What’s the Word?

Hello again my fair followers, my cute consumers of creative calligraphy; you gluttons for punishment! Nah, not that last one, well maybe, just a little. *gives devilish grin.

So you’ve been coming here for a while now and know that I write; books as well as this blog (some poetry too, but the less said about that the better), and I have covered word origins on a couple of occasions, but then I thought – what about the word ‘word’? I know! You did too didn’t you?! How bizarre that we write and speak these words, but have ever wondered, ‘where did the word ‘word’ come from Alex?’

I’m glad you asked, I did the work for you…

 

Word    

Is a unit of speech and writing, a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed; as in “I don’t like the word ‘anti-climax’ .”

It can also be a command, password, or signal, for example, “Smithers gave me the word to start shooting.”

As a verb it expresses something in particular words. “She words her request in a particularly ironic manner.”

And then there is the fairly current usage that expresses agreement or affirmation. “Word, that’s a good record, man.”

Howlin Wolf I want to have a word with you
Howlin’ Wolf could never have sung                           “I want a word with you.”

Etymology of the word ‘word’

It is Old English; c. 1200, meaning “to utter” of Germanic origin; related to Dutch Woord and German Wort. Originally from the proto-indo-european root Were, which means to speak or say. Makes me wonder what people said before word was part of the language when they needed to have it out with someone – “Oi! I want to speak to you!” doesn’t feel as hard-hitting as “Oi! A word!”

a-world-of-words-3-1024

 

Then it snuck into our language and we thought no more about it, it became a thing in and of itself without us paying much attention, it appended itself to other words to create new words.

 

‘Word’ and ‘Word Up’

Now I thought this had fallen out of use, what a fool. Certain groups of young people and even older generations who may have spun around too much on their heads as teens, or really cool black dudes still use this.  For those not in the know, it means – “I comprehend what you are saying and verify that your statement is true, my good brother.” Both are generally used to mean “I agree.” The terms are from late 1980’s hip-hop slang. Some say popular usage probably originated with the single Word Up! by Cameo. It is definitely of African American tradition; particularly it’s oral tradition and may be rooted in a belief in the power of the Word. The African concept of Nommo, the Word, is believed to be the force of life itself. To speak is to make something come into being.

Ali G Word

 

The Word 

Was a 1990’s Channel 4 television programme in the United Kingdom. Its presenters included Mancunian radio presenter Terry Christian, comedian Mark LamarrDani Behr, and Katie Puckrik. Originally it was broadcast at 6pm Friday evenings; The Word’s main live show was shifted to a late-night time-slot from 9 November 1990. The magazine format allowed for interviews, live music, features and even game shows. The flexible late-night format meant that guests could do just about anything to be controversial. ‘Language’ was never bleeped out, as far as I can remember, and there was some choice language at times. There was also an ‘I’ll do anything to be on television’ section called “The Hopefuls” in which people ate worms, bathed in maggots, licked sweat off fat people, intimately kissed old people, and did generally repulsive things in order to get featured on the programme. It was repulsive and horribly fascinating at the same time.

The Word

 

 

The Word (2)

Britain’s first democratic socialist tabloid newspaper. Begun online in 2015, it is a socialist hub with the involvement of as many people as possible from the socialist movement in Britain. The politics, they say, are broadly in line with those of Jeremy Corbyn and believe in justice, equality, truth, courage and that only by sharing as fairly as possible the resources of this planet will we be able to live in harmony with each other.

the-word-new-design-best-s

 

WordPress

A free software that can be used to create a website or blog. It originated in 2003 simply as code that enhanced typography and has evolved into the largest self-hosted blogging platform in the world.

wordpress

Microsoft Word 

Is a graphical word processing program that users can type with. It is made by the computer company Microsoft. Its purpose is to allow users to type and save documents. Similar to other word processors, it has helpful tools to make documents. The first version of Microsoft Word was developed by Charles Simonyi and Richard Brodie, former Xerox programmers hired by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1981. Both programmers worked on Xerox Bravo, the first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processor.

