As you may have noticed, I’m currently in a P.G. Wodehouse phase, particularly, of the Jeeves and Wooster variety. While I read/listen (I listened to the audio version of Right Ho, Jeeves while driving to visit the lovely Cornflower), I find myself admiring the slang of 1930s Britain. Why don’t we refer to our male friends as “chappies” or a predicament as “in the soup” or even a good idea as “a wheeze”? These turns of phrase are much more enjoyable than our current slang. I’d give examples, but I’m not up-to-date with the 2011 slang. However, I can give you all sorts of obsolete phrases from the 1990s… For your enjoyment I give you some of my favorites, straight from the mouth of Bertie Wooster, the wealthy man about town.
Bean: refers to one’s brain. I particularly like this bit of slang because it reminds me of dad and grandpa’s use of “noggin.”
Topping: really good, the top of the top, the best of the best. “A topping place.”
Cove: no, not the cove in relation to the nautical kind, but a certain type of chappie (see below). I’m a little confused about the type of man, so it could just mean man, but in the Jeeves and Wooster books it seems to describe men of the same status as Wooster.
Rummy: darned or damned or whatever other word you’d like to use in such situations. I think all parents should use vintage slang instead of the silly rhyming non-swearing phrases they often use like “dag-nabbit” or “oh fudge.” Really? I’m sorry, but any 5th grader could tell you what word they wanted to say.
Chappy/Chappies: Good man. There doesn’t seem to be a female version however.
Ripping: Excellent, super fun. A ripping good time.
However, as I write this, I am also baking a red wine chocolate cake, cleaning my parents house (obviously not right now) and listening to Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (I reviewed the series in general earlier). Through my listening I’ve realized that there are many more bits of British slang that I’d like to mix into my current lexicon. What is it about the British? Why don’t we say things like “deuced” and “bad form?” Perhaps it’s the nobility who passes on their slang to their offspring who pass it on to theirs etc, so the slang stays relatively similar, whereas in America there are more cultures with their own unique additions and the rich often come from the poor and therefore bring a new set of slang. It isn’t often, with the exception of Oliver Twist, that street urchins become wealthy and therefore bring their cockney slang to the upper classes.
Today I believe there are very few people who continue to use these antiquated phrases. Except perhaps people like me, since I just wrote an email to my mother about how it’s bad form to bake an apology cake for your brother using your brother’s baking goods. Hence, why I’m making a red wine chocolate cake at my parents house…