Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's the Shank of the Evening and I'm Peckish. Let's have a Confab about Supper.

"Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it.  Our civilization is decadent and our language--so the argument runs--must inevitably share in the general collapse.... Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes."
                                                                                                       --George Orwell

That George Orwell must have been a blast at a party.  I love his churlishness in his essay "Politics and the English Language" written in 1946.  English majors all over the world return to it time and time again to "ohh" and "ahh" over it.  We go to it like we go to the bolt of tweed in the fabric store, running our fingers over it, understanding the inherent qualities in such a classic even if it is difficult to work with.  However, on our way to the register with our sensible tweed ideas about language and syntax,  we pass by that bright bolt of novelty print--the pigs riding on tricycles, or the pink bunnies sporting purple bows on their heads  and we drop the tweed and go for the fun and familiar. Uncle George has been warning us for years of the dangers of sloppy, popular verbiage, urging us to go on a word diet, but the English language keeps delighting itself with the large platters of deep-fat fried clams, french fries, ice cream sandwiches for dessert, all the while bellowing for more beer.

If English is going to be an obese language, the least we can do is to dress it appropriately. No more Spandex, please!  Herein, Betty suggests the increased use of some words/phrases that may have fallen out of favor, but are still perfectly good, able words (no expiration dates on these suckers!) that help us perform our complex linguistic tasks throughout the day.  

Shank:  One definition of the "shank" is the lower part of the human leg--between the knee and the ankle.  This in itself if good stuff:  "My shanks are killing me tonight."  "Is that a bruise on your shank or did you finally get that tattoo of your man's face?"   Here's a great phrase: "The shank of the evening."  It means the early part of the evening as in,  "Oh! Don't go, Joe!  It's the shank of the evening and we've just started showing our vacation pictures!"  Now, interestingly enough it also means the latter part of the morning, as in, "I'd love to go to lunch with you today, but I have an appointment to get my shanks waxed at 11:00--the shank of the morning--and I'm pretty sure it's going to take awhile this time.

(A co-worker who is disturbingly obsessed with the TV show, "Lockdown: Prison Nation" has pointed out to me that, "shank of the morning" means something completely different in "Prison Nation," but then she's also taken to wearing bright orange jumpsuits and checking the hallway at the office with a mirror before coming out into it.  Somebody's really got to cut off her cable TV.) 

Peckish:  I love this expression.  It comes from our British friends and means somewhat hungry.  "I'm always peckish around 3:00 pm."  It also means somewhat irritable, which makes perfect sense.  "I'm always peckish around 3:00 pm."  Both work for me!  

Confab: An informal chat.  Actually, you can say, "Let's have a confabulation in the shank of the morning tomorrow."  Then you can spend the shank of the morning confabbing.  I prefer the shortened (though probably incorrect) "We had a confab about it and we've decided to have another child even though he's discovered that's another man's face on my shank." 

Supper:  This is the term I grew up with for the evening meal and though I have trained myself to say "dinner" for the evening meal, I've never been really comfortable with it.  Supper in the dictionary has two meanings:  the evening meal, often the principal meal of the day OR any light evening meal, especially one taken late in the afternoon.  It also notes that "supper" is used for the evening meal when "dinner" is used for the noontime meal.  I'm all for going back to "dinner" for the noontime meal.  "Lunch" is Formica, cold sandwiches, waxed paper and linoleum.  "Dinner" is wood, soup, china and cloth.  Some people might even want a shank of lamb to go with that soup, but not me. I'm not peckish at this time.  

 Now get out there, Betty fans and sprinkle, shake and scatter these words into your everyday conversations. Load up your sentences with them, distributing them liberally like fresh-ground pepper on a piping hot ear of corn on the cob. You'll find they add an expected zing to your day and others will admire you!  They will be transfixed by your use of language!  They will gaze at you, mesmerized by your large, fascinating vocabulary.  Oh, wait.  Perhaps it's that large flake of pepper wedged up there between your incisors they are looking at.  Oh, yeah.  That's probably it.  Get a mirror and check that out, will you?  We'll confab again tomorrow, perhaps in the shank of the morning.



Trevor said...

"To stab with a homemade knife"

That's how the kids are using it nowadays (or so I've been told).

Bossy Betty said...

OK, So I suppose I SHOULD warn my fans NOT so say things like, "I've got one shank that's bigger than the other. Would you like to see them both up close and personal?" in crowded elevator. This could be misconstrued, I suppose.

However, should we not wrest back this expression from the hands of convicts? Let's gently, lovingly, urge them to refer to their homemade knives as "Sharpies." Oh wait, that could cause a lot of confusion too. I'm going to think about this one. Any suggestions out there?

Anonymous said...

I didn't think my orange jumpsuits were that obvious. I am at least wearing them smartly belted and with a pair of kitten heels, puh-leeze.

However, as Lock-up is one of my favorite shows, and they talk about shanks all the time, made out of soap and melted plastic, I can even tell you how to do it (I've seen it done, you know).

You have opened my mind into the possibility of writing for the show: Joe was shanked in the lower left shank during the shank of the morning while confabbing in the Yard after dinner, or supper, huh? I think the Lunesta moth is there now. Oh dear.

An then, finally, what about a murder of crows?


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