Word 2.0
Word 2.0

 

‘What’s The Word?’

This is another phrase with its roots in black culture. Depending on your situation, it could mean a number of things. It can mean – “How are you?” or “What are we doing tonight my good chap?” or “What’s the news?” (about specific or non-specific topic) .

Singer/song-writer, Gil Scott-Heron used the phrase in his 1976 song ‘Johannesburg’; a protest song about South Africa’s apartheid system, and when Scott-Heron asked, “What’s the word? / Tell me brother, have you heard from Johannesburg?” he was begging for an update on what was going on.  Remember young ‘uns, this was before the internet! Yes, there was life before Twitter and Facebook. “We don’t know for sure, because the news we get is unreliable, man,” Scott-Heron continues in the song. ‘The Word’ in this instance is of vital importance.

gil-scott-heron.jpg

 

And finally, with no need for explanation is…drum roll…..

 

The Word of God

Word-of-God

 

Word –  

pretty powerful for text with only 4 letters!!

Thanks for visiting folks, I hope this post was interesting, or at least informative – remember – spread the word!!

 

 

Bibliography

Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip Hop Culture’, by H. Samy Alim, 2006

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=word

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-many-uses-of-the-word-word

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=word%20up

http://thewordmedia.org.uk/

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Word

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8z4a86aggU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZjAantupsA&list=RDMZjAantupsA#t=0

Do You Speak ‘Proper’ English?!

Good morning, Bonjour, Guten Morgen, Buenos Dias, Buongiorno, Shubh Prabhaat, Sabāḥul kẖayr.

Aren’t words brilliant!

English words I find especially so – as I am British ( I say British as I do not consider myself English; I have Irish parentage, with Scottish and Cornish ancestry) and we are an extraordinarily mixed race that has absorbed, from countries across the world, words that have become embedded so deeply that we have almost forgotten the origins. I love the etymology of words, names, nouns, things, stuff, anything! I think I may have mentioned in a previous post the origin of the word orange – it is from the Persian, narange.

677px-Origins_of_English_PieChart.svg

Language changes can denote when a country was historically invaded, when merchants brought more home than products and coin, when integration was necessary. Language is a living, ever evolving, and fascinating marker to our connections worldwide.

My previous snob of a self used to scoff at ‘Americanisms’ – i.e. garbage, diaper, aluminum. These words travelled from Holland and England to the New World and remained in use alongside those from farther afield. Now I understand the use of garbage, as compared to rubbish; it makes sense.

Today’s post is a collection of words that have entered our, English, language from the wider world community, so here is a small, very small, collation to whet your appetite –

Plant, wine, cat, candle, anchor, chest, fork, rose – Roman, circa AD 410.

english language romans

Birth, cake, call, egg, freckle, happy, law, leg, sister, smile, trust – Old Norse, circa AD 900.

english language 3

Army, archer, soldier, Crown, throne, duke, nobility, peasant, servant, obedience, traitor, felony, arrest, justice, judge, jury, accuse, condemn, prison, gaol, ballet, café, genre, garage – French, circa 1066 to present.

english language MP
Peasant!

Boss, coleslaw, landscape, cruise, frolic, rucksack, roster, wagon, onslaught – Dutch, various.

Abseil, angst, cobalt, delicatessen, doppelganger, dachshund, fest, haversack, kitsch, kaput – German, various.

DmGCH6.gif
The German v Greek Philosophers Football Match (Monty Python)

Veranda, jungle, bandana, chit, dinghy, pyjama, juggernaut, cashmere, thug, shampoo – Hindi, circa 18th and 19th c.

