It’s not very common in conversation, not in its original sense at least. People stick to ‘weird’, which is a whole other story, coming from Old English wyrð, meaning fate or destiny. You generally only get it in journalism, when some hack has been detailed to put down the latest outbreak of truth from behind the curtain. Such journalists restrict their ‘research’ to thumbing through the thesaurus, of course. Let’s see… bogus, baseless, groundless, unfounded, false, untrue, unhinged… deranged….
But I’ve heard it a lot when Agent Smith takes over the body and brain of one of those close to me in the Matrix. Family and friends, always the first to try to bring you in line, for your own sake, no doubt, to protect you from yourself.
Outlandish conspiracy theories.
It goes together nicely. Got a nice ring to it. But what does it mean?
1. looking or sounding bizarre or unfamiliar.” outlandish, brightly colored clothes”
2. ARCHAIC foreign or alien.
ūtland —> ūtlendisc —> outlandish
Old English ūtlendisc ‘not native’, from ūtland ‘foreign country’.
abnormal alien anomalous atypical bizarre cranky deviant divergent eccentric exotic fantastic far-out foreign freakish grotesque idiosyncratic kooky leftfield ludicrous odd oddball offbeat off-centre out of the way outré peculiar preposterous queer quirky freaky off-the-wall screwy singular strange unconventional unfamiliar unknown unheard of unorthodox unusual way-out wacky weird
ordinary, commonplace, conventional, normal
And that’s it. So many synonyms, and just four antonyms? I guess normal never needs that many words.
My thinking wasn’t always ūtlendisc, of course. I was once an inlander too. It was only, ironically or not, when I left my country, moving not so far, but across the sea, to Amsterdam, where on a day in early 2002 I wandered into a coffeeshop after work to check my emails, and there on the screen was a document left by the previous user when his or her coins ran out: FAA protocols for the interception of hi-jacked planes.
By that time I’d stopped shelling out six euros a time for imported copies of The Guardian, which I’d read all my life, inland. I think I still saw BBC 24-hour news, and CNN, on the tiny television with built-in VHS I’d brought with me. The endlessly recycling headlines, logos and music.
I scanned the document, thought ‘hmm, that’s odd’ like an inlander, closed it, and found a website behind it on the screen — What Really Happened, a content farm run by Mike Rivero out of Hawaii. After that I started reading the whole world’s press, and the citizen press. And it took a while from there, but bit by bit my mind arrived in ūtland, as my body already had, and here I am, a million miles from where I started out.
Though very much landlocked, in the physical sense, here in Isan, Northern Thailand. There are people around me who I know have never seen the sea. But that’s OK, there plenty of people who travel the world and still don’t cross any borders, I’ve known them and worked with them, and fallen out with a few.
Dunbar’s all right, they say, though he does have some outlandish ideas. Just don’t get him started.
Now the world has shut down, and of course I have my own ideas about that. Relatives write to me, asking how things are here. As soon as I open my outlandish mouth, of course, they wish they hadn’t and go a bit quiet.
Things here are fine. It’s hot. We have a plague of beetles. People still eat with their hands. (Spoons are for soup.) Nobody here is worried about a virus, just as nobody here puts any credence in first-world delusions like global warming. Here it’s always hot this time of year, so they get up before dawn to work, and sleep a couple of hours after dark. And there’s always drought, though it’s getting worse, but that’s because government officials block the springs to make it worse, because drought creates a big aid budget, and we all know where that ends up. Though here in this parish, we seem to be making some progress, with money being allocated for boreholes to bring groundwater across the plain from the hills of Phu Wiang. There’s a growing awareness of what the problem is… and it isn’t CO2 .
Of course things have changed. Thirty years ago, when she was a child, my friend who speaks English tells me, there were huge flocks of birds that could block the sun, horizon to horizon, almost, and you don’t see that any more. Well, the past, as we know, is another country. People went hunting in the hills, and clouds took recognisable shapes against skies of blue. And recently the old lady of the house saw something truly outlandish, an hour before dawn — a brilliant train of stars, regularly spaced, in a strange line, shooting across the sky. She didn’t know what it was, but she knew it was nothing natural, and nothing good.
As for me, I can’t imagine ever getting home, now, or where that even is any more. Some place where people think like me? Not England, then. Bohemia, perhaps, or Erewhon. Some fictitious country where I can live with my outlandish thoughts and an outlandish cat, perhaps, eating outlandish fish and weird outlandish leaves.
That’s my wyrð.
I’ve been self-isolating for years as it is — ask anyone. I know I’m bad, my ideas are dangerous, and I don’t want to expose those I love to them.
Fact is, the truth is a foreign country, and if you’ve been there you’re gonna be tested and quarantined for at least a month when you get back, and stuck with needles before they let you go.
The borders are closed until further notice.