Friday, August 5, 2011


I find if I’m trying really hard not to do something, I’m all the more likely to do it. It’s like my brain likes to toy with me. My thoughts are saying ‘Don’t say she looks like Dawn French, don’t say she looks like Dawn French,’ and then my mouth says: ‘You look just like Dawn French!’

Ah, damage done. Well done brain, one to you.

And so it was when Nicola, my partner in crime and business, started abbreviating words. I didn’t like it. I’m a big fan of the English language. Text talk drives me crazy. The youth of today, they are pissing all over our beautiful words with their luv and their lol. Nic started with the occasional ‘obvs’ where she meant obviously, obviously. ‘Don’t join in, Kim, don’t join in.’ I bit my lip. I remembered what peace there may be in silence. I made a point of saying all my words right to the last syllable.

Then Nic started saying other words in the same way.

Lunch time arrived. ‘I’m hung,’ she’d say.

Fed and satisfied, she’d declare, ‘That was amaze.’

And then, as if from nowhere, I was joining in. I couldn’t help it. She had infiltrated my mind and, seeing as she was the only person I saw all day every day (we are a powerhouse of two) it wasn’t hard for her to wear me down.

‘Cup of coff?’ I asked, boiling the ket.

Yes, I sort of did hate myself. But it was also a lot of fun. Nic and I developed our own language. We out did each other with shorter and shorter abbreviations. Of course, it was funny for us, but it wasn’t something I was able to switch off at night, or at weekends, when talking to other human beings. They’d look at me strangely as I started off by abbreviating in the style Nic and I had become accustomed to, then, after a short pause mid-word in which I realised not all the world finds it as funny as we do, I’d finish my word. As if I got mid-word amnesia.

‘Glass of wine, Kim?’ weekend friends would ask.

“Yes please. Have you got any Sauv….(embarrassing pause…) ignon blanc?’

Mega embarro.

But, I soon let go of my embarrassment. Shortening words was funny and I realised other people were doing it, not just me and Nic. In fact just yesterday, my friend Hannah emailed me thus:

‘’I'm wearing sequined shorts this weekend whatever the weather. Whatevs the weaths.’’

And she works in London, where all the cool kids hang out.

Redeemed, I started shortening words willy nilly – will nill, dare I say.

But then came a really embarro situ, which caused me to think maybe it was time to reign in the old ‘cool speak’ and start talking like a normal person again.

Gareth and I had gone camping in Wales with friends. Beach bound, we’d arrived at a little shop, at which we were hiring body-boards and wetsuits. So already we weren’t as cool as the surfers.

‘Do you sell suncream?’ I asked the shopkeeper, in my usual too loud, too shrill, too posh voice.

‘Yes.’ He said.

‘Brillo!’ I replied. I hadn’t realised how loudly I had said it until I realised an entire shop’s worth of cool surfer types were all staring at me, and Gareth was backing away with a mortified look on his face, wondering how he could get out of this situation and relationship in tact. My middle class accented word wafting through the silence, ringing in my ears as only an embarrassing final sentence can. (If you can call ‘Brillo’ a sentence. I call it a death sentence.)

The shop keeper looked at me. Hannah in London may be shortening her words, but I’m not sure the trend has reached Pembrokeshire.

‘It’s, er, over there,’ he said, pointing at the suncream and hoping that I’d go back to Bristol and take my dismal excuse for conversation with me.

The girl in the queue behind me was the sort of person I’d like to punch in the face for being prettier, skinnier and now, better at English than me. She looked me up and down. I did not feel very brillo at all.

‘I’m really good at English!’ I wanted to shout. ‘I can spell definitely and necessary without spellchecker and I know the difference between their, they’re and there, god dammit.’ But of course, I just shuffled out of the shop with my tail between my legs instead.

‘You’re a dick,’ Gareth said as we walked to the beach.

I know, I know. You’d think I’d have learned a valuable lesson in letting other people do their funky thing with words while I stick to my resolute opinion that the English language is adequate, nay, beautiful, as it is and should not be tampered with.

Maybe skinny surf girl and stuffy shop keep man are the losers here. I should have turned the situation around on them.

‘Er, Wales, hello! I find it advantageous for sensible cerebrum space management to occasionally knock the last syllable of a word off, sometimes replacing it with an ‘O’, which you, surf girl, wannabe Auzzie, should appreciate, thus affording me commodious room in an otherwise overloaded brain, for thought and speculation about what’s really important in life – don’t for one minute presume that I did not get an A in English language, have not made a living out of words, or that I am of the generation scholars worry about for their inability to articulate their feelings or write proper sentences. Because I did, I do and I’m not.



Michael Wiper said...

I think you should start making words longer.

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