Triffid
Posted: 09 October 2011 02:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I encountered this in an opening paragraph of a Slate article by a British writer:

She makes factual television programmers and is often sent books by aspiring producers and presenters. I am incontinent when the urge to buy a new hardback novel comes upon me, and she reads incredibly quickly. All these factors had conspired to fill our shelves. The books had become Triffid-like, taking over our home and lives. Something had to be done.

Okay, putting aside the programmers typo (which I suspect is the result of American spellcheck software slamming into a British spelling of programme), and the unsavory connotations brought up by the use of incontinent, is this a typical use of triffid?

The word isn’t found much in the U. S., but my understanding that it refers to an invasion of menacing beings, not unchecked proliferation. If I had to choose a science fiction allusion starting with tri- here, I would have gone with tribble. Is this just my unfamiliarity with British idiom, or is this bad writing? (There’s no question that there is bad, or at least inadequate, editing being committed here.)

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Posted: 09 October 2011 04:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OED on triffid:

hence used allusively of vigorous plants, or transf. of anything invasive or rapid in development.

Triffid-like doesn’t strike me (UK) as an odd usage in this context.  All of the OED’s citations are British.

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Posted: 09 October 2011 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree with Eliza, it’s often used allusively in the UK.

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Posted: 09 October 2011 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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"Triffid” is a direct allusion to Johm Wyndham’s 1951 SF novel “the Day of the Triffids”.  As far as I know Wyndham coined the word. Triffids (the name refers to their peculiar anatomy) were vegetables that got loose, not alien invaders, and the quality implied is indeed more “uncontrolled proliferation” than invasion.

(sighs with almost unbearable nostalgia for the days before SF was “discovered” by the fiend Kingsley Amis - and good SF was written by good SF writers)

[ Edited: 09 October 2011 09:31 AM by lionello ]
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Posted: 09 October 2011 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Although at least one of the movie adaptations of Wyndham’s book implies that the triffids were extraterrestrial in origin (by associating their first appearances with the appearance of multiple comets), in the book their origin is uncertain, and the narrator (IIRC) rejects the suggestion that they might be extraterrestrial.  In any case, their numbers swelled by reproduction and not by migration to Earth.

[ Edited: 09 October 2011 12:06 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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