Cocking a snook is an age-old custom in Pointy Town, harking back to the days of Bruno La Poubelle, or even earlier. It is unrelated to the snook-cocking practised elsewhere in the world. That is not the same thing at all. No it is not, oh no. No.
What am I talking about, then, when I talk about the specifically Pointy Town practice – or praxis, as the postmodernist philosopher Jean-Luc Postmod would put it – of cocking a snook? Am I just babbling incoherently? No, I am not, oh no. Not at all.
We may go back to the ur-text in this matter, the centuries-old Great Book of Bruno La Poubelle, in which we find this passage. Granted, to the modern reader it is gibberish, but bear with me. Have patience. This is what we read:
Wheat! Goosepeck ouch. Sit, Fido. Rubber papa hemingway in storm drains. Kew Rhone sow’s ear, wah wah pedal bin. Birds without ears. Oo look teabag. Hen coop protocol baffling. Fiery, fiery Fido sit. Pictures of Jap girls in synthesis. Religio medici urn burial. Early Scritti, natty Jah, natty cock, natty snook, natty dread.
Roughly translated, this means … well, it is so roughly translated it can hardly be called a translation. I for one can make head nor tail of it. The important point is that the words “cock” and “snook” can both be spotted in the passage, and in close proximity, so that tells us something. What does it tell us? At the very least, it tells us that both “cock” and “snook” were words in usage in Pointy Town at the time of the composition of the Great Book of Bruno La Poubelle. So we are getting somewhere. Oh yes we are.
When I suffered a burst appendix, and they put me on a stretcher, I had visions. Yes I did, I’m not making this up. One of these visions was of an ancient Pointy Towner, out gathering snooks. I saw the vision as if through a mist, a thick mist, such that I could not clearly discern the Pointy Towner. Put it like this, I wouldn’t be able to identify him in a police line-up. The same is true of the snooks he was gathering. Oh thick, thick mist! How you blurred my sight as I lay on that stretcher with a burst appendix!
In another vision, following swiftly on the first, the ancient Pointy Towner was cocking the snooks he’d gathered. This, too, was obscured by mist, more’s the pity. And more’s the potty, if you want to know, and I’m sure you do. I’m quite sure. Oh yes I am. There was a hell of a lot of pottiness abroad at that time. What a time it was! A potty time, pottier than ever before or after, even now …
Now the gold is turned to lead
And you are lying in your bed
With curtains drawn across the night
Oh hug your pillow! Hug it tight
Though you may plead and you may pray
The Grunty Man is on his way!