‘Ave it!

May 31, 2007

Once upon a time, back in the nineties, I was young enough to go out dancing to music with “repetitive beats”, to steal a phrase from the Government legislation of that era designed to curb such errant behaviour. Young enough to get trashed, overdo it, stay up all night and feel rather worse for wear afterwards.

This was known, in those days, as “larging it”, or “‘aving it large”. Even back then, the phrase was always a bit self-mocking, accompanied by exaggerated faux-dance arm movements.

Anyway, we all eventually moved on, and I just kind of assumed the language did too. Not so.

Enter Tracey, one of the inmates in this year’s UK Big Brother. Tracy is a hippy raver – or to use her quaint rhyming slang, “cheesy quaver”. We’ve only seen her arrival so far, but judging by that, her vocabulary consists mostly of the single phrase:

“‘Ave it!” (The exclamation mark is justified. She definitely exclaims it.)

OK, so it’s shortened over the years, as phrases do, but its origins are clear. The arm movements have evolved too, but they’re still part of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Big Brother addict. I just have to get this uploaded before the second episode starts in four minutes…



May 31, 2007

The military have come up with some fascinating phrases in their time (I’m thinking ‘friendly fire’ here) to try and take the edge off the kind of thing you really can’t take the edge off.

But I find it particularly odd that the word ‘rendition‘ has been chosen to describe the practice of flying suspects to far-off places – ‘rendering’ them (unto Caesar?), I suppose – where they can be detained and tortured without anybody asking awkward questions.

Rendition – a word once more commonly associated with music. The phrase “What a lovely rendition” will never be the same again. Not that I ever said it, but I picture some fur-clad old lady at a private concert in the drawing-room of a stately home floundering around for a new word now that her favourite one has been appropriated.

On the BBC2 programme Mystery Flights, Tyler Drumheller, the former head of CIA covert operations in Europe, blamed the American administration for creating an atmosphere of “rage and vengeance”.

Now, there’s a man with a feel for words.

Going forward

May 21, 2007

One morning last week, as I stood in a throng of commuters on The Train Formerly Known as Thameslink, a middle-aged man was having a loud conversation on his mobile. “I don’t see a role for him going forward,” he announced.

I love the bombast of business-speak, and ‘going forward’ is one of the classics. “I am just the kind of person you need,” it proclaims. “I always look to the future, never resting on my laurels. Where there is disaster I seek triumph, and where there is triumph I seek even greater triumph.”

You had to feel sorry for the guy being discussed. Not only was the demise of his career being announced to a bunch of strangers, it was being announced with one of the most obnoxious phrases in the business lexicon.

Binge flying

May 10, 2007

My favourite phrase from last weekend’s papers was ‘binge flying’ – coined by (of all people) Rough Guide founder Mark Ellingham. It neatly transforms another of our pleasures into a vice and castigates us (in a friendly sort of way) for our excesses.

Many years ago, I spent New Year in deepest Scotland. Afterwards, I hitchhiked my way back to Edinburgh and was picked up by a lovely couple in their sixties. As I jumped in the back, the woman turned to me and confided, “We’ve been on a bunge.” (Forgive my poor attempt at the accent.) They’d been drinking for six days – he’d fallen over and got a black eye, she’d fallen asleep in a bush. Today’s official definition of ‘binge drinking’ seems positively pale in comparison.

But there might be something in Mr Ellingham’s analogy. The glint in the old woman’s eye was much the same as you see in the eyes of the Friday night hordes heading off to Luton Airport with the Rough Guide to Barcelona clutched in their eager palms.