[Notes: This interview took place in 2013. I cannot remember where.}
Ted Vaaak, and the English language
Ted Vaaaak, celebrated horror writer extroadinaire, has taken his career in a wildly eccentric new direction with An Enumerated List Of The English Language, his new non-fiction book where he attempts to list every word in the English language. David N. Guy met up with him to discuss what he’s done.
Q. This book is quite a departure from your usual work. Why did you feel the need to move into the non-fiction and reference book sector?
A. Like everyone, I have often wondered how many words I knew. So I decided to count them. And then list them. After I had collected them all, I ordered them by hand.
Q. Collected them all? Do you mean you wrote them all down?
A. I cut them out of my books.
Q. So should this book really be called An Enumerated List Of The English Language That Is Used In The Works Of Ted Vaaak?
A. Dear god no. It is incredibly vulgar to use your own name in the title of one’s work.
Q. But still surely there are words you have never used in your books?
A. Name one!
A. That’s not English. It’s dutch.
Q. Of course it’s English. Otherwise I wouldn’t know it.
A. If I remember correctly it appears as word #933653 in the book, anyway, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about. And it appears frequently in The Screams. (The protagonist is called Terry Yacht).
Q. Coxswain. That’s not in there.
A. I used the more archaic form, cockswain, both in this list (it is word #99873) and in my short story, The Cockswine.
Q. Cockswine isn’t a word!
A. No, it is a name. The protagonist is called Barry Cockswine.
A. Will you shut up about boats.
Q. I just refuse to believe that every English word ever has been used in one of your books.
A. Well, some of them were used in my magazine articles.
Q. But still, it’s preposterous. What about new words?
A. What about them?
Q. Like bromance? Surely you haven’t used bromance? Or staycation?
A. I have used both of those quite frequently.
Q. Bloody hell. How could you?
A. They come in very helpful when writing articles for Observer Travel Monthly (all of which are published under the pseudonym Tom Meltzer to preserve my anonymity, so please don’t print this reply).
Q. Okay. Let’s get back to the book. What is a word? Or, I should say, what differentiates a word from another word?
A. The fact that they are different.
Q. But different how? For instance, you have separate entries for right (#786734), rite (#78830), wright (#923432) and write (#923445). Yet they are all said the same. Should therefore you not also have included right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right and right?
A. Don’t be absurd.
Q. What about rite and rite?
A. I don’t really consider those any differently from the first usage.
Q. What about write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write and write?
A. That’s what I do every night! Hahaha!
Q. What about right, right, and right?
A. Didn’t you already do those ones?
Q. They were different ones.
A. Anyway, in answer to your question, I don’t know.
Q. What is your favourite word?
A. I like them all.
Q. Even the really annoying ones?
A. Especially them.
Q. Even crelm?
A. It has served me well.
Q. Are names words?
Q. No they aren’t.
A. If I said they weren’t you’d just have said they were, wouldn’t you?
Q. No. As if Ted is a word.
A. It means to simultaneously love and loathe. For example, “He lived with his ted wife, Margaret.”
Q. And Vaaak?
A. It is an echoic for the sound a hen makes when throttled.
Q. What use is this book?
Q. Yes, use. Why would someone buy a book containing a contextless list of words? Why wouldn’t they just buy a dictionary?
A. This functions as an index to the dictionary.
Q. The dictionary is already its own index.
A. That’s a terrifying thought.
Q. I don’t understand.
A. It might become self-aware.
Q. What might?
A. The dictionary. Self-reflectivity is the basis of consciousness. Imagine a world where the dictionaries are thinking.
A. They are frightened. All these people holding them, peering at them, inspecting their innards constantly for portents and augurs.
Q. Ted, you’re frightening me.
A. And myself
Q. Ted, thank you.
Due to a scheduling change, Ted Vaaaaak’s Screeeech by Ted Vaaak is available now from all good bookshops. There are currently no plans to release An Enumerated List Of The English Language.__________patreon. Subscribers get not just early access to content and also the occasional gift, but also my eternal gratitude. Which I'm not sure is very useful, but is certainly very real. Thank you.