Y is for Yachtsman
Some years ago, were one strolling in a marina or a harbour, it would be quite common to hear a bunch of tinies chanting a rhyme as they danced, hand in hand, in a ring around a collapsed and comatose seaside sot.
See the drunken yachtsman, vomit on his blazer / It is Mijnheer Blötzmann, zap him with your Taser!
There are several problems with this, and we are indebted to Arturo Himmelfarbarb, the noted collector of children’s gruesome seaside songs, who recently published a research paper in which he tabulates the perplexities on an abstruse graph, with pointy bits and no doubt expensive four-colour printing. As is the way with good old Arturo, a draconian embargo has been placed on the graph, so I cannot reproduce it here. Instead, I will do my best to summarise the points he makes, using plain words rather than exciting graphic hullabaloo.
First, Blötzmann is given the Dutch honorific “Mijnheer”, in spite of the fact that all the available evidence suggests he was Swiss. Though there have been arguments, of deathly tedium, questioning his nationality, nobody has ever claimed Blötzmann was a Netherlander, or even a Belgian. As for the so-called “Afrikaaner Cradle-In-The-Nursery Conjecture”, that nonsense was comprehensively demolished long, long ago, by yours truly, on primetime television no less, thanks to the good offices of Russell Harty.
Secondly, Blötzmann was famously teetotal, and never allowed a drop of spiritous liquor to pass his lips. The idea that he would be found lying ruined by drink at a marina is laughable. It is true he was fond of the sea, which he memorably described as “that soaking wet immensity stretching to the horizon and beyond”, and often skulked about ports and harbours and quaysides and marinas, doing his Blötzmanny doings, but those doings were always done sober, have no doubt about that. To which one might add that his love of coastal purlieux did not extend to the sea itself, for he was a boat-scared man all his life. That he would ever have gone yachting is inconceivable.
In a different section of his fantastic graph, Arturo demonstrates that at the time the children’s ditty was recorded, the Taser had not yet been invented. In those days, if one wanted to fell a malefactor, one used a club or a bludgeon. The Taser itself, in its initial form, dates from 1974, the year of Potus Richard Nixon’s disgrace and resignation. In any case, as the upper right segment of the graph demonstrates with admirable clarity, one needs neither Taser nor club nor bludgeon to subdue a sot in a coma whose collapse is due to his having glugged an unconscionable amount of hooch.
In sum, then, the rhyme makes no sense whatsoever. Hot-brained Gallic postmodernist Jacques Postmod has attempted to “undo”, as he puts it, Arturo’s tremendous diagram, but nobody takes him seriously anymore, thank heaven.
Which all goes to show that the life can be sucked out of even the jauntiest children’s chant when the leeches of academe are properly applied.
In investigating the origins of this children’s chant, I’d start by considering the diacritical in ‘Blötzmann’: if the tinies come from a land where such marks affect pronunciation, rather than being merely the product of Umlaut Envy, then the proper name doesn’t rhyme with ‘yachtsman’ at all, and they’re playing some peculiar, ironic game with the listener.
R : According to Pabstus Tack, the umlaut on the Blötzmann ‘ö’ is a silent umlaut, so his name does rhyme with ‘yachtsman’. The evidence for this is apparently based on careful listening to the way I pronounce it on air – which, inexplicably, one or two people have pointed out to me is incorrect.
It’s always a great relief when a hitherto opaque condundrum is authoritatively clarified. Pabstus! Pabstus! Of him we sing …