April 08, 2004

More on la tchestchion dé razzle

In response to my post on Theodore Dalrymple's razzle malapropism, Geraint Jennings (Maître-pêtre des Pages Jèrriaises) emailed to suggest

"razzle" - to the pure, all things are pure, however to my mind the image was immediately summoned up of the, ahem, top-shelf magazine of that name (the sort of low-rent publication one might only consult for one-handed research - not that I'm claiming intimate knowledge, honest!)

Razzle magazine seems to be a UK operation, as cited in this Ian Dury lyric, and Dalrymple is a UK-ish person, so his malapropism may well have been triggered by the print pr0n resonances.

Geraint further indicates that "razzled" remains "slang for drunk - although the currently hipper version (and I think more common these days) is the shorter 'razzed'". (Geraint stipulates that "Of course, I pontificate from a life of pure abstemiousness.... ;-) ").

Geraint's Pages Jèrriaises are quite relevant to the Anguish Languish dimension, since the ability to read lé Jèrriais by reference to French is analogous to the ability to read Anguish by reference to English (except that lé Jèrriais is much easier, being a real language):

J'avons eune longue tradition littéthaithe en Jèrriais d'pis la fîn du dgiêx-huitième siècl'ye - sustout des poésies et d's histouaithes. Mais nou considéthe qué Wace 'tait l'fondateu et l'înspithâtion d'la littéthatuthe dé Jèrri, et qu'au dgiêx-neuvième siècl'ye l's auteurs d's Îles d'la Manche înspithîtent la r'naîssance littéthaithe en Nouormandie continentale.

Rendering FAQ as "Tchestchions tréjous d'mandées" is neat -- even though this is just Jèrriais orthography, it seems like the joyful linguistic play you sometimes see in hiphop spellings or in books like Zazie dans le metro.

By the way, for any Americans who were as puzzled as I was by Geraint's euphemistic use of "top shelf", I offer this discussion of the UK "top shelf rule" for "adult service", which also discusses "middle shelf magazines." On this side of the Atlantic, the phrase "top shelf" is a term with positive (and nonpornographic) connotations, derived from the traditional position of better-quality liquor on bartenders' shelves (the "top shelf margarita"), and from a general sense that quality in things shelved ought to correlate with height (e.g. "Top Shelf" as a title for the Village Voice's feature on "our 25 favorite books of 2003".

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 8, 2004 12:17 AM