Daily Archives: November 15, 2012


The streams of word country are sizzling with fry. Freyja has worked her magic, that goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, and will be back for her portfolios of war and death later. Now Frigg has bestowed motherhood on the waters (no naughty jokes about Frigging, please). The inchoate caviar has dehisced into a whitewater of whitebait. The Old Norse seed fræ has become first those eggs and now the young fish, the myriad glittering flutterings swarming the riffles and rills: the fry, stirring.

Oh, how they coruscate in the sun filtered through the water. You can see the flip of the fins in the f and the flick of the tail in the y; you can feel in your mouth the urge to fly, the recoil and wide hurl and return to the original liquid and glide, [fraɪ]. Yes: it is your tongue, the fry. Your native tongue, ever swimming in the stream of your mouth, ever longing to fly free, ever spawning.

And diving deep, deep sometimes. That vocal slouch, the low final growl, “creaky phonation,” vocal fry, something more common than we notice but lately often associated with young women, sounding like a rehearsal for senescence, the recollection of Freyja.

But words and tongues last variously long. Some fry early in the sun. Some get burned out, try and try until they’re fried. Some are elected for electrocution and fry: the char in the chair of elocution. Some are a flash in the pan, fish flesh in the pan, our native tongue battered and twinned with its forever frenemy: French fries too. The Old Norse word meets its Latin doppelganger, scion of frigere, and fry fry. Is it even Steven?

It’s even Stephen – Stephen Fry. The British wit of eternally youthful mind loves to let the fry free on the river of his tongue. When he expatiates on language – a celebration of the spangling brook of lexis and syntax and a condemnation of those who would dam it and damn its fly fishers – the stream of his consciousness enjoins and enfranchises us all to become what I would call streamkeepers of the language, protecting against those who would poison the discourse, fostering its fecundity, mothering its multiplicity.

Fry is free. Literally: the family name Fry is related to its German homophone frei, “free”. Fry is free, and the fry are free, and as they are free to leap to a fry height we are free to sauté in the fry pan, to catch and taste and enjoy our Freiheit, our freedom. It is love, beauty, and fertility; it is seed, caviar, and it is the million young; it is the ways of ending and cooking and the side dishes; it is firm definition finding itself friable and soon frittered; it is the war of words and the death of tongues. As you shiver in the river you sit with Shiva. But all is fervid and free in the cycle of change, this incessant gallimaufry.