Banjo, chimpanzee, zebra, zombie, banana, jazz, cola, bozo, boogie, okay – Africa, circa 18th and 18th c.

english language 5

Alcohol, algebra, chemistry, elixir, cipher, zero, zenith, alcove, amber, assassin, candy, coffee, cotton, mummy, racquet, sash, crimson, ghoul, giraffe, lemon, orange – Arabic, various.

english language arabic

Flannel, corgi, penguin, pendragon, bard, balderdash, druid, crag – Welsh, various.

Blackmail, clan, glamour, golf, scone, wraith, tweed – Scottish, various.

 

Looking into the origins of some words provides us with, not only origins and meaning, but the circumstances under which such words have entered the English language.

I think we should be proud have having such connections and ability to borrow, adapt and absorb words into our everyday use. It makes me feel I belong to a greater community.

english language

 

For some excellent reading on this subject, take a look at:

english MB

The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg.

 

 

Feast of Words

In the light of recent cultural divisions, that have been happening across the world by various means, I decided to write of something that we all have in common – FOOD.

We all consume food, we even share similar palettes to people’s and cultures we may know little about, or think we have in common. Lemons, for example, are thought to originate in India and yet are eaten all over the world today. The pomegranate started out in Iran, and yet I can get them from my local supermarket. And oranges; one of my favourite fruits and bits of knowledge – Did you know – oranges come from South East Asia, they were first cultivated in China. The colour orange come from the fruit not the other way around. And why do we say, “Can I have an orange?” ? Because the fruit was originally called narange, a Sanskrit word for “orange tree” (नारङ्ग nāraṅga). As with many words, it became Anglicized, so from “Can I have a nāraṅge?” it morphed into ‘an orange’. How cool is that?!

feast of words 0
N.B: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. (See what I did there?!)

 

How are we divided? Tonnes has been said on that – let’s focus on what we ALL have in common; the need to consume, the joy of eating, the love of specific treats and delicacies. And what a culture does not/may not eat due to spiritual concerns can also show our similarities – Tim Minchin, comedian, wrote a song (He’s written quite a number of songs actually), about the similarity, rather than differences amongst the Muslim and Jewish folks called ‘Peace Anthem For Palestine’ – about how they both do not eat pork!

Sure, it’s a light-hearted, comedic foray into international politics (!!) BUT, essentially, he is talking about commonality through food.

Food really can bring people together. Hear the one about the Palestinian and the Israeli who used Hummus to aid refugees?                                   https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/how-hummus-brought-a-palestinian-and-an-israeli-together-to-help-refugees-in-berlin

I thought then;  writers have used food and drink in their stories over and over, to help develop plots, bring characters to life and give a sense of place. What is sense of place? Wiki tells us – Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or animals. Places said to have a strong “sense of place” have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors.

We all have used the phrase at some time or another. However, if a fresh, tall glass of orange juice conjures up images of Californian sunshine and groves of fruiting trees sparkling in the morning dew – what of the origins of the orange? Doesn’t consuming food from across the globe begin to distort our idea of sense of place?! And maybe, rightly so.

I say embrace the commonalities. Drink French wine, whilst eating American raisins and roasting English lamb, followed by Iranian pomegranates and Italian ice-cream. Cue the extracts, oh, first let me say, ***SPOILER ALERT – after the Shakespeare quote, the passage selected from Patrick Suskind’s Perfume is the ending of the novel. So avoid if you have not read it. And if you have not read it – please do – a hideously delightful story, redolent with humans. Enjoy:-

 

  • “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
  • “I went to sit in the bus station and think this over. I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious.”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

feastofwords

 

  • “Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.”
  • “I sell dreams, small comforts, sweet harmless temptations to bring down a multitude of saints crashing among the hazels and nougatines.”
  • “The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate. Quite unlike the white powdery chocolate I knew as a boy, this has a throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market, a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavor that enters my mouth somehow and makes it water. There is a silver jug of the stuff on the counter, from which a vapor rises. I recall that I have not breakfasted this morning.”

