On a little-known planet situated in an outer spiral arm of a modest galaxy, there are six people. Unlike their home, they are far from ordinary. They are not the only people on this planet, but by their own standards, they are the most noteworthy inhabitants that they know of. In recognition of this, they formed an exclusive club. They named it the One-in-a-Billion Club. Later, and much to everyone else’s chagrin, a founding member, a girl called Casio, moved to a distant city. This prompted the painful and final break-up of an on-off relationship between Casio and another member of the One-in-a-Billion Club, a boy called Hopper. (The names have not been changed to protect the innocent; they really are known as Casio and Hopper, at least within the club.) After her departure and split with Hopper, the remaining members tacitly expelled Casio, reducing the club to five. This spoiled its name, which could no longer refer to the (approximate) ratio of club members to the planet’s total population. The remaining club members enjoy and, at times, revere aspects of Japanese culture, so it was fitting they were eating at a sushi restaurant when they resolved to choose a new title for their group.
Giro: We should call ourselves something that sounds cool, obviously.
Hopper: Ever noticed everything these days has a name that’s a combo of two or more words? Like Facebook, Craigslist… erm… ?
Phi: Yeah, it’s definitely a phenomenon of the World Wide Web. I like to call it the WeldWordWeb.
Hopper: L-o-l, who came up with that?
Phi: I did, all by myself. Don’t you read my blog?
Giro: I don’t believe it. [Points his chopsticks at Phi.] You stole it from somewhere else.
Phi: No, I did not.
Grace: Not every new name is a conjunction of words. Twitter is just one word, and so is Steam. iPad is a letter and a word.
Douglas: [Reaching across for a plate of food.] You know who’s got a good name? Sailor Moon. It’s the perfect name for a space-faring warrior schoolgirl. The manga’s proper full name is Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon. It’s an absomazing name.
Giro: Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon sounds like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Douglas: Exactly my point. Nobody would have taken any interest in the crappy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles if they didn’t have a really memorable name. It sears itself into your brain vault like a white hot laser beam cutting through I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
Grace: If we’re going to pick a new name, it has to capture our essence. What is our essence? What makes us, us?
Phi: I’m ice cream cool and so are all of you, though you’re not quite as cool as me.
Hopper: We’re going to become mega stars. Or at least we should.
Giro: We’re slack. Slack like the elastic in an old pair of y-fronts.
Phi: We’re a force to be reckoned with.
Giro: Okay, then it is clear what our name should be: Y-Force Elastic Cream.
Douglas: No. Ice Pants Reckoning.
Phi: How about SlackStarCoolForce?.
[There were many nods of agreement.]
Hopper: We should have a verb in the name. Make us truly distinctive.
Grace: The verb ‘to shuffle’.
Douglas: ‘To bulldoze’.
Hopper: ‘To masticate’. Yes, I said ‘masticate’.
Giro: ‘Go’. It creates a nice juxtaposition with our actual tendency to hang around doing nothing.
And so the club was re-christened SlackStarCoolForceGo!, though it took them several hours to agree on the appropriate way to punctuate the name (all one word, liberal use of capitals) and whether it should be prefaced with the definite article (no). It even took a show of hands to decide if it must end with an exclamation mark (the motion was carried three to two). If they had known that they would recruit a new member only a few days later, they might not have bothered. But then again, they probably would.
It would soon get tedious to have to keep on referring to them by their collective name, so we might as well meet the individuals who were eating sushi that night.
Giro: I’m Giro, and I’m the leader of the SlackStarCoolForceGo!. They’re both pretty stupid names when you think about it, but what are you gonna do? I’m clever, witty, sharp. My classic Oasis logo t-shirt is so uncool that it transcends its uncoolness to be the kind of cool which is so cool that it is uncool again. The band Oasis was cool for 27 minutes during 1993, mostly at times when they were covering ‘I Am The Walrus’ by The Beatles. Unbeknownst to many, Paul McCartney was the truly cool one in the Beatles though he didn’t do himself any favours with ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’.
Phi: My name is Phi, Fiona really, but I prefer to be called Phi. It’s a Greek thing. Don’t ask. I’m the coolest, the de facto leader of the SlackStarCoolForceGo!. On my iPhone I am currently listening to the final episode of John Peel’s Perfumed Garden, which was broadcast on 14th of August 1967. It was cool then and has remained cool to this day.
Grace: Grace is my real name. I like it, though I wouldn’t say I was graceful. This £10 short-sleeved sparkle shift dress that I’m wearing, 2008, from Matalan, is perfectly set-off by my no longer fashionable but nevertheless vintage 16-hole Dr. Martens boots. They’re great for stomping things with.
Douglas: Tonight I’m wearing new black Uniqlo jeans, original blue 80’s Adidas Gazelles that would be worth 140 pounds if sold on the market, my Slowdive ‘Just for a Day’ t-shirt (they were in vogue during the early 90’s) and sunglasses that came free with a large pizza. [Long pause.] Oh yeah – my name is Douglas. I’m intelligenious, by which I mean I’m an intelligenius, and you could say I’m the leader of the SlackStarCoolForceGo!.
Hopper: They call me Hopper. Yup – Hopper. I didn’t like the name at first, but it grew on me. You’ll need to look closely, but the words on my badge read: “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.” It’s a quote from the 1927 novel ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’. The quote wasn’t so cool then but has become cool thanks to being adapted for the rather cooler 1948 movie starring Humphrey Bogart. It got progressively cooler until the mid-50’s and has declined since, though this original version of the line is now probably four times as cool as when it was first written and eight times as cool when written on a badge. They call me Hopper.
SlackStarCoolForceGo! were dimly aware of a truth that excited and appalled them. This was the freest they would ever be. This was a cusp in their lives, where the balance struck between their powers and responsibilities would be most favourable. Whilst they might attain greater status in later life, their bodies and minds would never be fitter, they would never be more beautiful, and what wealth or authority they might gain would be weighed down with burden and duty. No, this was the time of their lives.
Or rather, they would recruit a new member of the team, and then they would have the time of their lives.
(to be continued…)