19 August 2011

Words to Savour

Historical fiction is not all that high on my reading list unless they portray odd corners of the world or obscure (to me) events. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell was one such. As Amitav Ghosh's book, River of Smoke, climbs the bestseller list, I decided I should read the first in his trilogy: Sea of Poppies.

What an introduction to the salty world of nineteenth-century pijin-lingo of the East India trade sailors! Very fine words here, indeed. Enriching mixtures of fractured but inventive English with input from myriad other languages. Creative swearing and slang euphemisms were never better. We need more of this, brighten up our daily speech.

I began to make a list. Because I do O-C things like that sometimes. And my vocabulary could use pepping up. The only word in a long list I'd ever heard of was taffrail, a word from nautical/ship terminology---colloquially it was applied to the human anatomy as were so many others. A few samples:
collywobbles
shagbag
jiggy-pijjin
tumasher
luckerbaugs
gamahoochie
doolally-tap
acreocracy
shiplouse
choomers
simkin
jildee
fustilugs
gollmaul
badmashee

You'll notice I'm not “translating” them: context is everything, and I'm still in the learning process. But I will say that simkin is champagne, and tumasher is a party. I can guess that explerate is a verb but whether foozowling is a noun or an adjective defeats me.

Someone told me, probably Miss Barker---my grade 4 teacher---say a word three times and it's yours. I'll be dickswiggered if my lexicon doesn't improve dramatically.

1 comment:

  1. Aha! You have been hiding here at another blog. Now I see what you meant when you wrote in your comment about East Indian and pepping up your vocabulary. I had no idea that you had this other, simply MAHVALOUS place to records your musings.

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