EDITING KNOWHOW Dent’s Modern Tribes

As writers you’ll have a keen ear for English language usage.  Catriona Tippin discusses Dents Modern Tribes, an “idiosyncratic phrasebook like no other” according to the blurb.

Ever wondered why football managers all speak the same way, what a cabbie calls the Houses of Parliament or how ticket inspectors discreetly request back-up?  We are surrounded by hundreds of tribes, each speaking their own distinct slanguage of colourful words, jokes and phrases  

Susie Dent is the resident word expert on C4’s Countdown television programme and her book looking at the language unique to a variety of occupations and hobbies is intriguing.  I like the actor’s term ‘wafter’ for a blunt sword made especially for the theatre, and the IT acronym ‘PICNIC’ for 'problem in chair not in computer'.  

Here are a few turndown letter euphemisms Susie lists in her chapter on publishers:

strong = wrong-headed
regretfully = enormous relief
fascinating = rather on the long side
and I like her take on genres – are you writing cyberpunk, steampunk or atompunk?  

When your book makes it all the way to the bookshop I hope it deserves a ’face-out’ on the shelf, perhaps a ‘dumpbin’ promotion and turns into a ‘flywheel’ – a self perpetuating seller.  With chapters on everything from birdwatchers to the emergency services this is an interesting read combining sociology and lexicography.

If your work in progress involves world building, does it involve word building too?  I looked at constructed languages here , these involve whole vocabularies rather than just a sprinkling of slang.  The embedded blog post from SCBWI USA’s Lee Wind here includes a cartoon worth having a look at - remember not to overdo your invented words!

Catriona Tippin has been a member of SCBWI since 2006. Details of her writing and illustrating can be found here and she’s @proofreadingtip on Twitter. Click here  for her proofreading tips for Words & Pictures.

Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures.
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy

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