Monday, January 16, 2012

Whence R'lyeh?

You can play games with language and--if you're determined enough, clever enough, and maybe crazy enough--get any results you want. Here's a pointless exercise in deriving the name of a fictional place from the name of a real place, both of which gave H.P. Lovecraft fits of horror. It's simple enough: you put an apostrophe to work in place of several letters ("ook" as in "ooky," in the same way the Addams Family was ooky), then simply drop a letter, add a letter, and change a letter to go from Brooklyn to R'lyeh by the shortest possible route:

Brooklyn
Br'lyn
R'lyn
R'lyen
R'lyeh

I call it a pointless exercise, but could Lovecraft have played the same game as he was outlining "The Call of Cthulhu"?

At the Foot of Hicks Street (1877) by the Scottish-American artist John Mackie Falconer (1820-1903). According to the Brooklyn Historical Society, the painting is probably of an area called "Tinkertown," then located in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn and "known as a disreputable spot." By the time H.P. Lovecraft lived in Brooklyn (1924-1926), Tinkertown would have been gone. But this painting of "a disreputable spot" with its buildings made at strange angles suggests a more alien place.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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