Tuesday, August 08, 2006

PYNCHON NEWS: LET'S HEAR IT FOR PINKINROLLER! As you might know, some of Thomas Pynchon's most devoted readers are like Talmudic scholars or Joyceans. The point being: They'll take Pynchon's lines and place them under the proverbial microscope for extensive scrutiny, dissection, and interpretation. Sometimes the results are inconclusive; sometimes they're wacky; sometimes they're utterly mind-expanding.

Last week, after a brief excerpt from Pynchon's forthcoming Against the Day came to the attention of the Pynchon mailing list, subscribers took on the text with gusto. The reference to an 1899 cyclone in Kirksville, Missouri? No problem. The same with Kirksville's ties to Dr. A. T. Still and the American School of Osteopathy. And with the Uncompahgre plateau.

But one line stood out as a puzzler: The remark made by gunslinger Jimmy Drop in Colorado after pale young osteopath Willis Turnstone offers to fix his back problem:
"Beg your pardon, what in hell business of any got-damn pinkinroller'd this be, again?"
The Pynchon readers got the gist of the statement (something like "Bug off, paleface!") but fixated on the mysterious pinkinroller'd. What could it mean? Where did it come from?

Over the weekend the mailing list participants spewed suggestions. Could the term have something to do with pinking shears, which produce sawtoothed rather than straight cuts? Might pinkinroller be an 1899 equivalent of "rock 'n' roller"? Could it refer to Turnstone's Colt revolver? Could it be an example of English-Germanic wordplay? Could it allude to Pynchon's own name?

Turns out that pinkinroller was a typo in a transcription of Pynchon's text! The correct word is punkinroller--which has to do with being a greenhorn or a fake out West.

But by the time this came to the attention of Pynchon-l participants, some had developed an attachment to dear little pinkinroller. Wrote one: "Despite the new revelation, it seems to me the neologism 'pinkinroller' has deserved the right to exist, too much effort has [b]een invested in its explication." Wrote another: "I 2nd that e-motion, ya punkinrollin' pinkinroller ..."

So there you have it. The word pinkinroller is now part of the language--whatever it might mean.

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