              ― Joanne Harris, Chocolat

feast of words 2

 

  • “Waiter: Would you like to hear today’s specials?

Patrick Bateman: Not if you want to keep your spleen.”

  • Our pasta this evening… is squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth… with goat cheese profiteroles, and I also have an arugula Caesar salad. For entrees this evening, I have swordfish meatloaf with onion marmalade, rare roasted partridge breast in raspberry coulis with a sorrel timbale…and grilled free-range rabbit with herbed french fries. Our pasta tonight is a squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth.

God, I hate this place. It’s a chick’s restaurant. Why aren’t we at Dorsia ?”

― Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

feast of words 3

 

  • “I saw her in the back-kitchen which opened on to the courtyard, in process of killing a chicken; by its desperate and quite natural resistance . . . it made the saintly kindness and unction of our servant rather less prominent than it would do, next day at dinner, when it made its appearance in a skin gold-embroidered like a chasuble, and its precious juice was poured out drop by drop as from a pyx.”

― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

feast of words 4

 

  • The meal consists of limpid turtle soup laced with Madeira, blinis Demidoff with caviar, quails en sarcophage (stuffed with foie gras and truffles in puff-pastry cases), a salad, cheeses, tropical fruits and a glistening baba au rhum, all accompanied by Champagne and fine wines.

― Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Babette’s Feast

feast of words 5

 

  • ‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; ‘and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well — ‘

‘What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.

‘They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.

‘They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; ‘they’d have been ill.’

‘So they were,’ said the Dormouse; very ill.’

Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: ‘But why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.’

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

feast of words 6

 

  • “The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed. It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation… Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam…”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 feast of words 7

 

  • “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” (shinny, is booze.)

―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

feast of words 8

 

  • ” “Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?” However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.”

―Herman Melville, Moby Dick

feast of words 9

 

  • “He is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”

―William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 feats of words 10

 

***

  • * “But to eat a human being? They would never, so they thought, have been capable of anything that horrible. And they were amazed that it had been so very easy for them and that, embarrassed as they were, they did not feel the tiniest bite of conscience. On the contrary! Though the meal lay rather heavy on their stomachs, their hearts were definitely light. All of a sudden there were delightful, bright flutterings in their dark souls. And on their faces was a delicate, virginal glow of happiness. Perhaps that was why they were shy about looking up and gazing into one another’s eyes. When they finally did dare it, at first with stolen glances and then candid ones, they had to smile. They were uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of love.”
  • Patrick Süskind, Perfume

Writing Dialogue

*N.B: Warning, contains offensive language.

 

“Good morning readers, and welcome to another post on Flailing Through Life.”

“Hi! Another day, another post!”

“Hey! You! Yes you! Come and read this, no, don’t look over there, look here!”

 

As dialogue, which is preferable? Which grabs attention quickest? Which is most appropriate for your scene? Some of you are experienced writers, so you already have a handle on this aspect of the craft, but we can all do with a little extra topping on the ice-cream sundae of the written word – couldn’t we?

There are a few successful novels and novellas that contain no dialogue whatsoever, Shikasta by Doris Lessing being one of them; the story is presented in a series of reports from an alien who inhabits earth. Another is Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, which is created through diary entries. However today, let’s look at how we make people talk.

Dialogue exists to bring your characters to life, it makes them appear ‘real’, it allows for interaction between characters, it reveals what sort of person he or she is. And if done well, it can make your writing come alive.

I am a massive movie fan, I watch films all of the time, I spent many hours in my childhood sitting indoors on a sunny day, with the curtains partially drawn, watching old black and white movies; mostly British or French. I am a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino films – and his dialogue is perfect.

Take a look at this section from Reservoir Dogs – Mr White does not want to tip the waitress when everyone else has done so:

                          

            NICE GUY EDDIE

                Okay, everybody cough up green for

                the little lady.

       Everybody whips out a buck, and throws it on the table.

       Everybody, that is, except Mr. White.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 C’mon, throw in a buck.

