Is vernacronym what you get when you cross vernacular with acronyms? As a writer, I love language, and I love listening to English being spoken in a variety of accents and local dialects. I know I’ve written about books on CD in previous posts, but I’m having a jolly good time listening to the works of Ian Rankin, a criminal writer from Scotland. The voice-over is wonderful, and the Scot accents are delicious.
The flawed hero, Detective Inspector John Rebus (make sure you roll that R), is unique in his very Scot attitude toward murder and crime. Although I am thoroughly enjoying the stories, I admit having to go back and repeat sections where the accent was so thick I couldn’t understand what they were saying, or listening to a word over and over with nary a clue as to its meaning.
So when the good DI Rebus kept saying efffff, whyyyyyy, teeeeeeeeeeee, peeeeeeeeeeeee to himself as he was leaving certain interviews or the company of some characters, I was a mite confused. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what toilet paper had to do with anything. And what about that “efffff, whyyyyyy” part? “Flush Your Toilet Paper?” What if it wasn’t toilet paper at all? What if it meant “Find yon tiny pub” or “Forget your troubles, Pip?” There are so many words used in Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales that are not decipherable to the average American English speaker, how is one to translate such an acronym if one doesn’t know the vernacular? After all, this was written in the language of the loo, and the wash-up, and the dram, and the pint.
Three- quarters of the way through the book, DI Rebus finally gives up the secret. I was more than a little taken aback to find that all my mind-bending guesses were for naught. He was saying a very American “F&*k you too pal.” Had I been listening to a book by an American author, that would have been my first thought, but since those in Great Britain normally use a B-bomb rather than an F-bomb, my imagination ran wild in an attempt at translation.
One good thing did come of the exercise, however. I will be sending “vernacronym” to Merriam-Webster for a shot at being a new word added to the dictionary for 2013!