Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Queen's English

Oh, hey. Look at that. I still have a blog. I just keep forgetting to post on it. I don't know what I've been doing. Um, maybe sitting in Denver's coldest ice rink ever watching hockey. Or having Facebook angst. Possibly both.

February is supposed to be a "lull" month for me--the calm between two magazines. It's not working out that way, much to my chagrin. I feel very unlulled and somewhat frantic.

So I'm trying to come up with something simple to blog about before I fall asleep while I'm typing.

When Eamonn's sister, Gerry, was here for the holidays, she gave me a deck of "knowledge" cards called The Queen's English. Labeled as "A smattering of seemingly nonsensical British words and phrases," the cards totally crack me up.

Because I am tired and lazy tonight, I'm picking out some of my fave words or phrases and posting them here. A few of these I already knew because Eamonn uses them. A few were new to me and just made me laugh.

Noun. Can also be used as an adjective and verb.

"You are talking complete bollocks!"

This word simply meant testicles until the mid-19th century. Since then, it has become a vulgarism for that part of the male anatomy, often used to mean rubbish or nonsense. Since the late 19th century, however, the word has been used generally as an exclamation, especially as a rejoinder (since 1969). It may occur as a verb, noun, or adjective, as in "I'll bollocks you good and proper"; "You've bollocksed that up"; or "That's a right old bollocky bollocks you've made of that!"

U.S. Translation

Bollocks! is a vulgar and ubiquitous as the U.S. bullshit, but unlike that expletive, has no refined variant such as bullshine or b.s.

Natalie's notes
Favorite line using this. In Bend it Like Beckham, Jess tells Jules that her parents won't allow her to continue to play on the football (soccer) team. Jules gets mad and shouts, "But that's bollocks!"

I kept thinking I'd heard bollocks in a song title. Sort of. Never Mind the Bollocks was the name of the Sex Pistols' one and only studio album in 1977. I was 10. I shouldn't have known of such things.

Finally, a funny story about another phrase, "The dog's bollocks," which means something is really great. One time we were sitting in a meeting with our financial planner and Eamonn used the phrase "the dog's bollocks." Our financial planner thought that was really great. At one point he said, "I can't wait to go and use that phrase down at the gym: the cat's buttocks." Here I was trying to be all serious and grown up, talking about our financial future and he comes out with the cat's buttocks. I laughed uncontrollably throughout the rest of the meeting. What a waste of time that meeting was. Except that it makes for a great story now.


"It's gone all wonky."

Unstable, wobbly, crooked, off-center, out of kilter, not very well put together (early 20th century). This description can be applied to a person, but more usually pertains to an object, as in "I've just spilt my beer 'cos the table's all wonky." It may originate from the Old English wancol, of the same meaning, possibly via the 19th century printing term wankey, to straighten and level printers' type.

U.S. Translation
It's all cockeyed, catawampus, out of whack, etc.

Natalie's notes
Eamonn's sister, Karen, uses this phrase a lot. Makes me laugh. I mostly use it when I'm describing when I don't feel well because that's what Karen does. I think. "I'm feeling a bit wonky."



"There's a right barney going on."

A noisy quarrel, a scuffle or slight fight, an argument, a rowdy party, or a crowd of people. The term derives from the proper name Barney, a contraction of Barnabus, common among 19th century Irish settlers and hence its association with the Irish and their stereotypical exuberant temperament. Barney is also used as an adjective meaning unfair or crooked, especially by prearrangement.

U.S. Translation
"There's a rumble brewing."

Natalie's notes
Again, something Karen says. "They were having a bit of a barney." Tee hee.

Belt up
Verb (intransitive--which I don't know what means in regular people's English, let alone the Queen's English--and me, a writer!)

"Oh for pity's sake, do belt up!"

To be quiet, especially when forced to do so; a request or command to cease talking. The phrase has numerous synonyms: shut up, shut your face, shut it, button it, cut your cackle, dry up, pipe down, and more recently, turn it up, leave it out, wrap up, etc.

U.S. Translation

"Can it! Give it a rest! Put a lid on it!"

Natalie's notes
I really like saying "Shut your cake hole!" instead. You can also substitute pie, as in, "Shut your pie hole!" for a little variety.

And my all-time favorite phrase, and it's not even in the deck of cards: Big girl's blouse. I can't even write it without laughing.

"Don't be such a big girl's blouse."

A weakling; an ineffectual person. The expression originated in the north of England in the 1960s and was popularized by northern-based televion programmes such as the sitcom Nearest and Dearest (1968-72), featuring Hylda Baker and Jimmy Jewel as brother and sister Nellie and Eli Pledge who inherit a pickle-bottling factory.

And now, after you read this, your assignment is to go out and use one of these phrases in your everyday life and report back here on what you said, how you used it, and how people responded. Eamonn used to do that to me when we first met. I'll never forget going into the office and using the term "kick up," as in a fuss was going to be made. "There's going to be a kick up if we don't get this pricing done by 3pm." People thought I was nuts.

And rightly so.


Kristie said...

OK, here's my Queen's English story. I have a wee bit of a trucker's mouth, and I'm not the least bit embarrassed by it. Sometimes in life, there is nothing like a good curse word to get your point across. My sister, however, makes a point to NEVER curse, and always cringes when I do in front of her. It's sort of a joke .... except sort of not really.

But! A while back, she started calling little kids who bothered her, "Buggers". Whereas I might say, "That little kid is such a turd, or such a shithead", she would say "He's such a little bugger!" because remember, she refuses to curse.

While I understand that bugger is *technically* a curse word, I took great joy in telling her that as far as I had ever heard, it was a synonym for "fucker", and that its origins were sexual in nature.

Interestingly, she no longer uses the word. :)

Kristie said...

I meant, while I understand that bugger is technically NOT a curse word ............

See, I can't even tell a story without buggering it up.

Mountain Mama said...

You have definitely gone wonky!

sportzmom said...

Here goes...

This storm is complete bollocks. There is going to be a righteous (have to use one of my teenager's favorite words too) barney between me and Mother Nature if this ridiculous snow doesn't stop soon. I know I should belt up but I can't...I'm feeling a tad wonky today.

Blizzard warning just went into effect a few minutes ago...we could get another 20 inches by tonight.

I can't wait to say "Quit being a big girl's blouse" to my teenagers when they complain about shoveling!

Happy whatever day it is...I've lost track. Kids won't be going back to school until Tuesday...that makes 11 days without school.