a maze of words leading to …?


Sheep

Encyclopaedia Avalonia, Vol. XXII …

Editor’s note: Grockels are not a tribe of Avalonia. But despite this handicap they have been graciously afforded an entry in the Encyclopaedia Avalonia since they are, on special occasions, allowed to cross the borders of Avalonia for short visits.

According to the department of mytho-linguistics at the University of Avalon, ‘grockels’ is a West Country term derived from the verb “to grok” (as coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his 1961 science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land) … meaning “to know or understand in a deeply existentialist or quintessential fashion”.

“Grok-less” of course means the opposite: to be without the faintest grok – i.e. pig ignorant. And over the years, “grok-less” has been corrupted – or “etymologically perverted” as they prefer to say at the University – by the peculiarities of Devonian dialect (and spelling) into “grok-els” or “grockels”. It is now applied almost exclusively to tourists and holiday-makers, as these are deemed the epitome of those-who-do-not-grok … otherwise, goes the reasoning, they would actually be living in the West Country and not just wandering around for a piddling couple of weeks like lost Exmoor sheep.

There is a rival explanation, however, and funnily enough this also likens tourists to sheep – sheep whose sole destiny is to be herded together and shorn of their woolly fleeces as quickly as possible. Hence the phrases “fleecing the tourist” and “clip-joint”.

As for the linguistic and semantic processes that have supposedly led from this to the word “grockels”, they rest on a series of labyrinthine arguments involving, for example, the quest of Jason & the Argonauts, ancient Greek alphabets and the alleged arrival of the legendary figure of Brutus the Trojan, after the fall of Troy, in the Devon town of Totnes.

However, the detail of these arguments need not concern us here (nor thankfully anywhere else). We should merely note that critics of this rival theory – who are mostly tenured at the University of Avalon – describe it as “mutton dressed up as lamb”. They admit that the term “fleecy grockels” is used in certain obscure corners of the region, but answer this fact by riposting, “so bloody what!”

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