By Nigel Wigmore
James Joyce, as I recall, predicted the chopping up of the English language. This avant-garde novelist had a fair crack at it himself in works such as Ulysses.
But hasn’t Joyce’s prediction proved correct, firstly in the short-form language that advertisers have thrust upon an unsuspecting world and latterly in the visual “Morse Code” of text messaging?
So certain words are shortened, distended, discarded and re-invented and long may this be part of our culture.
But superlatives have suffered and journalists are guiltier than most when it comes to flogging perfectly good and serviceable words to death.
“Awesome” could have attained modern usage through film and slang and has to come to us courtesy of the USA (where else?). But we shouldn’t hold that against it. The word when correctly used conveys majestic power.
Actually, Chambers Dictionary says it is something that is the “nicest, prettiest, best, most beautiful”. Hang on, we are only talking about a car here!
And yet awesome, trust me, is the mot juste to describe this week’s test drive, the Aston Martin V12 Vantage.
Now here’s the thing about Aston Martin. Unlike most carmakers, Aston prefers to deliver its test cars to journalists by covered trailer from the place where Astons are still hand-built, Gaydon in Warwickshire.
And the estimable Hugh – the man from Aston who delivered the V12 Vantage to my home – said for him this was the car – a wonder to behold and a personal favourite.
Fair enough. Hugh is the kind of man who has down the years delivered every conceivable Aston Martin. So there was a certain whispered awe in his voice when he was enthusing about the Vantage V12.
His voice became hushed and respectful – as it might when addressing royalty. Then he touched a button and flicked the car into sports mode, affording my neighbours the sound of a V12 belting it out like a belligerent baritone.
Hugh was, of course, proved right about the significance of this car. It wasn’t just its burnt orange livery, which was enough of a talking point, it was the awesome – that word again – engine that lurked beneath the bonnet.
The V12, 6-litre unit produces a massive 510bhp that cannons you off the mark to 60mph in just 4.2 seconds. With unlimited road space (and not chasing cops) the car might then soar on to a speed of 190mph. Now that is something.
Even the fellows at Autocar magazine, who profess to know a thing or two about motors, were moved to say upon experiencing a first drive of the V12 Vantage that it is “one of those rare cars that feels so fast it’s actually a bit scary”.
Well, yes. This car could be terrifying, if you don’t get it right. Because the truth is the V12 Vantage is so gutsy and superlative a driving machine, that I was reminded of the kind of self-control drivers have to show when riding a superbike.
Disrespect the superlative power you have at your disposal at your peril. If you mishandle it you could be in serious trouble. But then there are plenty of super bikers who live to a ripe old age, I’m told.
However, you may be asking yourself what is the point of owning such a car for everyday use on the road? Most of the kind of people who are able to afford the circa £140,000 price tag, would likely reply: “Because I can!” And there is that element to it. Owning one and driving one for a short while are two different worlds.
Usually, when I have the opportunity to drive a supercar, I take it with both hands, enjoy it for the short time I am able to, then give it back (reluctantly). But owning one? Well, you would have to have the deepest of pockets.
And not be over-concerned that everywhere you go in it, just about everyone will look at you (well, actually, they will not be looking at you but at the car but the “association”, as we all know, is all-important).
People seemed to love the orange Vantage V12. They crowded round it, boys on street corners with their fathers pointed at it, older ones on passing chopper bikes used another word that could give “awesome” a run for its money. That word was “Sick!” which apparently means the same thing.
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