A PSYCHIC OR A PSYCLIST – CALL ME WHAT YOU LIKE
June 8, 2000
CHAT show producer Trent Ridley put a confiding arm across my shoulders after we recorded his programme in LA last month, and guided me to the back of the set, away from the ears of technicians and visitors.
”Stay away from ‘the paranormal’ if I were you,” warned Trent. ”Don’t use it any more.”
”Don’t use it? The paranormal uses me! How can I stay away from it when it follows me around everywhere?”
”I mean the word,” he said. ”Just the word. ‘Paranormal’. It’s taken a dive, it’s got all the wrong connotations. It means flakey, it means tacky. It means passe.”
For the past four or five years, I’ve called myself a ‘paranormalist’. Before that it was ‘psychic’, which was a very respectable term for a long time, before the invention of online predictions and lottery forecasts.
Before ‘psychic’ it was ‘spoonbender’. It doesn’t matter much to me how I designate myself — one tabloid recently labelled me an ‘ex-underpants model’, and I’ve been called a lot worse than that.
My philosophy is simple — label me what you like, but don’t spell Uri with a ‘Y’. And don’t libel me.
I have to face the truth of what Trent told me, and admit that what I call myself matters to many people in the media. Impressions are shallow, and labels are sticky. When I use the wrong word to describe what I do, I risk tarring my own name.
What do I call myself? In everyday life I think of myself as a Jew, of course, but thats a word which has had to fight for its dignity for centuries, and it is only in my lifetime that it has become a universal badge of pride.
My dictionary of slang notes that, since before Shakespeare’s time, Jew and Jewish were all-purpose adjectives of abuse. Jew-boys and Jew-girls were grasping, avaricious, wealthy, untrustworthy, deceitful and mean (as well as uncircumcised and abstaining from pork).
Thats quoting the lexicologist Jonathon Green, by the way. I don’t know whether he’s Jewish, but his work is completely factual and in no way racist. (On the same page, he defines ‘Jesuit’ as a male homosexual, which is a tidbit of anti-Christian slang I’d never heard before.)
Green lists two other slang uses of ‘Jew’: in the Forties and Fifties, American blacks called the boss ‘the Jew’, and in West Indian patois ‘Jew’ meant any rich white man.
And did you know chicken soup was ‘Jewish penicillin’ in Sixties’ America? Green points out that hot soup clears blocked nasal passages, by stimulating the mucous membranes.
‘Yid’ is a word reclaimed too, though I never use it. There’s an aggression about it, like a black calling himself ‘nigger’ or a gay man calling himself ‘queer’.
I’m starting to see Tottenham Hotspur fans, especially on the internet, calling themselves ‘the Yids’ — for many years that word was the taunt of opposing fans.
Leo Rosten’s book, The Joys Of Yiddish, remarked in 1968 that Yiddish speakers would say ‘yeed’, which was fine. It was only the ignorant ‘yid’ with a short ‘i’ that could give offence.
So perhaps I should launch a campaign to reclaim ‘psychic’. Hand out badges which say, ‘Psychic And Proud’. Tee-shirts which urge, ‘Sing if you’re glad to be psychic!’ Maybe a TV series called Psychic As Folk.
I’m psychic. Got a problem with that? No? Good.
But confrontation isn’t my style, and I don’t want to give credence to some charlatans and phone-line phoneys who demand thousands of dollars over dozens of calls to lift imaginary curses or break runs of bad luck.
That’s a vicious scam, and since they are happy to call themselves psychics, I shall just have to leave the word alone.
The answer is to coin my own. I am unique, and I deserve a unique label. I am . . . what am I? A SuperMind? I like that — it suggests a muscular torso in Lycra, with a sacred stone blazing on his forehead and his Y-fronts outside his tights.
No, that would revive the ‘underpants model’ tag.
So am I a parabiorhythmist? I was in the Paras during the Six Day War, and biorhythm science is intriguingly mysterious. But I can hardly say the word, and no reporter could spell it.
Am I a psyclist? I love my bike. But people would say I was pedalling nonsense.
Am I a pscientist? That looks great, but some people might mistake me for a small-minded, sceptical, imagination-dead scientist.
Maybe I should just settle for Gellerist. Or an Urtist. My name means simply ‘my light’ and perhaps my job description should reflect this. Am I a light-bringer, a reality dazzler, a light fantastic, a shining light?
But none of these capture my essential modesty. I will have to keep on exploring. Exploring. That’s what I do.
I am an explorer. I can’t call myself ‘explorer Uri Geller’ in case people expect me to go on expeditions, but how about ‘explorologist’?
Explorology: The study of the unknown . . .
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