Monday, 29 November 2010

Soporific...

A few days ago, I was about to go out on some errands when I was distracted by something being shown on TV. The television was on the HBO channel and was playing a movie called `Wit'. The scene was a hospital examination room and the patient, played by Emma Thompson, was narrating something in a lovely English accent. I ended up watching the movie right to the end and forgot all about my errands.

Vivian Bearing is a professor of English literature who has just been diagnosed of ovarian cancer. She is about to undergo an experimental aggresive chemotherapy treatment and the movie shows her struggles throughout the process. A large part of the film shows Bearing in monologue... and it clearly demonstrates the strength and acting skill of Thompson in handling the character.

Towards the middle of the movie, there is this scene in flashback where Bearing recalls the exact moment when she knew that words would be her life's work. She was reading a Beatrix Potter book titled `The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies' when she comes across a new word that she does not know the meaning of. Say it in bits, says her father. So-por-i-fic.

It means something that tends or has the the effect to cause sleep. Like certain drugs and medication... or boring conversation... or a heavy meal on a warm afternoon.

The movie is almost pure dialogue with no action scene whatsoever... and I loved it. Indeed, it would ironically have the same soporific effect on viewers who prefer the action-flick movie genre.

Soporific... what a wonderful new word I learned this week. It brings to memory of a time that really fits the description of this word. The year was 1979... and I was in Form 5 of boarding school. The Science subjects are all taught in the laboratory classroom where three long workbenches face the front blackboard. There were 25 students in our class consisting of 9 girls and 16 boys. By tradition, the girls would sit at the frontmost workbench while the boys take up the remaining two rows.

When it came to Physics class, the boys would make it a point to come early because everyone wants to sit in the back row, even if it means squeezing for space. At times, there would be up to 12 guys seated at the back... meaning that only 4 would sit in the middle row. Glaringly obvious and disproportionate. The reason for this is that Physics class is real boring and it is quite a challenge to remain awake. Presumably, sitting as far away from the teacher as possible would make it less likely for him to spot us dozing off during his lecture.

I could not be bothered to rush for a back row seat so most of the time I am one of the minority who sits in the middle row. To stop myself from falling asleep, I began to sharpen my skill in doodling. My Form 5 Physics notebook probably has more creative drawings than formulas or calculations. It still puzzles me sometimes how I ended up doing engineering.

Soporific... lovely word.

8 comments:

Pat said...

I'm so happy to find another Emma Thomson fan :) I love her voice and the beautiful way she speaks. It is English as it is meant to be spoken - on her lips.

'Wit' sounds like a movie I'd enjoy. Thanks for the heads up.

And, if you're still wondering... You're back!!! ;)

pakmat said...

salam oldstock..fascinated with words, hey..soporific?..better than honorific..:) cheers..

Oldstock said...

Pat, am I back.. really? Let's see for another month or so, shall we?

BTW, I didn't know about this movie at all. Just saw it by accident.

Oldstock said...

Pak Mat, now every time something bores me to sleeping point, I'll remember this word.

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Oldstock, don't know why I'm feeling so sleepy just reading this post....zzzzzzzzzz.

R u on a diet? :))Missed your food write-ups..hehehe

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of those BBC dramas where the dialogue goes on and on...soporific...
But the story stays with you and much later on you discover the salient points of the drama - something hit you then and you don't want to miss the next BBC offering - just like reading Le Carre - sporific yet.....

allanwee

Oldstock said...

Tommy, haha... so the objective of making you sleepy by reading this post has been achieved.

Diet? Tak adalah... belum jumpa new eating places to write about yet. But it won't be too long now, I'm sure.

Oldstock said...

Allan, Le Carre's books are just like that... really hard to understand when reading it the first time round.

Long time no see, my friend. Hope you are doing well.