Search This Blog

Sunday, 19 April 2009

War Games or Language Games?

I read with interest the test that new British sailors have to go through in order to be come full sailors. One officer on board said: "To qualify as a submariner, there is a long training period including a two-hour oral board.

After that, the sailors have to name a list of slang words. Here's a taster:

What do you suppose 'seggies' are? Any idea at all? They are in fact grapefruit segments. How about a 'Pom'? No, it's not a boring old Brit seen through the eyes of an Aussie. It is in fact powdered potatoes.

Here's a few more to whet your appetitie:

* Spithead pheasant – kippers

* Elephant's footprint – battered spam fritter

* Baby's head – steak and kidney pudding (the smooth pastry rises like a shiny baby's head)

* Black on black – chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce

* Action Man pillows – ravioli

* Teddybears' ears – Chinese prawn crackers

* Seggies – grapefruit segments

* Snorkers – sausages

* Gary Glitters – gammon steaks (as in Glitter's song chant "Come on, come on" or the submariners' version "Gamm-on, gamm-on")

* Cheesy-hammy-eggy – a traditional Navy dish, Welsh rarebit with ham and a fried egg

My favourite's the Gary Glitter reference - what's yours?
One wonders what would be the case if, say, lawyers tried to do the same thing? Cauliflowers might become wigs? subpoenas might become 'welcome drinks' and so on.

This is in fact not new. The Austrian philosopher Ludvig Wittgenstein said that we all play language games within our peer groups, so lawyers will exchange jargon and buzz words with each other as a way of identifying with each member of their group. Looked at this way, language is not the inert medium people believe it to be but in fact a live, dynamic, breathing, continually evolving medium that binds us all together.

As one sailor said to the other: "Hey gorgeous, you wanna come upstairs and have a Cheesy-hammy-eggy, followed by some "Action Man pillows? God only knows what they've planned for dessert!!

No comments: