All entries for February 2006

February 14, 2006

Slang

I'm fascinated by what I have come to call 'updated slang', by which an old expression is injected with a few four-letter words to give it modern credibility. Unfortunately, it completely changes the meaning. Observe:

'Tough shit': I assume the origin is the saying 'hard cheese', though I have also heard a Scot say 'tough titty', which makes a degree of sense too. But what is this shit that is tough? If you're going to eat it, the fact that it's tough isn't your biggest problem.

'A shitload of': Same deal as above, instead of 'a shedload' I reckon. Baffling and silly, as if excrement comes in a certain (disturbingly large) quantity.

'Full of piss and vinegar': obviously some corruption of 'pith and vinegar'. But it sounds so much harder.

'Tight arsed' for 'tight fisted' (allegorising an allegory, in a sense) – though what you do with your money is your own business, I suppose. Just don't hand me that fiver when you need change.

'Not giving a damn' means that you wouldn't even waste a negative word on your subject, but it's ruder cousin replaces something spoken – and so immaterial – with the opposite: sex is good, so it doesn't make sense to 'not give a fuck'. There are lots of things in life that are reasonably good, but I still wouldn't trade sex for them.

It's odd that words take on negative meanings in accordance with modern cynicism. It can be quite vexing. It's exclusively a British thing, I think. For example, I can't really use the word 'sad' without people getting the wrong end of the stick and inferring that something judgemental and derisive is in question. 'Pathetic' is in the same category; you can't really use it as the adjective for what conveys pathos. Soon we'll run out of words, possibly just because it's uncool to think that something is, well, sad. 'Tragic' is on the same list I guess.


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