Language

How we know they’re talking bollocks

One of those little cant phrases that reveals:

The MPs, including shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz, rail spokesman Tan Dhesi and ex-shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, wrote to Ms Patel expressing “dismay” at the way she used her “heritage and experiences of racism to gaslight the very real racism faced by Black people and communities across the UK.”…

“Very real racism” being one of those cant phrases. Anyone using it can be, righteously, told to bugger off. It’s as with “we need to have the conversation about” and “the achievements of Winnie Mandela”.

Linguistic ticks I despise

Minneapolis has vowed to defund its police. New Zealand needs to have that conversation

A country doesn’t have a conversation. People do. And she doesn’t mean have a conversation either. She means all should roll over and do as she says. Because to disagree with someone proposing a conversation – or, perhaps disagreeing with what is conversed – is to fail to show respect to the views of others. Or some such nonsense.

It’s even true that there should indeed be a discussion as to whether to defund the police or not – I am all in favour of returning to the one, true, Peelian, path – but I still despise the construction “need to have that conversation”.

Someone shoot this man

“You might wonder why we didn’t intervene and why we just allowed people to put it in the docks we made a very tactical decision that to stop people from doing that act may have caused further disorder and we decided that the safest thing to do in terms of our policing tactics was to allow it to take place.

Very tactical decision?

Ed Colston is spinning in his grave. He did endow a number of educational institutions after all.

My window maker calls me “Lord”

As it should be of course. The bloke who comes around to put in acoustic glass for our windows calls me “Lord”.

Although, you know, not quite. Mr., in Porkandcheese, is Signor. Clearly the same root word as Seigneur, which can indeed mean “Lord” of a type, in that Channel Islands Norman French version of something like English.

But the translate bit in Google Mail which the window maker and I use to converse with each other translates “Signor” directly into “Lord” not “Mr.” or even “Sir” which might be closer.

Not as in Sir Tim, but as in esteemed customer, Sir, type.

Yes, I know, a nothing, but just one of those little details of life which amuses.

Dear Lord, stop whingeing!

French has become a collateral victim of the coronavirus pandemic in Canada, forcing the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to defend failures to uphold laws requiring labels and services in both official languages.

Canada is officially bilingual, but the government has allowed the sale of imported disinfectants labelled only in English because of “the extreme situation in which we find ourselves”, Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Presumably the TV announcement of the end of the world would not be valid unless equal weight was given to the bloke phlegming it out as “le fini du mondial”*.

*Yes, my French teacher was** indeed Miles Kington. Why, wasn’t yours?

**Actually, not true. A rugby master***. He was too bright to teach geography but even so, the accent wasn’t quite there.

*** And Fifi, some years later, where I did actually learn something although not entirely language.

Intricacies of language

I was wondering why they were bothering:

Supermarkets put squeeze on clothing lines suppliers

Not that may people still hang out their washing so it sounds like a pretty small market to concentrate upon.

Aha, clothing lines are different from clothes lines…..not that I could explain why in linguistic terms, just one of those things I recognise as being so.

Slightly difficult

There are times when euphemisms must be used to avoid offending maiden aunts:

We could have subsidies, bailouts, and political favors. But who gets what in such a system will depend upon the position in the political alimentary canal of the supplicant.

Can’t quite say, in a mainstream American publication, “whose lips are firmly attached to the political sphincter”, or “who gives analingus to politicians” or even “who inhabits the political colon” let alone who kisses political ass.

Fortunately English is an adaptable language.

We do have a word for this

But even after I stopped looking, I kept wondering: why did I like this? What made me want to know so much about notorious Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway in the first place? Why was I so invested in how Bachelor contestant Victoria Fuller conducted her sex life? What was it about these dramas that made me want to watch, and what was it about these women that inspired so much gleeful pleasure?

•••

We don’t yet have a word that describes this particular online action. According to a glossary developed by Pen America, there are words for the people who interact with public figures just to be mean (trolls) and words for people who read something just because they dislike the author (hate-reads) and words for the groups that form with the purpose of harassing a single person (dogpiling).

