Part of the brilliance of gifted comedians and satirists is their ability to take concepts of language or expressions and twist them into shapes which activate response. Their translations generate laughter thanks to the vulnerability of the underlying version of normalcy.
Consider the ‘Book Shop’ sketch from Monty Python. The shop keepers’ sanity diminishes in dealing with an patron whose requests seemingly cannot be satisfied; the humour ramps up as the initially rational context crumbles. A key moment occurs in discussing a popular hobby reference book – wherein the customer wants a heretofore non-existent, expurgated version. The shop keeper’s efforts to hang onto this potential sale demand rash compromises, including shredding portions of the book to make its content at least an acceptable expunging, even if the now-damaged book is not wanted.
How much of life consists of expurgated moments? On the larger scale, we see official government transcripts with portions blacked out or missing (hello, memories of Watergate). In modern communications, deleting or editing of emails and texts act as both business and personal modifiers. Even in verbal communication, we often hold back, or attempt to retract, untimely or unwise speech; albeit, some are quicker at saving their day than others. In short, consciously or unconsciously, we engage in variations of expurgating.
Awareness of such action even being exercised may be subject to manipulation. ‘Being in the know’ itself can be affected by those with the power or influence to expurgate. What if happenings we thought we understood were actually redefined by the extraction of key information – how differently might things look…
- Suppose the original design of sports arenas meant that teams would face each other at 90 degree angles, rather than defaulting at opposite ends at 180 degrees
- Suppose Indiana Jones wanted a cow bell instead of a whip, but grew tired of people thinking he was calling them for dinner
- Suppose the pyramids were built by giant children, whose size diminished over the years due to poor nutrition and tight clothing
- Suppose the Magna Carta was intended to be a new game, and not a paean to the monarchy and feudal lords
- Suppose Area 51 really does contain secreted alien technology, not being released yet due to attempts to establish universal patents
- Suppose the real reason Perry Mason always won his cases was that the district attorney was too shy to handle a winning streak
- Suppose highways were originally being built of gold, but traffic moved too slowly because of drivers stopping to buff the roads to keep them shiny
Many things are supposed, but many also are expurgated.