Friday, 18 May 2012


It’s been a strange week for me, I had my main computer go down with a Windows 32 failure, which I have discovered means the hard drive is on the blink or the fritz, depending which side of the Atlantic you are reading this.  Apologies to other people in other lands with you own words. I was going to say slang but is it? I suppose the phrase Windows 32 is equally slang. It has long been my contention that professionals call their slang jargon to make it acceptable but the aim is the same to exclude those who are not in the loop. Is this true? Is all slang a means of secretly communicating with others? Or do we call that which is different slang and is it about a power judgement?
Over thirty years ago now when I did my degree I wrote my dissertation on the evolution of Rastafarianism in Britain. Those of you who read the blog will know of my love of reggae. I wanted to understand what lay behind the lyrics and how the religion had spread to the UK. One of the things I disliked but had to do in the dissertation was to describe the Rastafarian speech form as patois. It seems to me that this illustrates what I mean by the phrase power judgement. If you do not follow the speech patterns of the dominant group then your language is somehow less and it is labelled with a derogatory name. If professionals use a specific speech pattern it is called jargon and is acceptable.
Anyway I digress, I have to confess that love slang, on more than one occasion I have found the hours flying by as I browse a dictionary of slang, yes, I am that sad that I find reading a dictionary interesting. One of the classics is Max Decharne’s book on hipster slang Straight from the Fridge, Dad ( and it is as good as the title suggests. When someone asks me how I am I have a tendency to utter that immortal line “Straight from the fridge, Dad” as a response. I think part of my delight in slang is my love of language, how can you not love a phrase like “Making out like a foreign loan”, which means to do well, to be successful, or “Go to a museum for your art lesson” which is another way of saying stop leering at me. Not that I have had occasion to use that one in conversation.
In my home town of Widnes the speech patterns have changed since I was a lad, nothing unusual in that, I suspect they had changed since my father was young. One of the interesting things is that now people want to sound like they come from Liverpool. Nothing wrong with this, I was listening to some research on the radio saying that as the actual city of Liverpool has contracted the speech pattern, known locally as Scouse has spread beyond the city. Now when I am in Widnes I hear the Scouse lit rather than the Lancashire drawl that was common in my youth. Here is a link to a good short documentary on the Scouse accent for all of you who are even more woolly back than I am ( I will leave you to discover what the phrase Woolly Back actually means.
Here is a poem, rather an old one on that change in accent.

The Last of Widnesian

No more
“Over thurr,”
Cenny Field,
Lob on,
Balm cake,
Oxley’s or Adsega,
Never again to be:
“As thick as a Lugsdale butty”
All gone

 A maiden is a clothes horse or dryer. The Bozzadrome was the name of a cinema in the 1930’s and was a word still in use when I was a child, though the actual cinema had changed its name. Oxley’s was a local department store, originally called Abraham’s and Adsega was a Scottish supermarket chain, they opened he first supermarket in Widnes in the early 1960’s. An interesting word is cod-pretend, one is codding when you are having somebody on, hoodwinking them. Something counterfeit would be cod.  What are your local words? I would be really interested in hearing about them.


  1. "dissertation on the evolution of Rastafarianism in Britain" - awesome!! you're certainly unique. i don't come across to many people like you.

  2. Interesting post on slang! I like learning about it as well--there are so many variations in language, and even little ones can make a big difference in how someone comes across.

  3. I grew up in Widnes aswell and your words bring back memories and my mother who grew up in West Bank had many expressions and sayings which only became unusual or funny as you moved away from the area so were easily lost with deaths in the family.Snig was used often and the pub by the old Tranny bridge was indeed called The Snig,I think it means eels or slimy slippy thngs.Nose snot or Bogies was called aSnig when showing.I used to go to school via The Wynt which was an unadopted passage way that formed a short cut and access to allotements ....could go on

    1. Hi Zeughtguy. You have awoken some good memories for me. The snig! Such a great word. I remember going to poetry evenings in the 70s there.