But there isn’t a good word for these snark-based communities that spring up around a particular figure or the strange bonds that form between people based on mutual distaste.

Female“.

As anyone who has actually met a few human beings knows a group of women chatting will do so in a manner very different from a group of men. This is fine, no problem. One major difference being that the women are likely to be talking about people – oft those known to, part of the group but just not there right now – and the men about things or at least subjects rather more divorced from the immediate group.

Yes, of course, this is not an absolute rule but it’s a tendency that can be observed.

Oh, and a useful theory for the invention of language is so that one can gossip about group members who are, after all, one’s major rivals in this thing called evolution and life. And, yep, we do usually find that women have better verbal skills than men.

So, birds natter better, about peeps, often enough in negative tones. So, what’s a good descriptor of a snark-based community? Female.

I wondered where this came from

The word “bad” originally meant a feminine man.

It did? In what language? When? And how commonly?

And I find out that it is – and of course it is – being entirely misunderstood.

bad (adj.)
c. 1300, “inadequate, unsatisfactory, worthless; unfortunate;” late 14c., “wicked, evil, vicious; counterfeit;” from 13c. in surnames (William Badde, Petri Badde, Asketinus Baddecheese, Rads Badinteheved). Rare before 1400, and evil was more common until c. 1700 as the ordinary antithesis of good. It has no apparent relatives in other languages.* Possibly from Old English derogatory term bæddel and its diminutive bædling “effeminate man, hermaphrodite, pederast,” which probably are related to bædan “to defile.”

So, no, it didn’t then. It is derived from, at best, but never did mean that.

Oh, seriously?

Come on now:

This summer I will be visiting Portugal for the fifth year in a row,

OK.

The one thing I haven’t done, much to my chagrin, is to learn any Portuguese whatsoever.

Fair enough.

The truth is that there is no real need, as everybody is used to tourists and speaks impeccable English

In the big tourist cities, true. 3 miles outside them it ain’t.

I speak a little bit of Spanish,

And now you’ve got to stop being a twat. The languages are, sorta, derivatives of each other. Or, if you prefer, only a little further apart than accents of each other.

Cerveja – pronounced cervezha – and cerveza – pronounced cervetha , roughly and -ish -ish

Lombo, lomo. Manteiga, mantequilla. Vino, vino.

We’re really not that far away. And, oddly enough, Portuguese is often closer to Catalan than to Castilian (Bom Dia, Bon Dia, Buen Dia).

If you have some Spanish then you’ve some Portuguese. Trot it out, stick on a cod-Russian accent and you’re about there actually.

Words do have meanings

An internet safety service that has monitored the online interactions of more than 50,000 children has discovered that girls as young as 10 are using code words drawn from the Nando’s restaurant menu to obscure explicit sexual conversations.

SafeToNet has screened more than 65m texts sent since November and found that girls aged 10, rather than teenage boys, as they had expected, use the most explicit and potentially harmful sexual language.

“We weren’t expecting to see that,” said Richard Pursey, the founder and chief executive of the service, which monitors popular messaging apps including WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as well as Instagram and Snapchat. “We thought it would be more likely to be boys than girls and in the 12 to 13 age group.”

Explicit has a meaning.

As well as overtly graphic terms, they use “peri peri” to mean a well-endowed male and “coleslaw” to mean a bit on the side, he said.

That meaning not being that. The meaning is implicit, isn’t it? “Big cock” is explicit, hot and spicy is implicit.

Sigh.

Estate’s not quite the right word here

A husband is being held on suspicion of murder after allegedly shooting his wife dead and then attempting to kill himself on the Prime Minister’s family’s estate in Somerset.

Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, who was friends with the couple, expressed the family’s deep shock and paid tribute to the victim who died in a cottage on his 500-acre farm.

Sure, it’s possible to call a 500 acre farm an estate. But it wouldn’t really be normal to do so now, would it? A 500 acre farm is a 500 acre farm. An estate is a large house surrounded by grounds with, perhaps, a Home Farm and then other farms surrounding under the one ownership, perhaps let out as tenancies.

