As I’ve previously mentioned, catching the bus every day allows me the dubious privilege of sitting near to teenage chavs and listening to their tedious tirades. So there was nothing special last Thursday when I was present for the discussion of what to do about Becky’s new boyfriend (who is, like, totally, a fucking arsehole, you know what I’m saying?). What made it reasonable bearable though, was an idea that popped into my head as I tried not to listen.
I’m currently reading The Picture of Dorien Grey by the incomparable Oscar Wilde. As I’m only a few chapters in it’s much too soon for a review but thus far there are two defining characteristics of the book that I mention when asked. Firstly is the unfortunate chance that it is filled with fatuous, facetious, superficial, and eminently loath-worthy characters. There is so far, not a one that I actually identify with or even like. What rescues Wilde’s only novel however, is his prose. The man writes in what can only be described as an elaborately beautiful way and though his characters observations are often despicable and even cringe-worthy on occassion, there’s no denying the poetry with which they utter their bile.
You know full well what a lover of the English language I am. French may well be more romantic, Italian more passionate and Latin more descript but I honestly believe that carefully handled, there’s no literary task beyond the language of Shakespeare, Wilde and Austen. By ‘carefully handled,’ I am of course thinking, ‘old fashioned.’ A GCSE student today may well be able to paint an exquisite painting of a rosebud but they won’t be able to do it if they restrict themselves to modern-stylee speech patterns. For such a task it’s undeniable that something akin to, ‘the satin smooth cheek of the petal, broken only in its perfection by a solitary teardrop of condensation,’ is immeasurably preferable to, ‘it’s red and there’s nothing on it except a bit of rain.’
Mind you, let’s not knock modern language too much. The Victorians may well have had admirably complex dialogue compared to what we use today but how long did it take them to get their point across? More importantly, how often did Wilde get to say, ‘motherfucker?’ For sheer bluntness, we’ve never had it so good.
But I digress. Whilst attempting to read Grey and simultaneously trying to block out discussion on Becky’s sexual habits, I was struck by an idea of how to pass the time the next time I got bored (read, ‘showed up’) at work. Why not take their nauseating bitch-a-thon and rewrite it in the style of Wilde? Why not indeed, good man? So let’s fuckin’ ‘ave it!
“Has the poor girl not learnt from her observations of Miss Chez?” waxed Miss Mel, her passion and insight in the subject offered as seemingly profound despite widespread existing agreement. “The man – Mr Baz is his name – his escapades with the ladies of town are well documented. Indeed one is forced to wonder if we two are the only remaining beauties as yet unspoiled by his exploits.” She halted in discussion, evidently expecting agreement to be vocal rather than assumed.
“Verily what you say is true, my dear girl,” ventured Miss Shell. “Many are the times I have communicated similar messages to the unfortunate girl myself and met naught but sullen silence in response. Though it be unfortunate in the extreme however, perhaps we poor souls must consign ourselves to the fact that no matter the wisdom of our words, darling Miss Tracie must make her own mistakes and so learn the lessons of love in her own crucible. Hear me now though when I say that when, and I do not allow for the inclusion of, ‘if’ here – when her heart is broken I shall not hesitate to remind her of the sage counsel she forsook this past week.”
“By all that is right my dear girl, I believe you speak the truth and shall join you in that unfortunate but necessary conversation which surely cannot be far in the future. But now, let our discourse take a more pleasurable tone. Have you had the happy chance of meeting Mr Geordie? I feel certain that there is a man worth our interest, if you will allow me the uncouth pleasure of admiring a man’s wallet more readily than I do his complexion.”
“Indeed, I have my dear. Certainly he is one to be marked in society as a gentleman of the highest order. I hear tell that only last Saturday he occasioned to take young Miss Trisha to his boudoir and yet did not attempt to despoil the young thing on account of her inebriated state.”
“Certainly that is the mark of a man in this day and age, my dear. Though it must be said that many men would follow in his footsteps where the young girl is concerned were they to lack a degree of intoxication themselves.”
Now whilst the sentiment of what’s written above is far from nice, I hope I’ve done a good enough job of polishing up the language. Judge for yourself. Here’s a reasonably accurate translation from English to Chav.
“Has she not fucking learned with what happened to Chez? Baz shags about all the time: he’s a right man-whore – I bet he’s shagged every girl in town except us two.”
“I’ve told her, trust, but she don’t fucking listen, does she? I know it’s sad but she’s just going to have to learn her lesson the hard way and when he fucks her about, I’ll fucking tell her I told her so.”
“Yeah, me too. And you know it’s gonna happen soon, dontcha? But forget about her – have you seen that Geordie lad? He’s well worth it – bit ugly but he’s fucking loaded.”
“Yeah! And he’s a gentleman* too. He took Trisha back to his place last Saturday and didn’t shag her because she was too pissed.”
“Oh, that’s well good! To be honest though, I bet most guys wouldn’t shag her unless they were drunk, you know what I’m saying?”
Ah, the wonders of language. Beyond the above there’s little point to this post but I think I’ve hit onto something. Take an aspect of modern speech and twist it to your own needs. Try it with a politician’s speech. Write what they say and then try and decode it to figure out what they actually mean. Take your boss speaking to their supervisors making excuses for poor productivity and figure out which shortcomings their bletherings actually relate to. Or take my example – kids on the bus – and try and turn whatever rubbish comes out of their mouth into a halfway decent conversation. It passes the time, gives you something to observe whilst on public transport and improves your language skills all in one! I knew I should have been an English teacher…
* – Yes, she did say gentleman. Curious to see how little one has to do nowadays to be labelled as such, no?