Jul 29, 2009, 01:33PM

Van Morrison loses it on stage

A linguistic analysis.

The Irish singer Van Morrison was well into his set at a concert in his native isle before a crowd in high spirits. Enthusiastic applause followed every song. At one point in the excited hubbub as Van tried to signal the band to start a new song, a voice yelled out over the crowd, "We love you, Van!". This moved the dour and laconic performer to make his only remark of the evening to his audience. Said Van emphatically to his adoringly ebullient fan: "Fucking shut the fuck up."My friend Jim McCloskey, the Irish syntactician (in both senses of that phrase) told me this story. He was present at the concert and reported the event. He is a great Van Morrison fan, and I think he views the incident as just a disarmingly inappropriate verbal symptom of Van the Man's well-known shyness and stage fright. I like the story too, but on a less sympathetic basis: I happen to detest Van Morrison's music. His bare, strained voice appeals to me not at all, and I hate even his most popular recordings. (I once offered to put five dollars in the tips jar at the Stevenson College Coffee House at UC Santa Cruz if they would stop playing the Van Morrison CD they had put on. They did, and I did. So his music has negative cash value for me: I have actually paid money to not hear it.) For me the story is about a foul-mouthed verbal indication that the curmudgeonly Celtic soulster is as gratingly unpleasant to his public as his music is to my ears. But no matter. Never mind the man or his music. We are here to try to learn what we can from the syntax of the interesting expression he used.


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