(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘jargon

“Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work”*…

 

In 1699, an anonymous lexicographer known only as “B. E., Gent.” published the first comprehensive dictionary of non-standard English. Although shorter word lists and glossaries of slang terminology had been published previously, B.E.’s New Dictionary of the Canting Crew listed over 4000 words and phrases, and is credited with being the first such publication resembling a modern dictionary. As a result, it remained the standard reference work for English slang and jargon for almost another century…

“Addle-plot,” “ebb-water,” and 28 other examples of historic jargon at “30 Excellent Terms From a 17th Century Slang Dictionary.”

* Carl Sandburg

###

As we reach for the right phrase, we might send gritty birthday greetings to a man who was a master of the coinage of crime– Samuel Dashiell Hammett; he was born on this date in 1894.  Hammett worked as an agent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency from 1915-1922, when– disillusioned by the organization’s role in strike-breaking– he left to become a writer, providing copy in an ad agency until his fiction earned enough to support him.  Hammett drew for his fiction on his experiences as a “Pinkerton Man,” and created an extraordinary series of characters– Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), The Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse)– on the way to becoming, as the New York Times called him, “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.”

In his book The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler, considered by many to be Hammett’s successor, observed,

Hammett was the ace performer… He is said to have lacked heart; yet the story he himself thought the most of The Glass Key is the record of a man’s devotion to a friend. He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before. 

 source

 

Written by LW

May 27, 2017 at 1:01 am

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”*…

 

A view for the 1950s…

Interviewing Governor Rockefeller recently on Station WMCA, Barry Gray, the discless jockey, felt the need to ask his guest a certain question. He also felt a clear obligation to put the inquiry in radio-televese, the semi-official language of men who promote conversation on the air. Though it is more or less required, this language is a flexible one, leaving a good deal to the user’s imagination. ‘Governor,’ Mr. Gray said, after pausing to review the possibilities of the patois, ‘how do you see your future in a Pennsylvania Avenue sense?’ I thought it was a splendid gambit. Another broadcaster might have said ‘How do you see yourself in the electoral-college picture?’ or ‘How do you project yourself Chief Executive-wise?’ The Gray formula had the special flavor, the colorful two-rings-from-the-bull’s-eye quality, that I have associated with the work of this interviewer ever since I began to follow it, several years ago. For the record, Governor Rockefeller replied, ‘I could be happier where I am.’ He might have meant Albany, he might have meant the WMCA studio. As you see, radio-televese is not only a limber language, it is contagious.

The salient characteristic of remarks made in radio-televese is that they never coincide exactly with primary meanings or accepted forms. For instance, Mr. Gray, a leader in the postwar development of the lingo, has a way of taking a trenchant thought or a strong locution and placing it somewhere to the right or left of where it would seem to belong. ‘Is this your first trip to the mainland? How do you feel about statehood?,’ I have heard him ask a guest from the Philippines on one of his shows (the program runs, at present, from 11:05 P.M. to 1 A.M.). On the topic of Puerto Ricans in New York, he has said, ‘How can we make these peo­ple welcome and not upset the décor of the city?’ …

Artie Shaw, a musician, in describing the art of another per­former to Mr. Gray, said, ‘He has a certain thing known as “presence” — when he’s onstage, you can see him.’ Another guest declared that the success of a mutual friend was ‘owing to a combination of luck and a combination of skill.’ ‘You can say that again,’ Mr. Gray agreed, and I believe that the guest did so, a little later. The same eloquence and the same off-centerism can be found today in the speech of a wide variety of radio and television regulars. ‘Parallels are odious,’ Marty Glickman, a sports announcer, has stated. ‘The matter has reached a semi-head,’ a senator — I couldn’t be sure which one-said at a recent televised Congressional hearing. ‘I hear you were shot down over the Netherlands while flying,’ a video reporter said to Senator Howard Cannon, a war veteran, on a Channel 2 program last winter. …

