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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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And so we see the blogger, sitting down to her journal - quite unaware of the hidden leopard
A recent radio programme suggested that most of us talk to ourselves (guilty as charged). Quite a few also commentate on their daily behaviour, and of those, a large majority do so in the voice of David Attenborough narrating a wildlife documentary.

I wonder if this is as common a thing in the UK as dreaming of the royal family?

Incidentally, I wonder about the history of this habit. People couldn't imitate commentaries before there were commentaries, after all. I remember in Ian McEwan's Atonement the little girl Briony swipes the heads of dandelions with a stick (or something similar) and imagines someone commentating on her as if she were at the Olympic Dandelion Beheading final. That would be in the late 1930s. By that time there was certainly radio commentary on football, and I daresay cricket and horseracing too. Live coverage of the Olympics, though? I'm not sure. And, before Marconi, were our imaginations mute?

What about Shakespearean soliloquies? Which are what we call "color commentary," i.e. commentary with a judgmental edge, not just the delivery of information? Or a moment like this, which is how I talk to myself:

O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
And thy dear judgment out!

There must be older examples of people cursing themselves aloud too. Maybe that's where it starts?

That's a good point, and good example. Of course, not all soliloquies fall into the category of real-time commentary. Some are general or philosophical; others summarise past events or future plans. But certainly things like "What light at yonder window breaks.." and "Is this a dagger that I see before me..." would count.

Ideally, of course, commentary ought to be in the third person, for which we have to turn to Julius Caesar. "Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!" is the work of a really dedicated commentator, keeping us up to date on events right until the last possible moment!

Oh nice!

Also there's:

Doth any here know me? This is not Lear:
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied
--Ha! waking? 'tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?


This is hilarious. It's made my day.

I'm delighted to hear it!

Can I mention this on Facebook? I'm actually interested in what people are doing internally now.

Be my guest!

Thank you!

I suppose Bryony might have narrated her actions in the strident tones of a
cinema newsreel- but I'm not sure you could call what they did "commentary".

I think McEwen has slipped into anachronism here.

I must seek out my copy and pinpoint the register more accurately - I read it when it came out, but not since.

Though radio and TV commentary only dates to the early or mid 20th century, overt narrators of books go back centuries, so that's sort of commentating.

Yes, true - though usually (at least until recent times) in the past tense, which makes a difference, I suppose.

I self-narrate in the form of biographical footnotes.


*Other people's biographies, though.

The style of sports commentary, even if not called that, was already available to Thomas Hughes in Tom Brown's School Days:

Away goes the ball, and the bull-dogs after it, and in another minute there is shout of “In touch!” “Our ball!” Now’s your time, old Brooke, while your men are still fresh. He stands with the ball in his hand, while the two sides form in deep lines opposite one another; he must strike it straight out between them. The lines are thickest close to him, but young Brooke and two or three of his men are shifting up farther, where the opposite line is weak. Old Brooke strikes it out straight and strong, and it falls opposite his brother. Hurrah! that rush has taken it right through the School line, and away past the three trees, far into their quarters, and young Brooke and the bull-dogs are close upon it. The School leaders rush back, shouting, “Look out in goal!” and strain every nerve to catch him, but they are after the fleetest foot in Rugby. There they go straight for the School goal-posts, quarters scattering before them. One after another the bull-dogs go down, but young Brooke holds on. “He is down.” No! a long stagger, but the danger is past. That was the shock of Crew, the most dangerous of dodgers. And now he is close to the School goal, the ball not three yards before him. There is a hurried rush of the School fags to the spot, but no one throws himself on the ball, the only chance, and young Brooke has touched it right under the School goal-posts.

Edited at 2017-03-31 05:41 pm (UTC)

That's a really good find! Hughes has got everything from the commentary register right there, hasn't he? (You can see why Rowling used a commentator to describe the Quidditch games, too. Instant immediacy!)

Dickens does a lot of present tense, too -- not always so breathlessly, but sometimes.

I think it's the combination of breathless present tense and sporting event that makes this example particularly apt.

East Tyrone

Internal monologue most of the time. Silently.