Thursday, 25 April 2013

V is for Vernacular

A little while back I had to put my car in for a service and took a half day off work to go and pick it up in the afternoon. I rock up at the garage and I see that the mechanic is still working on my car and am told that I have to pick it up the morning after. No problem I say and call a cab to take me home as it's pouring with rain. Cab arrives and it's a big MPV thing, a Citroen Picasso or something. The cab driver is a genial fellow and wants to chat.

"'Avin a service on your motor mate?" he enquires.
"Yes. I have to pick it up tomorrow. They are still working on it."
"What car you got?"
"Vauxhall Zafira. Seven seater."
"Nice." he replies with a look on his face that tells me he is about to talk about his car and inform me that it's better than mine. "Got a Volkswagen Golf GTI when I'm not doin' the taxi's. Brilliant tool. Bulletproof. Rock solid." he opines.
"Ah." I say. I have always found that when in conversation about something and you aren't sure what to say next, a well placed "Ah" tends to move the conversation along.
"Very happy with it." he replies. "Economical, mechanically sound. Sticks to the road like shit on a blanket too. Turn on a sixpence and no bullshit. Wouldn't buy another make of car now."

There is something about those last few sentences that got me thinking about the types of phrases that inveigle themselves into language and appear that they have always been there. Take the first slightly perturbing phrase: "sticks to the road like shit on a blanket.". Now, however coarse that may sound, it infers that the car he is talking about handles well. I nodded sagely when he uttered the sentence as he didn't have to elucidate any further. We both knew what was meant.

I personally haven't analysed the sticking properties of shit on a blanket, but I can make an educated guess that shit on blankets can be quite sticky, though feel that any practical experiments in this particular area need not be in my immediate future. I have a 6 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. For around four years, poop on and in things and it's sticky potential was daily happenstance. I am glad those days have gone now. Really, really glad.

But from coarse vernacular I'm led to think of other words and phrases just in my local area of Cardiff that are used from day to day that people put into daily conversation. For example: "I'm going to do it tidy." to any Cardiffian means that whatever task you are about to undertake is going to be done as well as you can. My father would send my sister an I to the kitchen to wash the dishes as kids and as we sloped off, arguing about who would dry up, he would say "Do them tidy!"

As I live in Wales, fragments of native welsh are everyday words. "Twp" pronounce the w as the u in cuckoo, but just shorten it a little. It comes from the welsh word twpsyn, meaning stupid. In a sentence you would say "Don't be so twp!", "Don't be so silly!". As with most welsh words that have found their way into common speech, it is actually quite an affectionate term. The last one I'll leave you with is the word "cwtch". In it's basic sense, it means hug. So "Come over here for a cwtch." would be a phrase. The four of us at home all cwtch up together on the sofa to watch a film. It has a few meanings.

I'm getting a bit rambly now and could go on for ages, so I'll ask in closing, what vernacular is common to where you are from?"

Rock on,


1 comment:

  1. Here we call skipping school 'twagging'. I didn't realise it was area specific until I went somewhere else for uni and nobody understood what I was talking about. We also say 'spoggy' for chewing gum. I can't think of any others right now!


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