Just grates a bit to call one t’other.

Here’s my bet about slang

There will be just as much of it, just as much variation, but it will be different:

Are you terrified by “harvest men” or “long-legged tailors”? Do you have “ferntickles” or “brunny-spots” on your face? If someone called you “gibble-fisted” would you be affronted or amused?

The words for daddy long-legs, freckles and left-handed are all examples of English regional dialect discovered in the 1950s by a team of fieldworkers in what was the most comprehensive survey of its kind ever undertaken.

On Saturday, the University of Leeds announced plans to update the survey by recruiting volunteers to be modern-day dialect researchers, thanks to more than £500,000 of national lottery funding.

The original surveyors set out from Leeds 70 years ago, targeting “old men with good teeth” for two reasons: they were a more likely to be a bridge to the past, and they could be understood.

Slang is, in one way of looking at it, the signifier of ingroup and outgroup. We still have such. How we do has changed for sure. For example, we have our own little bits of slang around here. The Eksian Solution, pendantry, Snippa is not the polite Swedish word for something gynecological but the recent Senior Lecturer and so on. In this reading slang simply arises from the shared experience of the community. As communities still exist as do shared experiences we still have divergent slang. It’s just not quite as related to geography as it used to be. Or, if you prefer, it is to the new geography of shared experiences and community, not to the old based on mere accidents of land.

ARRSE has a subtly different language to Reddit for example. Both to Mumsnet.

Have to admit I do like “gibble-fisted” but I would use it to refer to Snippa’s typing style.

Excellent

Random funny fact: mashed potato never existed for Chinese people before they came to Britain, so they didn’t have a word for it. They decided to call it by its English name, “mash”, but pronounced it “ma-see”. This, translated back into Hakka, means “horse shit”, which I’ve always found hysterical because I’m so infantile.

We all should remain in contact with our inner child.

We’d need an official list

Calling someone a ‘bitch’ in Massachusetts could lead to a six-month jail term and a hefty fine, under legislation proposed by a Democrat lawmaker in the state this week.

The problem being of course that it’s only a word. And if we’re not allowed to use that one for that meaning then we’ll find something else to apply the same meaning to. See retard to Mongol to Downs to developmentally differently abled. The politesse of the new description lasts only a few years as it then becomes adopted to mean exactly what the previous iteration did. See also negro to black to person of colour – a transformation that hasn’t, but I would predict will, happened yet entirely.

Quite where it will end up no one knows of course, humans are inventive with language. But I’d want to lay tight odds on it becoming “Hillary”.

Them foreigners and their jabbering

The word ”Kyriakos” sounds not only funny in Persian but very vulgar too.

According to Google translate service, when someone pronounces ”Kyr” in Persian, he or she is referring to the penis!

As if this wasn’t enough, the next syllable of the Greek PM’s name, ”ia”, is the sound someone makes in order to say ”or”.

Now, whether you want to believe it or not, ”kos”, which is the last syllable of the name Kyriakos, is a boorish term in the Persian language, which refers to a derogatory term that translates to the English swear word that begins with a ”c” and ends with a ”t”.

Apparently the translation becomes Dick Celt.

No wonder no one would say it.

Linguists please

The name of the company is well known in German-speaking countries as a starter to humorously construct even longer compound words. Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänsmütze is such a word, which potentially might even have been used, but probably never actually was. It means a “DDSG captain’s hat”. Another common example is Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänskajütenschlüssel which means “DDSG captain’s cabin key”.

An Dame Margaret, Lady Hodge’s, grandpa:

“Oh there he is!” said Dame Margaret Hodge, approaching a portrait she has never seen face to face before. “It is my old grandad … how amazing!”

The sitter, with a distinctive white moustache and blue eyes, was Wilhelm Hollitscher, a former chief engineer of the Danube Steamboat Shipping Company who fled the Nazis and was soon interned by the British in camps with many thousands of so-called enemy aliens.

The chief engineer of the company would be what as one single compound word?