. Adapt the dialogue so as to replace the subject with Richard and you potentially have a very funny email to circulate around the office. Here’s Drebin’s story, you can either read it below or watch from the 1:41 mark in the video:
Drebin: Never thought I’d meet the man who could take down Laughing Octopus single-handedly. She just kept on laughing. Now why do you suppose that is?
Snake: Something in her past?
Drebin: You got it. She’s from a village in Scandinavia – little seaside hamlet known to all the locals as the Devil’s Village. Place wasn’t known for devils, though. It was known for octopus. See, this was one of the few places in Europe where they ate octopus customarily. Anyway, there’s this cult of crazies who for some reason hate the village, with a passion. Then, when she was just a teenager, things get bad. These nutcases get their hands on some weapons and attack the village. Overnight, her sleepy little fishing town becomes a war zone. They round up all the villagers and execute them one by one. Except for that girl. They had something else planned for her, something a whole lot worse than dying.
Calling her the Devil’s Child, they forced her to do the kind of thing you’d expect from one of Lucifer’s own. After they made her torture her family and friends, they made her kill ‘em. The whole time they were forcing her to laugh, howl like some sort of demon. Like she was enjoying it. What was she gonna do, say no? They’d kill her, too. So she let fear take control, and did exactly as they told her. She butchered the bodies of the ones she loved, and laughed while she did it. And as she bathed in their blood, it gradually turned from deep red to jet black. To her, it looked like the ink of an octopus. The experience scarred her deep. Ever since then, she hasn’t stopped laughing. Only, that ain’t really laughter.
It’s not a straight-forward case of replacing the pronouns, but with a bit of effort it could work. I haven’t gone ahead with it yet because I need to do a background check first. Say Richard did have a tormented childhood, how embarrassed and how fired would I be after that email?
Some Choice Words
I was given a word calendar for Christmas, below are my picks up to the present day. These made the cut because they’re either useful or fun to chew on.
Squib: A short piece of humorous or satirical writing
Yegg: A safecracker; also: a robber
Pyrrhic: Achieved at excessive cost; also: costly to the point of negating or outweighing expected benefits
Abyssal: 1) Impossible to comprehend: unfathomable 2) of or relating to the bottom waters of the ocean depths
Galumph: to move with a clumsy heavy tread
Polyonymous: Having or known by various names
How marvellously it bounces on the tongue.
Calumny: A false and malicious accusation
Opprobrium: 1) something that brings disgrace 2a) public disgrace or ill fame that follows from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious *b) contempt, reproach
Bumptious: presumptuously, obtusely, and often noisily self-assertive: obtrusive
Fanfaronade: empty boasting: bluster
Cabbage: steal, filch
Kibitzer: one who looks on and often offers unwanted advice, comments, or opinions
Sub rosa: in confidence: secretly
Anthophilous: feeding upon or living among flowers
Anodyne: 1) serving to alleviate pain 2) not likely to offend or arouse tensions:innocuous
Cathexis: investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea
Neologism: 1) a new word, usage or expression 2) a meaningless word coined by a psychotic
For the second meaning, picture Will I Am and the guff he spouts on The Voice
Pointillistic: 1) composed of many discrete details or parts 2) of, relating to, or characteristic of pointillism or pointillists
Longueur: a dull and tedious passage or section (as of a book, play, or musical composition) - usually used in the plural
Malapert: impudently bold: saucy
Ambuscade: a trap in which concealed persons lie in wait to attack by surprise; also: the persons so concealed or their position
The sadists at FromSoftware
In Dark Souls you can defeat hordes of undead soldiers, surmount fiery labyrinthine caverns, and slay dragons with lightning swords. You can also get eaten by a treasure chest.
It’s all in the game.