Saturday, August 13, 2011

Brit riots & street language

The British riots fascinate in a train-wrecky sort of way. One odd and interesting bit has been the interviews with some of the participants and witnesses, interviews that leave you wishing for subtitles so as to understand what the hell's being said. The working class of London has a wonderful history of inventive and sly language. Seems that's been replaced by a crossbred Caribbean-English patois called by some Jafaikan. From The Guardian this five-year-old piece on the new language:
Safe, man. You lookin buff in dem low batties. Dey's sick, man. Me? I'm just jammin wid me bruds. Dis my yard, innit? Is nang, you get me? No? What ends you from then? If this language sounds familiar, the chances are you're from inner-city London, where a new multicultural dialect is emerging. But wherever you live, it's coming to you soon. The "cor blimey, guvnor"s of those born within the sound of Bow bells are fading into oblivion as a new Jamaican-inspired language takes hold. …

Read all here and get translations and a little glossary.
I first encountered Cockney rhyming slang in Brendan Behan's book, Borstal Boy, about his time in British juvie prison after being arrested as an IRA agent. The thing to rhyming slang is the speaker uses a word that rhymes with the word meant. So, you called your friends 'chinas,' as china plate means mate. Your hand was your german band. Guy took off, he scarpered, a bit of distorting for 'Scapa Flow [straits off Scotland] means go.' You get it, right?
I read that enough of the rhyming slang survives that Cockneys were amused by the name of the young Palin girl since 'Bristol city means titty,' as, 'Look at the Bristols on that bird.' Slang, patois, cant, in their better manifestations, are poetry [and sometimes rhyme].

5 comments:

Sugar Magnolia said...

Oy!!

The Loon said...

Oy Yiddish or Oy British?

Sugar Magnolia said...

Oi!!

Not Oy Vey!

Lori Collins said...

This coming from the man that I have to look up the meanings to half of the words in the emails you send. :)

The Loon said...

There are those who believe that I make words up. To those people, I say, 'Catch me if you can.'