                        WHITE

                 Uh-uh.  I don’t tip.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 Whaddaya mean you don’t tip?

                        WHITE

                 I don’t believe in it.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 You don’t believe in tipping?

                      PINK

                         (laughing)

                 I love this kid, he’s a madman,

                 this guy.

                      BLONDE

                 Do you have any idea what these

                 ladies make?  They make shit.

                     WHITE

                 Don’t give me that.  She don’t

                 make enough money, she can quit.

       Everybody laughs.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 I don’t even know a Jew who’d have

                 the balls to say that.  So let’s

                 get this straight. You never ever

                 tip?

                    WHITE

                 I don’t tip because society says I

                 gotta.  I tip when somebody

                 deserves a tip.  When somebody

                 really puts forth an effort, they

                 deserve a little something extra.

                 But this tipping automatically,

                 that shit’s for the birds.  As far

                 as I’m concerned, they’re just

                 doin their job.

                           BLUE

                 Our girl was nice.

                           WHITE

                 Our girl was okay.  She didn’t do

                 anything special.

                          BLONDE

                 What’s something special, take ya

                 in the kitchen and suck your dick?

ReservoirDogsTipping

So what sort of people are they? Sure, when you watch the movie you can see them all sat around in their matching black and white, but what does this little section tell us about Mr. White? The dialogue is about a mundane subject; tipping, but it is interesting because of the people who are having the conversation as much as anything else; makes it kind of weird (and if you’re like me, then comical) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4sbYy0WdGQ&list=RDV4sbYy0WdGQ#t=0

Tarantino does this repeatedly in his films. We get two or more characters who we know, as the audience, are awful people; killers, murderer’s, punks, criminals and so forth. Then he gives them this dialogue about everyday stuff, it is the Juxtapositioning of dialogue and character expectation that creates interest and tension.

Here’s another. In Pulp Fiction, Jules and Vincent, hit-men for Marcellus Wallace, are in the apartment of some college kids who tried to pull one over on Wallace. It’s payback time. We the audience kind of know this, but what happens is this –

 

                                    JULES

                         Good for you. Looks like me and

                         Vincent caught you at breakfast,

                         sorry ’bout that.  What’cha eatin’?

                                     BRETT

                         Hamburgers.

                                     JULES

                         Hamburgers. The cornerstone of any

                         nutritious breakfast. What kinda

                         hamburgers?

                                     BRETT

                         Cheeseburgers.

                                     JULES

                         No, I mean where did you get’em?

                         MacDonald’s, Wendy’s, Jack-in-the-

                         Box, where?

                                     BRETT

                         Big Kahuna Burger.

                                     JULES

                         Big Kahuna Burger. That’s that

                         Hawaiian burger joint. I heard they

                         got some tasty burgers. I ain’t never

                         had one myself, how are they?

                                     BRETT

                         They’re good.

                                     JULES

                         Mind if I try one of yours?

                                     BRETT

                         No.

                                     JULES

                         Yours is this one, right?

                                     BRETT

                         Yeah.

               Jules grabs the burger and take a bite of it.

                                     JULES

                         Uuummmm, that’s a tasty burger.

                              (to Vincent)

                         Vince, you ever try a Big Kahuna

                         Burger?

                                     VINCENT

                         No.

               Jules holds out the Big Kahuna.

                                     JULES

                         You wanna bite, they’re real good.

                                     VINCENT

                         I ain’t hungry.

                                     JULES

                         Well, if you like hamburgers give

                         ’em a try sometime. Me, I can’t

                         usually eat ’em ’cause my girlfriend’s

                         a vegetarian. Which more or less

                         makes me a vegetarian, but I sure

                         love the taste of a good burger.

                              (to Brett)

                         You know what they call a Quarter

                         Pounder with Cheese in France?

                                     BRETT

                         No.

                                     JULES

                         Tell ’em, Vincent.

