Wednesday 11 April 2012

More modern rhetoric - Rosen getting carried away.

-gate - adding 'gate' on to the end of anything to indicate what used to be called a 'brouhaha' (!) or scandal. Came from Watergate, which was the name of a building, but can now be used eg for 'pastygate' as a description of Cameron's 'gaffe' about eating pasties...or not eating pasties....or not eating them where he said he had eaten one.
gaffe is not a new word but has had a good lease of life in recent years. It's become the stand-by term for an error of speech or any kind of error, particularly used of politicians, who make 'gaffes' by saying that they've eaten a pasty (see above) or that they are devoted to their wives and family which of course would make them utterly electable...until someone finds out that they're not. (Devoted, electable or both.). Then they get elected, anyway.
Colemanballs - a term invented by 'Private Eye' to describe sports commentators 'gaffes'. Now 'balls' meaning rubbish can be put on to all sorts of words as a suffix to indicate specific kinds of rubbish. Or 'bollocks' or 'bollox' too eg 'He's talking 'managementbollox' or some such. And quite a lot of people do.
Essex - meant to describe how people from Essex (obviously) but also carries with it the idea that this is the speech of people whose parents or grandparents came from London's 'East End', so it's a form of 'Cockney' but because some 'Essex' people have done well, it's intertwined with views about people having 'made it', wearing 'flash' clothes, make-up and jewellery, (and flash is probably a rhetorical term in itself as in 'talking flash') and, sadly, people saying of themselves that they're not clever. 'I'm really Essex. Can't you hear?'
flash - sounding, or trying to sound, slick. You can 'come over flash' as in 'Don't come over flash with me, son.'  or 'Don't come all flash with me, son'.
monkeys - this features in Essex and London talk, meaning talking rubbish. You don't have to put it into a fully-fledged sentence. Someone says, eg 'Spurs are going to win the league this year.' And if you don't believe it, you simply say, 'Monkeys'. If you're a punctuation pedant you should probably write that either as 'monkey's' or 'monkeys'' because this is not about a gang of monkeys but about the monkey's balls or the monkeys' balls. In fact you could have an interesting debate about whether the nonsense you deem to have been spoken is worth several monkeys' balls or just one monkey's balls. An interesting point, I think.
hoity-toity - quite an old term meaning posh which is worth its own category of course. Hoity-toity seems to involve a whole air. You can walk, look, or act in a hoity-toity way, but it becomes most evident with someone 'coming all hoity-toity all of a sudden' in the way they speak. Traditionally, in 'kitchen sink' dramas, Dad claimed that his teenage or young adult daughter was suddenly talking or being hoity-toity - classically in 'Till Death Do Us Part'. See also 'She's no better than she should be' and other put-downs about people getting above their perceived station in life: eg 'all fur coat and nothing in the fridge'.

Hoity-toity has a Yiddish equivalent 'hoyche fenster' which literally means 'high' or 'big windows'. You can describe someone as being hoyche fenster meaning that they're rich. Or it can mean that they're talking posh. I don't know whether Philip Larkin was a fluent Yiddish speaker (I doubt it) but he did write a famous poem about high windows.