OPINION: When did we start overreacting to everything?
- Credit: Keith Skipper Collection
We live in a hyperbolic age, most notably when it comes to what should be the straightforward art of communication.
Isn’t it absolutely awesome and incredibly unbelievable how many brilliant and fantastic people can offer amazing and great comments on what some of us still regard as mundane issues and topics?
Right, you guys, this is a worst-case scenario that’s for sure, and I’d be really gutted, like at this moment in time if someone came on board who is well good at saying “What we are saying is …” and then saying nothing at all.
You can probably tell by my body language how uptight I am, y’ know, about what’s happening to our wonderful language. In fact. I’m shattered, sort of, and ready to touch base with forces of redemption on a new playing field where they don’t keep changing the goalposts.
Let’s go for a game-changer in a genuine attempt to provide a few lyrical and meaningful alternatives to a torrent of exaggeratespeak and trendybabble engulfing so much of our media and what’s left of face-to-face mardling.
There’s nothing wrong in showing enthusiasm or even going slightly over the top when given the chance to pass judgement on a certain subject, event or person. Even so, “utterly gobsmacked” on picking up third prize at the village flower show “or “unbelievably mind-blowing” on a stag night you can’t remember do smack of overdoing superlatives for the sake of it.
Social media, with it's rash of banal abbreviations for those who go AWOL when asked to put a real sentence together must be due for some sort of prize when it comes to new ways of prompting those with nothing to say to say it longer and louder than before.
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Our local vernacular, too often dismissed as ugly, lazy, embarrassing and an obvious signpost to ye olde land of thick yokels, deserves to be handed a key role in any campaign to return respect and proportion to important strands of our much-abused language.
I need only to usher forward a handful of colourful words and expressions in common use when I first realized there were proper Norfolk ways to make things clear, to render current trends a load of old squit.
“Cor, blarst me, if that ent a rum ‘un!” serves admirably to cover a multitude of occasions calling for instant reactions to surprising news, an unlikely occurrence or even the post obvious or predictable state of affairs. A dash of irony coated in understatement adds to the fun..
“A rare, good dew” saves a lot of messing about with extra- large labels for a successful event. “That wunt a mucher” signals disappointment over obvious poor quality. “
A gret ole thing” may not necessarily be awarding points for size. “Git on yer wick” and “That dew crearze yer!” also makes it it clear something hasn’t gone too well while ”Thass a soler!” or “Thass a masterpiece!” are short but neat observations to understand admiration.
That reached poetic heights for me when an old countryman inspected a new machine on the farm and enthused : “ The chap that put that thing tergether wunt no fewl.”
The words “funny” and “half” can take on different meanings in our dialect.
For example, a heavy downpour might trickle down to “That rained funny hard last night” and a dramatic outburst of anger be reduced to “He wunt half raw!,” “Tricolate ”and “tittivate” both mean to decorate or repair and so cry out for use in reports of vital restoration work being carried out at church, pub, school or village hall. And we all know the cost of thiolation keeps on going through the roof.
Allan Smethurst. The Singing Postman, had the right idea when he proclaimed: “Aeroplanes go along o’ noffin and the clocks go along o’ now.” No need to dress up simple truths and images in swanky clothes to make an impact.
Methodist minister Colin Riches took that cue when he gave Bible stories a coat of Norfolk paint in two volumes called Dew Yew Lissun Hare and Oel Bewtiful and new.
He also presented God with a perfect chance to show where his chosen people might be heading. The Creation was crowned with joyful cry of: ¬Come on, Le’s hev some loight on the job!” and there’s no mention of any of his prophets exclaiming: “No problem!”, ”Wow!”, “Enjoy!”. Or “Know what I mean!”.
We had heard of the Tour de France, a bicycle race of many stages with a yellow jersey for the overall winner. Ernie, most sartorially-minded of our village clan, wondered how could ride hundreds of miles in jersey and overalls.
We told him it all depended on the size of your handlebar moustache. Tubby chipped in with his favourite uncle’s definition of the Norfolk three-speed model – slow, dead slow and backwards.
Our bike banter intensified as we became more dependent on our machines, first to get to school beyond familiar home boundaries and then for exciting weekend expeditions into fresh territory.
October sunshine was inviting enough to put a genuine missionary zeal plans for our version of the Tour de Norfolk. Well, just a small portion of the county , and that as far as possible from horrible main roads but it still represented a major challenge for country lads who had not long been introduced to pedals, pumps and punctures.
For much of the first decade of our lives we relied solely on our legs to get about, a pertinent point worth passing on to the current generation of car -cocooned youngsters. The bike was a truly liberating influence for those seeking signs of life past the old stone quarry , the churchyard a fair distance from the village and the runway where young Americans had taken off in B24 Liberators for combat missions only a dozen or so years earlier.
Not that history, geography and their deeply significant impact on the social climate in which we were being raised headed our list of priorities. We were more interested in conkers, nuts you could eat and tumbledown barns full of straw and adventures waiting to happen and ponds where we could resume ducks and drakes rivalry, making flint stones skip along the water like bouncing bombs destring German dams.
The war still fed our imaginations.
We made countless pit stops on that first journey of discovery The first rich musty smells of autumn and bands, of gold, red and brown wheeling round trees, fields and hedges reminded us this was Norfolk putting on one of its spectacular shows.
Without really knowing it, we were we were soaking up nature’s bounty, sharing timeless seasonal glories , storing away images and experiences to line years to come against cynicism and too much regret.