Try using some of these long-neglected gems in your writing to give it a historical flavour. Or just pepper your everyday conversation with them and watch your listener’s eyebrows raise high with amazement at your creative and masterly use of language. Either/or…
Today’s Endangered Speechies are:
1.Ca’ canny: To work rigidly in accordance with the rules with a view to causing maximum of dislocation and inconvenience. What a corker for that period novel you are writing about union activity!
example: The boys agreed to work ca’canny. That would show the boss what it meant to mess with the workers.
2. Cake and ale: Pleasant living. There is something slightly insolent about this interpretation of ‘pleasant’. In this day and age of healthy living and living ‘clean’, I rather enjoy the simplicity that this little phrase summons up.
example: Bob leaned back in his chair and looked at Mabel, ” Isn’t this just cake and ale, love!” Mabel rolled her eyes as she cleared away the plates.
3. Carry three red lights: be intoxicated. How droll. Can’t even make out how this phrase came about though I suspect it may be to do with the law and other whatnots!?!
example. Jimmy could carry three red lights after a night in the pub with the older boys.
4: Catspaw: a light breeze, just ruffling the surface of the sea. This phrase I love. I mean I really love it. My own novel is set near the ocean and I am hankering to include this somewhere in the novel. How beautiful this image is!
example: The shipsmen looked out over the ocean. There was a catspaw rising and the waves flickered in the dawning sun.
5: Cheeseparing: meanly and foolishly economical. I love any slang phrase which includes cheese. It has an inately comical quality don’t you think?
example: After she lost her job, Amy entered into a cheeseparing lifestyle. It lasted a week.
6: Close as a kentish oyster: Taciturn. This slightly Dickensian term puts me rather in mind of a Sarah Walters novel. I love the visual quality of the image.
example: The gentleman in question sat quietly at the table, close as a Kentish oyster.
7: collywobbles: noisy rumblings in the stomach caused by flatulence. Say no more. This is such a delightful word for such an embarrassing condition.
example: All was quiet after dinner apart from a rather elaborate display of the collywobbles from Great Aunt Sarah.
8: Conchie: A conscientious objector the the National War Service in WWI. This is such a priceless piece of history. I feel a novel title right there:
example: Alfred didn’t like to talk about being a conchie. He had found that others were repulsed by his status. He wore the title like a scar.
9: Cop the needle: Become angry, annoyed. Another one of those phrases which defy understanding but nevertheless have a charm and richness that comes from the image itself.
example: There was nothing more likely to make Greg cop a needle than yet another smug status update from his ex-lover. How could she do this to him? It didn’t bear thinking about.
10: Cut the cackle and come to the ‘osses: Leave out the non-essentials of a story and come to the part that matters. wonderful, just great. This is what I need to remind myself when I come to editing my novel. Perhaps I should make a printable!!!
example: Annie launched into her explanation but was quickly cut off by Ernie: ‘Cut the cackle and come to the ‘osses!” he commanded. Annie wished for once that he might enjoy her cackle, it was in the cackle that she found the most enjoyment.
So there you have it – today’s little gems from ‘A Concise Dictionary of English Slang’ byWilliam Freeman, published 1955. I would love to hear whether you can use any of these little beauties in your own writing. I wonder has language become less colourful and interesting? Has the internet made our language corporate and technological and depreived us of these subtle nuances of flavour that used to pepper the way in which we spoke to each other? I fear it may have. Any thoughts?
A Month of Pantsing: the update for Week Three
By the way, my apologies to regular readers who may have noticed my absence this past week. I would love to say that I have been engrossed in my writing but unfortunately not. Instead, life in all its gory glory has rather taken me for a ride and my writing, and blogging, have paid the price.
Fingers crossed that the storm has passed and this week I returned to my novel challenge.
I am pleased to report that my Pantsing experiment is going rather well ( though I may retract that statement when I read through the first draft!). I am officially in Noveldom. Yesterday I reached 51 500 words. Yes indeed! I began writing on the 2nd and we are now into the twenties of March so I still have a week or so up my sleeve. I am pretty sure I won’t be able to make up the days that I missed last week but so far this week, I have had two 4500 word days – hallelujah. Wish me luck for the last week!
Good luck with your own writing this week. May the words flow like a catspaw and may good fortune smile upon you so that you don’t have to resort to cheeseparing.
Any thoughts on the above endangered speechies most welcome in the comments. Would love to hear from you!