A Fortunate Event

I’m happy to observe that the longstanding tradition of inserting hidden, often subversive messages into children’s literature (see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) is alive and well.

Some time ago I eliminated the “Currently Reading” section of my sidebar; the book information (calculated remotely by AllConsuming) was just taking far too long to load (of course, that also seems to be an occasional problem with BlogRolling, but that’s a little more critical to the functioning of the site). But that’s not to say I haven’t been reading quite a bit. Recent selections have included Digital Filmmaking 101, Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew, The Rule of Four, and Angels and Demons (which inspired me to create the new “Prometheus Unleashed” ambigram above), among others. But, along with my eldest daughter, I’ve also been reading Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events series. We’re both up to “Book the Tenth,” The Slippery Slope (out of eleven books — not including Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography — already published, of an ostensibly planned total of thirteen).

Those of you who’ve seen the recent movie adaptation of the first three books in the series may recall that the youngest Baudelaire child, Sunny, speaks in baby talk, which is translated via subtitles. This, of course, is not strictly an invention for the screen, but is taken straight from the books themselves, in which Sunny’s words are interpreted for the reader. What’s different in the books is that Sunny’s “nonsense” words are often jokes in and of themselves — everything from subtle plays on words, to reverse spellings, to metaphorical references. The type of thing most children won’t necessarily pick up on, but which make the books particularly enjoyable for the adult set.

In this book, little Sunny realizes that the evil Count Olaf doesn’t understand what she says, and she is therefore free to say whatever she wants to him — “Sneakitawc,” as she puts it. She proceeds to insult his hygiene and clothing with the utterance, “Brummel”; i.e., Beau Brummel. But the capper to her tirade was what had me laughing out loud at its sheer audacity:

“‘Busheney,’ Sunny said, which meant something along the lines of, ‘You’re an evil man with no concern whatsoever for other people.’”

I’ve been reading the books from the library, but after a turn of phrase like that, I’m going out to buy the entire set.


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