Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Top Of My Head, Part IX - Markers

During the course of writing these essays, it occurred to me that some of the subjects had two recurring traits which, given the distance between them in location and time, might perhaps be markers of dopamine dysfunction. Of, course, I only have access to a very limited range of materials, and it may perfectly possibly be the case that they have been recorded elsewhere; but I haven't seen them recorded elsewhere, and therefore record them here, if only because I might be correct and mentioning them might therefore help someone, some day, get the help they need a little faster than they might get otherwise. 

Firstly, back to basics; for although I have  only ever attempted to translate six words that Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus ever wrote, they might have had much more in them than I first thought. Those words are from Chapter 5 Verse 30 of 'The Twelve Caesars' - 'risus indecens, ira turpior spumante rictu'.

In 'Recasting Neuropsychiatry', the first essay I ever wrote on the subject of what I believe is the necessity of abolishing all current categories of neuropsychiatric disorder and replacing them with a catch-all term 'Dopamine Illness' or 'General Dopamine Illness',  and the first in an immediately discontinued series, I focussed too much on the correct meaning of 'spumante rictu'; whether this meant Claudius 'slobbering', the English verb for that action that Robert Graves ascribed to it in his translation of 1957, or whether it meant something else. The connection of 'spumante', related to the First Sonjugation sputo, -tare, -tavi, -tatum, 'to spit', with 'rictu', obviously related to the English 'rictus', suggested an expulsion of liquid from the mouth when the face was fixed of a type likely to be seen when a masked Parkinsonian is salivating. However, I missed the importance of other words in the phrase. 

Graves translated the words 'risus indecens' as 'an uncontrolled laugh'. After 'Recasting Neuropsychiatry' went online, an acquaintance of mine, one whom I suspect having more than a touch of what is currently known as 'Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder', remarked that I possess what they described as a 'dirty laugh'. They did not quite understand why I immediately shouted 'Eureka!'

I believe it is precisely that quality of laughter known as 'dirty laughter' that Suetonius was describing Claudius as possessing. An 'uncontrolled laugh' could be anything, from a hyena's shreak to the hollow laughter of a cynic. It's not as if Suetonius could have made drawing that conclusion any easier - he chose the adjective 'indecens', the relationship of which to the English 'indecent' doesn't require examination. It may be the case that those who suffer from dopamine dysfunction have dirty laughs, and should not only be seen but also heard in order to be properly diagnosed.

It also means that the final, and hopefully correct, translation of that passage of Chaprt 5 Verse 30 of 'The Twelve Caesars' should read as follows - 

 '(Claudius) had a dirty laugh, a horrible habit, under the stress of anger of salivating with a masked face..."

The second marker is anatomical. 

The number of sufferers of dopamine dysfunction disorders who have been described as having had spindling limbs seems unusually high for a relationship between the two phenomena to be accidental. Suetonius records that both Caligula and Nero had spindling limbs, while Matthew Dennison, in his 'The Twelve Caesars', (ibid), records that Germanicus, Caligula's father and the brother of Claudius, suffered from spindling legs (p. 120). In her wonderful book 'Russia In The Age of Peter the Great', the late Professor Lindsey Hughes quoted the early 20th Century Russian portraitist V. A. (Valentin) Serov's description of Peter's limbs as having been 'spindling'. In 'The Unforgettable Kenny Everett', it was recorded that the perceived puniness of his physique seemed to have greatly irritated that great clown, and if my memory does not play me false it also showed a picture of Everett in a comic strongman pose which depicted him as possessing very thin arms; the same thin arms which for years have made the T-Shirt my choice of clothing of last resort. 

And now for a little light literary criticism...

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