I wonder if anyone suffers from the same complaint as me. I call it ‘Slingo’. It’s when, as a German, I can’t quite believe what I’m reading in all sorts of situations. I can’t work out if it’s wishful thinking, a Freudian ‘slip’ or my Germanic eyes misreading English as if it were some weird, outlandish ‘lingo’.
It started in Ilkley, of all places. There I was driving along and a van with ‘Lesbian Motors’ on the side shot past. Well why not in this day and age, until I looked again and saw ‘Lessian Motors’ – oops!
When I saw a sign with ‘Fear Piercing’ on it, I thought this was quite a useful service and looked again to take down the phone number only to find there was no ‘F’ in front of ‘ear’.
On another van, I saw ‘Shop Lifters’. No doubt I’d lost touch with the real world, steeped as I’d been for so many years in writing my novel LOVE LIES: A Journal. And they could’ve made shop lifting legal. Why not! It’s a free country. Looking again, I read ‘Shop Fitters’.
I knew ‘Slingo’ was beginning to take me over when I noticed a sign above my head saying ‘Maximum Bedroom’, which shortly afterwards metamorphosed into ‘Maximum Headroom’. And walking down the High Street, ‘Cosmic Surgery’ was not an NHS advertisement for surgical galactic travel, but an invitation to have ‘Cosmetic Surgery’.
This ‘Slingo’ complaint can make me laugh out loud. Sitting on a train, I read the timetable as ‘subject to further derision’. Now you’ve got to admit that ‘further revision’ doesn’t have the poke of ‘derision’. Rushing past the paper shop on my way to the train, I saw the news headline of the day flash up before me: ‘Chaos at 10 Drowning Street’. Not bad at the moment, hey!
Maybe that’s it, I think language needs spicing up playfully in new ways. Recently, on a notice board outside a pub, I read ‘Craving Room’. Only logical, you might say, first comes the craving, then comes the carving, especially when you go to a pub for lunch.
So dear readers, I leave you drowning, craving, with your fear pierced. I hope you had a good laugh and that you feel nice and refreshed from it. Or those of you, who suffer from my swoppage problem, may feel nice and ‘refleshed’.
(Originally published 10.06.2009.)