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A Potter's Moll: Do You Know The Meaning Of The Word "Testiculation''?

… I derive great pleasure from language. I love the way new words develop and how meanings change over time. I was taken by a column in The Guardian recently, that attempted to explain the language of the MySpace generation. So now ‘caj’, ‘dizzy’, ‘dope’ and ‘nang’ all mean ‘cool’, which is a slang word in itself. My kids used ‘ace’, ‘macca’, ‘brill’ and ‘skill’ fifteen years ago. Our eldest son returned from a family holiday to the USA with ‘totally awesome’ as his favourite phrase only to be told by his North London cousin: ‘We tend to say ‘wicked’ rahnd ‘ere…

Liz Robison delights in the English language's penchant to continually re-invent itself. For more of Liz’s ebullient words please click on A Potter’s Moll in the menu on ths page.

And do visit the Web site of world-famous potter Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

The potter, Jim, has returned from his travels, minus his luggage which did not make it onto the plane in Philadelphia, probably because of chaos there caused by a huge snowstorm the day before. Here we were worried by a couple of inches of snow the day before he got back – would we be able to get to Manchester Airport? Traffic-wise, we used to reckon it took us about forty minutes to get there, nowadays its never less and often more than an hour.

Anyway, Jim hit the ground running, as they say. Since arriving back he has had a mammoth session glazing some big pots he made before he went to the USA and as I write, they are being fired in our huge gas kiln. It has to cool down for twenty-four hours before we open it, so as always there is a sense of anticipation and some trepidation as to the results.

This week we are preparing for a course in the studio for nine students who want to learn more about glazes and surface decoration of pots. Jim is clearing the studio to provide nine work-places and preparing materials and tools, while I’m preparing the catering/hospitality side. Everyone will gather in the studio on Sunday evening to get acquainted over a drink and a bowl of stew – it’s always interesting to observe how each new group ‘beds down’. Come Monday morning it will be heads down for intensive learning and experimenting – interspersed with good food and plenty of laughs.

I derive great pleasure from language. I love the way new words develop and how meanings change over time. I was taken by a column in The Guardian recently, that attempted to explain the language of the MySpace generation. So now ‘caj’, ‘dizzy’, ‘dope’ and ‘nang’ all mean ‘cool’, which is a slang word in itself. My kids used ‘ace’, ‘macca’, ‘brill’ and ‘skill’ fifteen years ago. Our eldest son returned from a family holiday to the USA with ‘totally awesome’ as his favourite phrase only to be told by his North London cousin: ‘We tend to say ‘wicked’ rahnd ‘ere.’

One new word that made me smile was ‘McPee’ meaning use the toilet of a restaurant without eating there. This in the same week that we read that McDonalds wants to sue a dictionary for defining ‘McJob’ as low paid work without prospects.

In the same article a word which is quoted as new is actually one I came across about four years ago and quoted in my retirement speech from college. It’s a great word nevertheless: ‘testiculation’. It means waving your arms around and talking bollocks!

I think the following little rhyme nicely sums up every generation’s need for slang:

The point of slang
Is to be one of the gang.
When it dates,
It grates.

That’s why today’s kids dislike being told things like: ‘Oooo, you look a bobbydazzler in that frock!’

Still on the subject of language, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of US Vogue has outlawed the use of the word ‘blog’ on the Vogue website as being too vulgar. One journalist suggested ‘blogue’ might be a suitable replacement.

Through the mail this week came a magazine from a grocery chain together with the accompanying letter that seems to be de rigeur to ‘help’ you to interpret the magazine. Here are the first two sentences:

‘ I’m delighted to send you the latest issue of our exciting new magazine. It’s crammed with interesting news plus lots of fascinating articles to entertain and inspire you.’ (My italics)

I feel that it should be the reader who makes these judgements, not the magazine’s producers. In the same letter we are invited to ‘pop in’ to their Pharmacy and Travel Agents, (but not their other big branch of business which requires people to ‘pop’ their clogs!)

My sister-in-law who grew up in Surrey, recently admitted that she quite liked some of what she calls ‘their lingo’ up here in Yorkshire, though she still dismisses Welsh as ‘too gutteral’. You have to laugh.

By the way, Jim’s luggage did arrive the next day, delivered by a man in traditional Muslim dress with a full beard that looked rather exotic in our hillside hamlet. He had found us from Manchester Airport via Sat/Nav which is an example of how many modern technologies can have good and bad sides to them. A few weeks ago a Polish driver of a pantechnicon and trailer, using Sat/Nav, all but demolished an old stone bridge across the River Holme here in Holmfirth, West Yorks. Look how easily the term ‘Sat/Nav’ trips off the tongue nowadays! More from me in a fortnight.

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