A Semantic Resonance

Janice's friend Walter is a netmaniac. Any topic, any problem induces him, within the space of a few minutes, to talking about the Internet. In consequence, he is occasionally interesting and informative and oftimes a bore. He is aware of his obsession and treats it with a certain irony (a fact that ameliorates its impact, although not by much). He calls himself Netman, the Superhero of the Superhighway, and sometimes flexes a rather flabby bicep in demonstration or representation of some supposed prowess.

His other notable feature is that he stutters. When he is nervous or agitated he has difficulty with initial m's and n's so that Netman becomes NNNetman and marvellous mmmarvellous. The letter that causes him the most effort, however, is w. Even at his most fluent, in the full flow of some speech on the might of Google or the blessings of Bebo, the w's wobble off his lips like worry beads.

It was Trevor who pointed out the congruence between the stuttered w and the Netman's obsession. If Walter were to say that something was 'wwwonderful', he would almost certainly be referring to a something in the realm of www. This led us to a whole raft of new words to describe the pleasures of Walter's company - everything from 'wwwisdom' and 'wwwizardry' (Janice) to 'wwwearisome' and 'wwwoeful' (Amanda) and 'wwwitterer' (Felix). It all got a little pointed for a while. Fortunately, WWWalter was elsewhere and, in any case, he had Janice to defend him.

'It's not his fault,' she said, stoutly. 'It's mean to make fun of him.'

'Quite right,' I said. I quite like WWWalter. He's often very useful in my attempts to venture into the Net.

'He should speak Albanian,' Rupert commented. 'It doesn't have a letter w.'

'Most of what he says may as well be in Albanian for all the use it is,' Amanda answered.

'Don't be horrible!' Janice said.

'Fair enough,' I agreed. 'Let's make this Be Nice to Nerds week.'

'He's not a nerd. He's a geek,' Trevor answered.

'What's the difference?' I was intrigued.

'Well, a nerd is skinny, with sloping shoulders and thick glasses. He knows everything about everything but he can't do anything. For example, he can't play sport for nuts but he can quote sporting statistics back to the beginning of time.'

'That's not Walter!' Janice said.

'No,' Amanda agreed. 'It sounds more like Rupert.'

Rupert said nothing. He is impervious to insult.

'And what's a geek?' I asked.

'A geek's big and fat, with a wispy beard and long greasy hair. He lives on pizza and thinks about nothing but computers. He spends all his time trying out the latest whizz-bang technology but he never uses it for anything because as soon as he learns how it works he goes on to the next bit.'

'Hmmm,' I said. It did sound a bit like WWWalter.

'Walt hasn't got a wispy beard,' Janice protested, 'and he isn't overweight. Well, not that much.'

'And he's got glasses,' Rupert said. 'That's evidence he's a nerd, according to you.'

Janice turned to him. 'They're not thick glasses. And he's got quite broad shoulders.'

'He looks like a badly managed haystack,' Amanda said.

Janice glared at us. 'Actually, I think he's a guru.'

'God preserve us!' Amanda said.

14 October 2008


© Chris Else 2008