Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My arch nemesis

Everyone should have an arch-nemesis. It fleshes you out as a character and makes you more interesting. Both of you, in fact, since you’re his arch-nemesis too, and it goes both ways. I’ve believed this for at least a decade, since university, when I met my own favorite arch-nemesis.

My university humour newspaper, Golden Words, had a continual staffing crisis—two crises, in fact: how to get rid of the contributors we didn’t like, and how to attract more. The first had a deceptively simple solution: just being ourselves. The second was more difficult. We eventually settled on a two-step solution: First, stop ripping up new contributors’ articles in front of their faces. Second, set up a booth at the annual Clubs Night held in Grant Hall.

As co-editor, I manned the booth along with the senior staff writer and chief keyboard smasher, Justin Skinner. How this was supposed to attract new staff, I don’t know. Our area of expertise was more in the field of antagonizing strangers. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we ran afoul of Medieval Club Guy.

Medieval Club Guy was, true to his name, there representing the Medieval Club. (I don’t actually recall his real name—just that he looked like Gareth from the UK version of The Office.) The Medieval Club was a bunch of guys who got together to practice the nerdly pursuits of heraldry, the bardic arts, whacking each other with foam swords, and memorizing lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, while the few girls just got to weave or be scullery maids. Needless to say, this was not an organization that one would join to meet women. So it was perfect for Medieval Club Guy, who didn’t seem to be at risk of meeting women anyway. I’m not sure how our disagreement started, but I’d guess it had something to do with the fact that he was wearing a cape and hosiery. You can't let that sort of thing pass without comment.

We argued freely over a wide variety of topics, ranging from how gay his cape was to how gay his pantyhose were. Finally, his manhood impugned and his stock of medieval insults exhausted, he’d had enough and challenged me to a duel. Fortunately, I knew my rights and reminded him I was entitled to choose the time, place, and weapons.

“We fight in Cornwall,” I said.

He wrinkled his brow. “Cornwall, Ontario?”

“Cornwall, England. And we fight with tin.”

“Tin swords?”

“No, just hunks of raw tin.”

Either he decided I wasn’t taking the duel very seriously or would have strongly preferred an alloy, because he grabbed a quarterstaff and started thrusting it menacingly in our direction. Pretty soon, an older man in a robe came over and yelled at him and took away the staff. Medieval Club Guy slunk away at the wizard's heel, and that was the last we saw of him that night.

However, I saw him again one afternoon a few weeks later. I was crossing a busy street with my friend Jon Krashinsky (not to be confused with Jon Krasinski from the US version of The Office). Standing catercorner to us, decked out in his full regalia of cape and hosiery, was Medieval Club Guy. He spied me at the same time I saw him. He raised a fist and shook it.

Knave!” he shouted. Then he scampered away.

Jon turned and looked at me, dumbfounded. I kept an impassive face and just shrugged slightly, as though this sort of thing happened all the time, as though it were just a fact of life that occasionally a foppish courtier would travel through time from the 14th century to tell me off in the middle of the street. I'm not sure I ever actually did explain the whole thing.

Medieval Club Guy was in one of my classes the next semester, and although he cracked unfunny nerd jokes now and then, he wasn’t really a bad guy. He still played the role of antagonist, but really, he wasn't an arch-nemesis so much as an arch nemesis. As I said, everyone should have one. But it's definitely a bonus to find one you actually like.


Blogger Steve Ely said...

"You're a jerk," repeated the alien, "a complete kneebiter."

12/20/2005 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous prhead said...

I understood the difference between arch-nemesis and arch nemesis!

I win a prize.

12/20/2005 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Ely said...

Your prize is the enjoyment that comes with comprehending the punchline, greedy. Unless we all get prizes. In which case, I think the prize should be something cool, like Peter Lynn's Holiday Tunes CD Trilogy.

12/20/2005 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Ely said...

er, "...such as Peter Lynn's Holiday Tunes CD Trilogy," rather.

I've got to worry more, commenting on a copy editor's blog.

12/20/2005 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Lynn said...

Don't sweat it. I don't get paid to edit anyone's comments. I do admire your distinction between like and such as, though.

12/20/2005 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Ely said...

Especially important distinction in this case.

12/20/2005 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger SamuraiFrog said...

Arch nemesis vs. arch-nemesis.

Is that a pun or a play on words?

12/21/2005 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous prhead said...

I'm going to try and answer that without looking it up. Here I go.

Your arch-nemesis is the most hated nemesis out of all your many nemeses. Batman had issues with a lot of people, but the Joker is definitely the Love to his Cobain; the Joker would be Batman's arch-nemesis.

An arch nemesis is a nemesis who is arch, meaning haughty, stuck-up, pompous, self-righteous, whatever.

12/21/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous prhead said...

Also, I think you were being sarcastic. Dammit.

I still had fun.

12/21/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Lynn said...

Maybe both. But it's more dignified to call it paronomasia.

12/21/2005 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Lynn said...

Also, "arch" as an adjective can have a sense of exaggerated playfulness or roguishness, which is sort of how I meant it.

12/21/2005 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous mkasp73 said...

Reading this entry cracks me up every single time. Thank you.

3/08/2006 12:21:00 AM  

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