There has of late been far too much reason and reasonableness here; I fear you may be at risk of forming the impression that I have become becalmed and moderate, that my irascibility has waned (would that then make me rascible?) or my intemperateness mellowed. So no more—for now, at least—of this fair-minded, egalitarian take on language. It is time for some inordinate and excessively opinionated dogmatism; the fact that it also happens to be right is merely an incidental detail.
I speak now of the word quirky, and I speak particularly of those who self-identify as such.
Let us set out what a quirk is: it is, in the metrics of personality, the tiniest, feeblest, most unambitious deviation from the mean imaginable. It is measured on the Planck scale: no smaller unit of character is possible. To boast of one’s quirks is like Holland boasting of its hills: better remain silent on the topic than draw attention to an absence.
To say “I am quirky”—almost universally qualified by a subsequent but—is little more than to say “I am almost the dullest, most stultifyingly drab individual you will ever meet. I am so thoroughly banal that even the facts that I sometimes wear odd socks and spread my Marmite a little bit thick stand out against the insipid dreariness that otherwise manifests my poor excuse for a personality. I feel, therefore, that I have to emphasize these, yet such a timid milksop am I that even then I do so half-apologetically, with a little self-deprecating titter, and quickly qualify it to assure you of my fundamental mundanity. There is nothing about me that is wonderful, ambitious, energetic, scintillating, or in any way within the widest gamut of the concept of characterful; even saying those words makes me blush with embarrassment. I am dreadful: run, you bright, shining things, run! For I am a black hole of charisma, the antiparticle of charm, the very heat death of the psyche.”
I hear, of course, a potential response. “We have been reading your blog,” the quirk-defenders say, “and we are not impressed. There is a thread that runs through it which, from your posturing about Art, through your sneering at the English countryside, to your defence of the vulgar and the uneducated in language, shows that you are a shallow and crass man incapable of appreciating the subtle, the sophisticated, and the sublime and who, being fortuitously possessed of some rhetorical weaponry—though more of the character of the blunderbuss than the sniper rifle—uses his firepower to, under the pose of intellectualism and egalitarianism, attempt to blast everyone else down to his own churlish and uncouth level. That you cannot appreciate the gentle delights of the quirk, the blameless pleasure of the foible, or the piquant sting of the peccadillo is unsurprising; your raging against them is but the sound and fury of the idiot.”
“This is an impressive argument,” I counterthrust, “but I am suspicious. Your assertion, with its nested subclauses, fondness for the rule of three, calculated and excessive splitting of an infinitive, and its deliberately casual nod in the direction of Shakespeare, looks remarkably as though it was written by none other than myself, and thus can be seen as little more than a callow ploy to spin this post out by a couple more paragraphs, and to descend into one of those bouts of smugly self-referential post-modern-schmost-modernism which seem be one of my—bah!—quirks, and that amuse almost certainly no-one but me. I cannot, therefore, take it seriously and must throw it out as an analysis of my character, however true it may ring.”
There is no answer to that, of course.