Word search

I wrapped up several long books over the holidays, so I decided to treat myself to a short paperback this week. My shelves are full of novels that have been waiting patiently, but I needed something light and fun.

My choice? The Tartan Sell by Jonathan Gash. I’m a complete sucker for British mysteries, and you cannot get much more British than Gash’s “Lovejoy” series. Truth be told, I first discovered Gash through the eponymous British television show from the 1980s starring Ian McShane (of later “Deadwood” fame). It’s silly and dated and utterly charming.

I managed to pick up two installments in the middle of the series from Myopic Books. They were lurking down in the dank and musty basement where they hide the mystery and science fiction. (This is a clear case of genre-bias! Why not put those disintegrating psychology and sociology textbooks in the basement and let mystery and scifi see some light?)

Anyway, just as Lovejoy is constantly searching for real antiques among the dealers, fakers, thieves and drunks that populate Gash’s East Anglia, I am always on the lookout for new (to me) words. Here’s what Lovejoy says about his ability to recognize a genuine antique in The Tartan Sell:

It seems daft to say that things actually speak, doesn’t it, but they do, they do … you can’t trick Nature. Humanity gets back exactly what it puts in. Passionate learning plus artistic creativity are what made little Tintoretto a bobby-dazzler instead of simply a paint-mixer for his dad.

A bobby-dazzler is an English colloquialism meaning someone very special. And that’s the kind of thing that sends me into word ecstasy. This book is full of such slang.

She was moved to aggro, actually starting to get out to ballock a vanished lorry driver.
[aggro: verb, to attack or be aggressive]
[ballock: verb, to reprimand, admonish or scold someone]

He’s a neffie chap.
[neff: noun, a person with very few outstanding qualities]

Women are always narked. I was swiftly getting narked.
[narked: adj, mad or upset]

You can pick up a fortune hidden among a load of old tat.
[tat: noun, junk or rubbish]

I’m gormless with money and women.
[gormless: adv, stupid, useless]

Something pure and thrillingly antique lurked down among the clag.
[clag: noun, unwanted material goods, often accompanied by a certain presige or celebrity value, swag]

It meant grub and a kip before we had to get to work again.
[kip: noun, sleep, nap]

Wasn’t it George Bernard Shaw who said that Britain and American are two countries separated by a common language? Oh, how true. And how wonderful.

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