Monday, April 26, 2010

"Thick as mince and a clatty bastit"

Readers of this blog know how much I love varieties of English other than my own, the slang especially.

Here's some of what I've found in Donna Moore's Old Dogs (I've boldfaced my favorite bits), and this is just in the first twenty-nine pages:

  • The line that gives this post its title.
  • "Naw, man, they're gonnae have this exhibition thing ther, with shitloads of expensive stuff. Would be a skoosh to nick something, I reckon."
  • "`Haw, fannybaws.' He poked Raymie in the side.

    "`Fuck's sake Dunc, I was sleeping. I was out on the randan last night and my head's still loupin'. This had better be fuckin' good or I'll batter you.'

    "`I'd like to see you try, ya mad rocket. You know that art gallery and museum place in the West End?'

    "`What art gallery Do I look like that Picasso bawbag, ya mad nugget?'"
The author's Big Beat From Badsville blog is good reading, too, ostensibly a guide to Scottish crime fiction but really a highly entertaining account of her adventures in Glasgow, with guest appearances from her parents and the unusually colorful lot that use the city's public transportation.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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22 Comments:

Blogger solea said...

I adore slang too. Since I work with teens, I can't help but absorb it and use it. Even if I'm talking to other adults, I will respond with things like "gaffle" and "butt hurt" (sorry I don't know if a hyphen goes in or not). The only thing that irks me is when writers try to be too "urban" or "ghetto" and the language is really not authentic.

April 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solea, you're in an interesting and unusual position. I suspect that slang and catchphrases spread faster than ever before, and that means they travel from currency to overhyped media phenomenon faster than ever before. I won

This probably means that's harder than ever before for writers to sound authentic when they try to be urban or ghetto.

I had not heard "gaffle" and "butt hurt" before, by the way. And I wonder what slang or catchphrases will still be around in two, five, ten, twenty or fifty years.

April 26, 2010  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

I enjoyed Old Dogs very much. Donna' a very funny writer. I agree with you about slang. It seems to be getting to be more and more of a mish mash. There's a lot of Polglish being used in Poland now, much to the chagrin of older generations.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, what sorts of slang do those crazy Polglish speakers come up with? What kinds of English words do they incorporate into their speech?

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A funny writer, and not just for the colorful expressions and the swearing. The short scenes do a nice job of building comic anticipation as well.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

I like 'double plural' words like chipsy (chips), shortsy (shorts),topsy(tops) and, of course words like biznesman.

When I came to Poland there was a lot of Yo! and motherf*CKER being used, which is quite fun when every other word in the conversation is Polish.

I told Donna that Old Dogs was like a sweary Ealing Comedy which Donna took as the compliment it was.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, I can see the Ealing comedy comparison -- comic scammers not quite as smart as they think, and all, though the house here is run by two ladies rather than just one.

I wonder how "mother******" might sound in a Slavic accent.

Even the French say "le weekend" and so on, to the presumable dismay of the Academie Francaise and, even more, of more-French-than-the-French bureaucrats in Quebec. I like the idea of a lingsuistic trade war, in which the French, so sensitive to the proposition that infiltration of English into their language will erode their culture, ban English words. America and the UK retaliate by banning every French word that has made its way into English, which means no law, no beef, and no people, and we'll all have to start saying general attorney instead of attorney general.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

It certainly seems like the American version of English is less colorful than the Irish and Scottish versions. We have been smoothed into boring, I think. Maybe it's from too many of us learning to write briefs at law school.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I sometimes wonder whether my own brand of English would seem more colorful if I were away from it for a few years. Do the varieties of Scottish, Irish or Australian English that we enjoy so much seem as colorful to their own native speakers? In the case of Irish, perhaps they do. I wrote about my own experience with Irish speech here, and I'm not the only one who believes that the proverbial Irish fluency of speech is real.

I'd blame newspapers and television for spreading the noxious law school language that you speak of, as well as its related jargon from the business and political worlds. And I don't mean just tabloid newspapers, either. Every time the New York Times or the Washington Post lets its reporters slip into worshipfully complicit jargon, it lets itself be seduced.

Newspapers' scorn for books and de-emphasis on literate prose has not done much good for American speech, either.

April 27, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

I wrote about my own experience with Irish speech here, and I'm not the only one who believes that the proverbial Irish fluency of speech is real

Shite.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Did you read the post to which I linked in my reply to Patti, ya big eejit?

I don't know if I'd have made the observation that I did if I had not read that Toronto article, but look, some stereotypes have at least a germ of accuracy to them.

April 27, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Don't call me a big eejit, ya cunt ya.

some stereotypes have at least a germ of accuracy to them

Yes, those Scots are mean, the English are reserved, and the Welsh, they really can sing, can't they?

But every man needs his delusions and far be it from me to deprive you of yours, especially ones so favourable to us paddies.

But don't think we're not appreciative of your efforts to single-handedly revive the Irish economy by turning all our writers into bestsellers.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, I know. For every well-spoken train conductor or hurling fan I came across in Dublin or Carrickfergus or Tyrone, hundreds and thousands passed me without drawing any special interest. But I always say that one travels to see interesting sights or eat interesting good; why shouldn't interesting people be part of the attraction as well?

One English stereotype I remember was embodied in the diffident ticket-taker on an open double-decker bus in London when London still had those. Instead of "Tickets, please," it was "Terribly sorry to inconvenience you, but if it's not too much trouble ... "

April 27, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, I hope you didn't come to Ireland to sample interesting food. I love this poor, sad country dearly but, as some importunate fellows might be eager to point out, our cuisine is not exactly one of our strong points.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I came for more than just food: a crime-fiction conference where I met many of the writers I now boost, and, on my first day Dublin, the 2008 All-Ireland hurling final.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No, I really came for the food.

I was misinformed.

April 27, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

You non-Brits may be interested in these observations of the bibulous habits of Londoners. It's perfectly alright with me if you curl your lip in scorn (either because your country's drinkers do it better or because you're abstemious).

April 28, 2010  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Oh, I think it's true. Although that post is only about soft Southern shandy drinkers. And lots of them are middle class (posh) so they only get half a point.

Most of my friend and family drink an amazing amount from Thursday to Sunday. They may have a day of during the week, but it's doubtful.

Love it.

April 28, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, I have only the most fleeting acquaintance with British drinking habits. I have, however, compared the American culture of alcohol unfavorably with the Italian and the French. One might say English drink to get drunk, Americans drink to talk about drinking, and Italians, or Romans at least, drink with a meal and do so slowly.

In five months in Rome my last trip, I saw one Italian obtrusively and publicly drunk. I'll see more than that in five minutes here.

April 28, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Most of my friend and family drink an amazing amount from Thursday to Sunday.

Long weekends, eh?

April 28, 2010  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Yep, it's true about the long weekends. When I was younger most people went ot on Friday and Sataurday and maybe Sunday afternoon.Now the weekend starts on Thursday (around 4 or 5 o'clock) and ends Sunday night. Binge drinking does seem to be a British thing and we are quite disgusting a lot of the time. Or maybe THATS the 'British thing'.

April 29, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Must make for headaches Friday at the office.

April 29, 2010  

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