Thursday, April 26, 2012

Slang in The Dead

One concept I was thinking about while reading "The Dead" was the ordinariness of slang language. In our own cultures, regions, and groups we have various slang words that we use on a daily basis, often not aware that we are using the slang version of the term as opposed to the formal term. In our own cultures, generations, communities, etc. we use slang words without notice. Once we step out of these groups and enter new ones their slang words seem strange, inappropriate, and often comical. I was thinking of this as the term "screwed" was continually used throughout the story. It is first introduced in the narration on page 175 and is lucky explained in the footnotes to mean "drunk." If the term was not defined I would not have known what it meant. At this time in America "screwed" means something entirely different and perhaps someday it will mean something else. We often reappropriate meanings of words over time. I'm not sure how or why these words' meanings change, but they just do and in our societies we except this and use words based on what we have been told what they mean without questioning it. And so, when Aunt Kate says to Gabriel "don't let (Freddy) up if he's screwed. I'm sure he's screwed. I'm sure he is" (182) the characters and the narrator do not comment on the use of the term, but the story goes on. As an outsider to the time and place in which this story is based, I find this term bizarre and it sticks out to me like a sore thumb each time it is used. We've talked about appropriation of objects and words. To me there is nothing more ordinary than a slang term I use from day to day, but to someone outside my culture it may be extraordinary. We are oblivious to how strange "our" words and their meanings may seem to outsiders. We don't sit down on a regular basis and analyze terms unless they are foreign to us or someone labels our own terms as strange. I'm realizing that this kind of seems like a tangent, but I think it can fit into our discussion of ordinariness and the ability for something to be completely mundane to one person and rather strange to another person.

1 comment:

  1. I do think Joyce wants to immerse us in the ordinary language of a particular time and place, and he doesn't feel any need to explain or make allowances even for non-Irish readers among his contemporaries, much less us. It is a little bit like "The Wire" in that regard: we're just supposed to figure it out. But it raises questions about annotation. I once went to a panel discussion on annotation at a Joyce conference, where the panelists wondered how much *should* we annotate? In some parts of Portrait, you could annotate every other word.

    Marie, when your children are studying "The Wire" in college in 2038, I wonder how heavily the shows will be annotated?