                                     VINCENT

                         Royale with Cheese.

                                     JULES

                         Royale with Cheese, you know why

                         they call it that?

                                     BRETT

                         Because of the metric system?

                                     JULES

                         Check out the big brain on Brett.

                         You’a smart motherfucker, that’s

                         right. The metric system.

                              (he points to a fast

                              food drink cup)

                         What’s in this?

                                     BRETT

                         Sprite.

                                     JULES

                         Sprite, good, mind if I have some of

                         your tasty beverage to wash this

                         down with?

                                     BRETT

                         Sure.

               Jules grabs the cup and takes a sip.

                                     JULES

                         Uuuuummmm, hit’s the spot!

                              (to Roger)

                         You, Flock of Seagulls, you know

                         what we’re here for?

               Roger nods his head: “Yes.”

                                     JULES

                         Then why don’t you tell my boy here

                         Vince, where you got the shit hid.

                                     MARVIN

                         It’s under the be –

                                    JULES

                         – I don’t remember askin’ you a

                         goddamn thing.

                              (to Roger)

                         You were sayin’?

 

Jules is scary even on the page; he swings from calm burger gourmet to dangerous aggressor and back again in two sentences. Everyone is caught off-guard, which is great for story-telling tension. Why does Tarantino write this dialogue? Why doesn’t he just have Vincent and Jules come in, blow the boys away and search for the drugs? We all know; Vince, Jules, the unfortunate college kids, and us the audience, we all know this isn’t going to end well and the everyday subject of the dialogue draws out the moment until all hell breaks loose.

Tarantino Pulp Fiction

“Uuummmm, that’s a tasty burger.”

Looking to the dialogue of film-makers, directors and producers and analysing what they have written, why they have written it and the effect it has on the audience, can help revitalise a novelists approach.

And let’s not forget comic/graphic novel writers. They have to get that dialogue to lift off the page as much as the artwork. They often bring controversial ideas to the page, dialogue that can be poetic, or both as is the case with Alan Moore’s,  V For Vendetta.

v for vendetta

V: Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.

In this scene where V introduces himself to Evey, we learn a lot about V – he is poetic, an actor, misunderstood and a freedom fighter, all V’s dialogue.

The comic book writer is a subversive creature, lurking in the darkening corners of publishing houses and saying the things we wish we had said ourselves. Frank Miller takes us into the dark with the likes of Sin City and Batman: The dark Knight Returns. Other comic book writers with snappy dialogue are the ‘cast’ of 2000AD writers, including John Wagner, Pat Mills, Alan Grant, Garth Ennis; some of the writers for Judge Dredd;

Chief Judge: Sink or swim. Chuck her in the deep end.
Dredd: It’s ALL the deep end.

Even without any images, we know that Dredd is a hard-nosed, Lawful, humourless son-of-a-bitch, and he kicks criminal ass big time. Forget what you may have heard about kids and comics, if you have never read one, go and buy one or two and read them  and study that dialogue.