Perhaps the most startling aspect of radio-televese is its power to move freely in time, space, and syntax, transposing past and future, be­ginnings and endings, subjects and objects. This phase of the language has sometimes been called backward English, and sometimes, with a bow to the game of billiards, reverse English. Dorothy Kilgallen, a tele­vision panelist [above], was wallowing in the freedom of the language on the night she said, ‘It strikes me as funny, don’t you?’ So was Dizzy Dean when he said, ‘Don’t fail to miss tomorrow’s doubleheader.’ Tommy Loughran, a boxing announcer, was exploring the area of the displaced ego when he told his audience, ‘It won’t take him [the referee] long be­fore I think he should stop it.’ …

Ted Husing was on the threshold of outright mysticism when he reported, about a boxer who was cuffing his adversary smartly around, ‘There’s a lot more authority in Joe’s punches than perhaps he would like his opponent to suspect!’ It is in the time dimension, however, that radio-televese scores its most remarkable ef­fects. Dizzy Dean’s ‘The Yankees, as I told you later … ‘ gives the idea. The insecurity of man is demonstrated regularly on the air by phrases like ‘Texas, the former birthplace of President Eisenhower’ and ‘Mickey Mantle, a former native of Spavinaw, Oklahoma.’ I’m indebted to Dan Parker, sportswriter and philologist, for a particularly strong example of time adjustment from the sayings of Vic Marsillo, a boxing manager who occasionally speaks on radio and television: ‘Now, Jack, whaddya say we reminisce a little about tomorrow’s fight?’ These quotations show what can be done in the way of outguessing man’s greatest enemy, but I think that all of them are excelled by a line of Mr. Gray’s, spoken four or five years ago: ‘What will our future forefathers say?’

From John Lardner’s “Thoughts on Radio-Televese” in The 50s: The Story of a Decade, via the always-worthy Delanceyplace.com.

* George Orwell, 1984

###

As we cover our ears, we might send transformative birthday greetings to Publius Ovidius Naso; he was born on this date in 43 BCE.  With his older contemporaries Virgil and Horace, Ovid was one of the three canonical poets of the Golden Age of Latin literature.   His poetry was much imitated in late antiquity and in the Middle Ages, and has had a tremendous influence on Western arts and culture; for example, his love elegies (Amores and Ars Amatoria) are the ur-model of love poetry.  But his impact was surely greatest with the Metamorphoses, an  epic poem in 15 books of hexameter that catalogues transformations in Greek and Roman mythology from the emergence of the cosmos to the deification of Julius Caesar; it remains a key source document of classical mythology– and a great read.

The first taste I had for books came to me from my pleasure in the fables of the Metamorphoses of Ovid. For at about seven or eight years of age I would steal away from any other pleasure to read them, inasmuch as this language was my mother tongue, and it was the easiest book I knew and the best suited by its content to my tender age.

– Montaigne

Ettore Ferrari’s 1887 statue commemorating Ovid

source

Written by LW

March 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“‘Meow’ means ‘woof’ in cat”*…

 

In cliff-side houses like these, some Malian villagers speak an enigmatic anti-language originally designed to fool slave-traders

Criminals, conspirators, fugitives, outcasts– throughout history, they’ve all often spoken “The secret ‘anti-languages’ you’re not supposed to know.

[Update:  further to “I use a whole lot of half-assed semicolons; there was one of them just now; that was a semicolon after ‘semicolons,’ and another one after ‘now’*…,” this wonderful variation, via @PhelimKine]

* George Carlin

###

As we watch our tongues, we might send breath-taking birthday greetings to the man who spoke the secret language of the environment, Ansel Easton Adams; he was born on this date in 1902.  A co-founder of Group f/64 (with other masters like Edward Weston, Willard Van Dyke, and Imogen Cunningham), his black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park, helped define landscape photography and establish photography as a fine art.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

February 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Wrestling is ballet with violence”*…

 

“You call it wrestling, they term it ‘working’ … As Shakespeare once said: ‘A rose by any other name,’ etc.” So Marcus Griffin began his groundbreaking 1937 book on the ins and outs of the pro wrestling business, Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce. It’s a good place to start, because any discussion of the grunt-and-groaners (as Griffin would call them) inevitably involves an examination of the artifice that undergirds the endeavor, and that artifice — be it the antediluvian secret that the whole show is a put-on, or the modern-day pretense that both actors and audience interact as if it’s legitimate — is itself bolstered by an intricate, seemingly inane vocabulary of lingo, idiom, and jargon.

