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Bunty Jackson

February 13, 2010

Let me get this right. You’re an Aussie and you’re having language difficulty reading Death’s Door? That’s strange because I’m Scottish yet I don’t have any trouble reading Gabrielle Lord. Ah sorry, you’re concerned about the disappearance of good old English swear words. Okay, here’s an offer; you send me a list of your favourite ‘good old English swear words’ and I’ll include them in a future work. Maybe you can teach me some new ones.  Oh, you’re asking why we have to follow the Americans. Maybe you should ask John Howard that question, but I don’t think ‘we’ do. ‘We’ pretty much invented and defined the dictionary of industrial language for the cousins, and every other English speaking nation for that matter, to develop and adapt. That said, my characters’ work-place vocabulary is strictly King James version. Why do they use it at all? Because mostly I write about people and places as they are, and it’s part of many real people. Joking aside, it’s a question that comes up . . . raised invariably by ladies,  in my experience. That’s my standard reply and I’m sticking to it.

I recognise that this is a matter of regret for many people, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to live in the cosy English speaking world, as opposed to the hard boiled, to use an analogy that US mystery fans will understand.  For example, don’t watch live sport on television unless you’re prepared for the songs of the crowds, or for a coach forgetting about the near-by effects mike as he shouts advice to one of his players, or a golfer who’s hit a bad shot when he really, really needed to hit a good one. Don’t even watch it if you can lip-read. Years ago, my friend Jack conducted a work-place poll to choose the official Scottish national anthem. (We don’t have one.)  In third place, Flower of Scotland. Que Sera, Sera, came second. But the overwhelming winner was an untitled terracing song, the simple words of which are, ‘If you hate the ******* English, clap your hands.’ Life as it is lived, English as it is spoken, like it or not.

And it is just another language after all. What’s foul to us might be fair to other people. If I was at a dinner party and  I said to someone, ‘You know, you’re a real cule,’ and I smiled, he’d preen himself and be impressed. But if I said, ‘You know, you’re a real arsehole,’ even if I was still smiling he’d take it ill out, although I’d said exactly the same thing both times. Years ago, my friend Kathy in L’Escala was given a puppy. Being from Carmunnock, she decided she’d like to give it a Scottish name, and she settled on Shona . . . until her Catalan husband and sons told her what that means in their industrial language dictionary.

My point finally being, Bunty, they’re only words and they’ll never break your bones. If you allow them to come between you and an experience that you say you were finding very interesting, then all I can do is ask you how a face feels without the nose?

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