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Some quick tips –

  • INSTEAD OF SAID. I know, it’s a bitch isn’t it? You have a section of long-running dialogue and you get tired of writing he said, she said. Find an alternative to express their tone, emotions and attitude. A helpful site I like to use is – Over 200 Words to use Instead of Said – http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/#demurred
  • LISTEN to how people speak to each other in real life – BUT – do not copy it, because in real life, we um and ah, and er and pause and repeat and so on and so on… put yourself in the head of your character, BE the serial killer with a penchant for growing prize-winning roses, BE the put upon clerk who adores his/her boss regardless of how they’re treated.
  • “MORNING DORIS.” “Hi Doris.” “Yo bitch!” Use colloquialisms to tell the reader about the relationship between characters. After all, you do not all speak the same as each other, the way you speak to your mother is quite different from how you chat with your friends/homies/home girls/pals.
  • SPEAK UP. Read your dialogue out loud (you should do this with all your work anyway, you can hear the mistakes!) Act the parts of your protagonists; does it sound ‘real’?
  • RESEARCH – especially if your setting is alien to you, or historical. In the 17th century, Doris’ neighbour would never have said “Yo bitch!” or even “Hi, Doris.” More like, “Good morning to you Mistress Doris.” Keep it real – for the world you’re writing for.
  • KEEP A NOTEBOOK to hand, ALWAYS. Listen to people talking at bus stops, on trains, at work/school. You can pick up some juicy titbits. I once heard someone say of Alan Bennet (British playwright, screenwriter, author), that he noted down what a fellow actor said, then had her repeat it in his plays. Sounds true, possibly is, but he did not regurgitate directly what she said, he adapted it for the viewing audience so that we came to know the character.
  • KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. Would our lovely Doris really say “I don’t give a crap about waitresses!”?  You don’t need to, but you might want to write biographies for your characters, it will help you to determine, not only where they come from and what accents they have, but also how they speak; their specific word choices such as slang, speech patterns, and rhythms.

 

Authors who I think give good dialogue!

Douglas Adams

The author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series marries the fantastical with the prosaic –

‘Drink up,’ said Ford, ‘you’ve got three pints to get through.’

‘Three pints?” said Arthur. ‘At lunchtime?’ 

The man next to Ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him. He said, ‘Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.’

‘Very deep,’ said Arthur, ‘you should send that in to the Reader’s Digest. They’ve got a page for people like you.’

‘Drink up.’

 

Elmore Leonard

The crime novelist’s dialogue is catchy and snappy, many of his novels have been made into films – Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and  3:10 to Yuma

‘You sure have a lot of shit in here. What’s all this stuff? Handcuffs, chains…What’s this can?’

‘For your breath,’ Karen said. ‘You could use it. Squirt some in your mouth.’

‘You devil, it’s Mace, huh? What’ve you got here, a billy? Use it on poor unfortunate offenders…Where’s your gun, your pistol?’

‘In my bag, in the car.’ She felt his hand slip from her arm to her hip and rest there and she said, ‘You know you don’t have a chance of making it. Guards are out here already, they’ll stop the car.’

‘They’re off in the cane by now chasing Cubans.’

His tone quiet, unhurried, and it surprised her.

John Steinbeck

Worlds peopled with memorable characters with dialogue that a reader can hear it as if spoken aloud.

‘I forgot,’ Lennie said softly. ‘I tried not to forget. Honest to God I did, George.’

‘O.K.—O.K. I’ll tell ya again. I ain’t got nothing to do. Might jus’ as well spen’ all my time tell’n you things and then you forget ‘em, and I tell you again.’

‘Tried and tried,’ said Lennie, ‘but it didn’t do no good. I remember about the rabbits, George.’

‘The hell with the rabbits. That’s all you ever can remember is them rabbits. O.K.! Now you listen and this time you got to remember so we don’t get in no trouble. You remember settin’ in that gutter on Howard street and watchin’ that blackboard?’

Lennies’s face broke into a delighted smile. ‘Why sure, George, I remember that…but…what’d we do then? I remember some girls come by and you says…you say…’

Hope you enjoyed today’s post. Now go and write some wonderful dialogue people!

Add to Dictionary

Gargh! Ack! Argh! Dink. Plip. Smoosh.

 

So you’re busy typing away, racing through the plot-line, when all of a sudden, there’s an interjection of sound or texture that, no matter how hard you search, you simply cannot find one that fits the occasion. What are you going to do?! It sounds like, squelch, but feels like wet velvet, is there a word?

“Her hand stroked the smerchy surface…no…Her hand brushed across the squilching fibers…nah…Her skin squaalched over the mulchen fat-like deposit…” and all the while, you’re getting red underlining and suggestions for ‘real’ words. You hover over and decide whether you should: re-spell it, Ignore, Ignore all, Ask Google for Suggestions, or, Add to Dictionary.

But didn’t all words have to be made up at some point in history? So why can’t you? Writers as wordsmiths have contributed so many words to the worlds languages, there are a huge amount that have fallen by the wayside, or the meaning has changed over the decades (for example, did you know that the word ‘nice’ originally meant the opposite of what we know today?!) Of course, you can’t just go writing anything you want, it has to make some kind of sense within the context of what you’re writing; besides, you might discover if you stick a bunch of consonants together, you’ve just written a pre-existing profanity in Czech or Welsh!

I am beginning to think that, apart from Shakespeare and Dickens, it is the sci-fi and comic-book writers who have lent more to the modern world of words than any other genre of writers. I suppose it make sense, as they are the ones looking forwards, so to speak, they are inventors of words as well as worlds…

Tattarrattat

From Irish writer, James Joyce. The OED includes tattarrattat in the sense ‘a series of short, sharp, rapping or tapping sounds’, and illustrates it with a quotation from Joyce’s Ulysses: “I knew his tattarrattat at the door.” It’s also notable for being the longest palindromic headword in the OED.

Chortle and Slithy

Introduced by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass (1871): “He chortled in his joy.” The word is probably a blend of chuckle and snort and means ‘to laugh in a noisy, gleeful way’. In 1855, Carroll combined slimy and lithe to form the nonsense word, slithy. It conveys something slimy and distrustful.

Droog

Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is filled with inventive language. One word has become synonymous with the novel – Droog. Alex, the protagonist of the 1962 novel, uses the word Droog to refer to his three friends. Meaning ‘a young man belonging to a street gang’, the noun is an alteration of the Russian drug ‘friend’.

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How about a nice glass of moloko?

Robot

Coined by Czech author Karel Čapek and made its first appearance in a 1920 science fiction play called R.U.R., which is short for Rossum’s Universal Robots. The word is from Czech robota meaning ‘forced labour, drudgery’.

Bedazzled, New-fangled and Scuffle

 Mr Shakespeare left us over 1,700 new words according to some sources. Bedazzled, a word first used to describe the particular gleam of sunlight is now used to sell rhinestone-embellished jeans. Maybe poetry really is dead. New-fangled, as in ideas, from Loves Labours Lost. Scuffle was first used to describe the fights of the heart in Antony and Cleopatra is an example of an existing verb that Shakespeare decided could stand up just as well as a noun.

Gobblefunk, Splitzwiggled and Jumbly

“Gobblefunk” is Roald Dahl’s own language. The words are found across his literature and explain meaning when Dahl’s dream world transcends normal adjectives. Splitzwiggled means caught and Jumbly means all mixed up.

Shazam                                                                  

Shazam was coined in Whiz Comics in 1940, as the name of an old wizard who grants a 12-year-old boy the ability to transform into Captain Marvel. It was the wizard’s name. It came to be used, not so much as an expletive, as an exclamation of something; ‘Take that!’ “Shazam!”

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Kapow! Blam! And Zap!                                            

 Onomatopoeia; harder to spell than the words that belong in this category. But without them, where would we writers be! Kapow and Blam crop up mostly in the ‘superhero’ genre of comics, notably the earlier Batman strips.                                                                          Zap was used as early as 1929 to represent a sound. It is another comic strip word; especially from ‘Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century’. Its meaning ‘to erase electronically’ is from 1982.

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I love beating up bad guys, Batman.

Drokk and Grud (my personal favourites)                                                         

And so the world of comic strips entered a new age; children began reading them, can you believe that?! Also, the restrictions placed upon the writers forced the Mother of Invention to invent a whole new dictionary of profanities. Judge Dredd and co not only inhabit a whole new future of fatties with wheelbarrows and hi-tech stuff, but a new language developed. In case you didn’t know, Drokk most eloquently replaces the F word, Grud is instead of taking the Lord’s name in vain.

 

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Drokk indeed…