Every subculture has its lingo, but the subbier the culture, the more unintelligible the dialect can be. Couple that with an industry conceived on falsehood and dedicated to keeping the lie alive, and you’ve got a rabbit hole that even the most stalwart of linguists would think twice before exploring. We take a stab at it here. The most obvious of terms, those used in common parlance outside the wrestling world — pin, feud, dud, etc. — are mostly omitted, despite their prevalence inside the biz. Some terms are listed within other definitions for readability’s sake. As with anything of this sort, this list is far from complete — and as with anything so idiomatic, the definitions are frequently debatable. Though some of the terms are obscure, their purpose is larger. The terms obscure the industry’s realities, sure; they function as a secret handshake among those with insider knowledge, obviously; but moreover, they try to describe a unique, oddball enterprise in terms of its own bizarre artistry…

From…

angle (n.) — A story line or plot in the wrestling product, as in, “They’re working a classic underdog angle.” It can be employed in either small-bore usage — i.e., the angle in a match — or in large-scale terms to describe a lengthy story. The term is borrowed from the archaic criminal/carnie phrase “work an angle,” which means figuring out a scam or finding an underhanded way to make a profit.

and…

Andre shot (n.) — A trick by which a camera is positioned beneath a wrestler, looking up, so as to make the wrestler look bigger. Famously used to make the 7-foot-4 Andre the Giant look even bigger than he was.

to…

workrate (n.) — A term for in-ring wrestling quality, used primarily by wrestling journalists to rate the physical and psychological performance of a match. The field of wrestling critique is often associated with journalist Dave Meltzer, who rates matches on a star scale; great matches throughout history are often referred to as “five-star matches” in reference to Meltzer’s rubric.

and…

zabada (n.) — A catch-all term for an arbitrary tool used to fill in a hole in anangle, usually used when the tool is still undefined, as in, “He’ll come out, cut a promo, run-in, zabada, then the finish.”

…it’s all in “Grantland Dictionary: Pro Wrestling Edition,” along with illustrations like the one above (for “chain wrestling”). Check out Grantland‘s other delightful dictionaries here.

* Jesse Ventura

###

As we feel the frenzy, we might recall that it was on this date in 1906, in a game against Carroll College, that St. Louis University’s Bradbury “Brad” Robinson hit Jack Schneider with a 20-yard touchdown toss– the first legal forward pass in football.

“E. B. Cochems [the coach at St. Louis University in 1906] is to forward passing what the Wright brothers are to aviation and Thomas Edison is to the electric light.”

– College Football Hall of Fame coach David M. Nelson

1906 St. Louis Post-Dispatch drawing of Brad Robinson’s epic throw

source

 

Written by LW

September 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The New Age? It’s just the old age stuck in a microwave oven for fifteen seconds”*…

 

There is, to be sure, a great deal of change swirling around us.  It is tempting to conclude that we are, in fact, entering a New Age.  But what does that mean?

Readers can devote themselves to study… or they can utilize tools readily available on the web to craft their own comforting wisdom:  your correspondent might recommend “Wisdom of Chopra” (a site the randomly assembles words from the guru’s tweets) and “New Age Bullshit” (just click “randomize electrons” at the top of the page).

[TotH to @martykrasney]

* James “The Amazing” Randi

###

As we align our chakras, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that Grant’s Tomb was dedicated.  The final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), the 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Dent Grant (1826–1902), it is located in Riverside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, across the street from the monumental Riverside Church.

It is probably best known via Groucho Marx, who asked contestants on his radio and television show You Bet Your Life, “Who was buried in Grant’s Tomb?” The riddle turns on the word “buried”: the correct answer is “no one,” since Grant and his wife are entombed in sarcophagi above ground in an atrium.

 source

 

Written by LW

April 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: