There’s an odd phenomena that occurs when a word is repeated too often in close proximity. After a while it loses all the values & meaning we’ve attributed to it and ceases to become anything but the bizarre collection of silly mouth noises the letters make when we verbalize these weird symbols together in the way we’ve been conditioned to. There’s a word for it. It’s called Semantic satiation. Try saying chimney 40 times. It’s ludicrous. What is a chim? What is a ney? Chim-ney. It’s bonkers.
This peculiar thing happened to me the day David Moyes was appointed manager of Manchester United. I encountered his name so ubiquitously that a simple word I knew well, and had happily associated automatically with a sinewy bug eyed football manager who worked in Liverpool, became a complete nonsense of a sound unable to be appropriated any value. Moize. Mwoys. Muoeze. What?
I tried to reprogram my brain to register it. I knew it belonged to a man, and I knew what that man looked like, but no, the word was now gibberish. Every time it was mentioned it refused to stick to him, and would only register as somewhere between “moist” and “noise”. By the end of the first day this had developed into an actual moist noise that I would subconsciously manifest in my own head whenever it came into my sphere of awareness. The name wasn’t even a silly word anymore, it was a silly sound. Like Prince, if he’d changed his name to a sound. A moist sound. Like very softly sucking your cheeks towards your tongue and then releasing them. “Sslukkd”. THAT, and only that, was Moyes to me. For weeks.
Then, thankfully, other news happened. The football season ended, other less important sports seized their chance in the graveyard atmosphere of Sky Sports News, and the noise himself went on a long holiday. The affliction subsided.
But now he’s back. Starting his first week proper as manager of Britain’s most famous football club. Guaranteed to be scrutinized in everything from his choice of first press conference tie to his inability to chew in a manner befitting of Sir Alex Ferguson.
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One thing that’s absolutely certain about the first few months (and possibly even years) of Moyes’s tenure, is that he’ll be castigated in some corners for everything he does. Loses Rooney? Moyes is weak for letting him go. Keeps Rooney? Moyes is weak for not getting rid. Fails to sign a world class midfielder? Moyes has no pulling power. Signs people from Everton? Moyes has no pulling power. Fails to win all pre-season games against Japanese electricians by eight clear goals? Moyes isn’t up to this level. Wears ugly suit to Charity Shield? Moyes has no pulling power.
Even now, typing the word out I’m drifting dangerously back towards satiation-land.
United’s ominously tough opening fixtures combined with sslukkd-era Everton’s historically slow start to the season means they’re guaranteed to drop at least a couple of points in the early going. Byline writers will undoubtedly already have their headlines primed, pre-set and ready to go at the touch of a button. Like the Queen’s obituary. Or prospective Yewtree candidate puns. MOYESEND CHALICE. MOYES FROM THE CRAP STUFF. UNITED CAUGHT WITH THEIR PANTS DOWN MID-MOYTUS. It’s going to become unbearable.
United fans and board need to be patient. This barely needs saying and has been repeated ad nauseam by anyone with a brain still able to register the meaning of words, but it’s much easier to trot out before the actual business commences (and by business, I don’t mean business as in business, I mean business as in football. The business of playing football. Not football business. That much should be evident, unless the word business has now become meaningless to you. Business. Look at it, it’s nonsense!) Because when the first on-pitch stumbles start to happen, and they will, that name is going to be everywhere, losing it’s meaning and value with every red top headline, sensationalist hit whoring editorial and over emotional forum post.
Get to grips with it while you can. The noise is coming, and it’s going to be deafening.