Monday, May 16, 2016

Cockney Rhyming Slang... Sneaking into Modern Colloquial English

 Dictionary of British Slang

Cockney Rhyming Slang is a form of English slang which began in the East End of London; a true 'Cockney', is a person born within earshot of the Bow bells.
To create a 'secret' language, Cockney Rhyming Slang replaces normal words with rhyming phrases.

eg; "I'm going out with the trouble and Strife tonight." (I'm going out with the wife tonight.)
"I'm looking smart tonight, got my Kylie Minogues on." (I'm looking smart tonight, I've got my brogues on)

The idea soon spread over the English-speaking world, and since those ancient days many non-Cockney phrases have been added.

Cockney Rhyming Slang has three distinct variations, each rarer than the other…

1st degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… By far the most commonly heard and used (when the rhyme is essential).
Example; “He went up the Apples and Pears.”
Meaning… He went up the stairs.
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for ‘stairs’, is ‘Apples and Pears’)

2nd degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… Less common, but thought to be more true to the 'secret' original form (when the rhyming part has been dropped)…
Example; “He kicked me in the Alberts!”
Meaning… He kicked me in the testicles (balls).
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for testicles (balls) is ‘Albert Halls’, but in this case the rhyming part (‘Halls’) is dropped, leaving the user with a brand new slang term)

3rd degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… Very rare. When the original rhyme has been dropped, and the other part of the original phrase has also been dropped, to be replaced by another word associated with it.
Example; “Calm down, mate, keep your Elvis.”
Meaning… "keep your hair on".
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for ‘hair-on’ is Aaron. But the original Aaron has been dropped being replaced by Elvis, an obvious associated word, although ‘Elvis’ was never in the original rhyming slang.) 

1st degree Cockney Rhyming Slang is pretty easy stuff; let's face it.... it rhymes!
However, when the rhyme is dropped, and you don't know the original phrase, you might be lost on the actual meaning. Even I was surprised how many of these phrases I used, never knowing or thinking they were originally Cockney Rhyming Slang!
See how many you recognize, some more complex than others… (I’ll use the abbreviation CRS for Cockney Rhyming Slang, and {r/w} for “rhymes with”).
Most are 2nd degree CRS.

He’s a bit Haigs…  (CRS- Haigs Dimple, {r/w} simple, ie; not that clever, dim.) (Haigs Whisky bottled a brand of their brew in a dimpled bottle, and the name stuck)

He just blew a raspberry at you...  . (CRS- Raspberry Tart; {r/w} fart.) 

Let’s have a butchers then…   (CRS- Butcher's Hook {r/w} look.)

Look at him, he hasn't got a Scooby... (CRS- Scooby Doo; {r/w} Clue.)

I don't like them, I'm a bit Listerine... 3rd degree... (maybe even 4th...) (Septic Tank; {r/w} Yank. Anti-Septic means anti-Yank (anti-American). Listerine is an anti-septic.

Look at him, he’s Brahms…   (CRS- Brahms & Liszt; {r/w} pissed, drunk) Brahms and Liszt were classical music composers.
 Available in eBooks and paperback
Available in paperback or eBook

He talks funny; he’s a bubble…  (CRS- Bubble and Squeak; {r/w} Greek.) Bubble and Squeak is a fried dish made with potato and vegetable leftovers.

That fellow’s a bit ginger…  (CRS- Ginger Beer; {r/w} Queer, Gay)

I’m all on my Jack today... (CRS- Jack Jones; {r/w} alone’s, on your own.) Jack Jones was a singer in the 60's.

I’m off round the corner for a Jimmy... (CRS- Jimmy Riddle; {r/w} widdle, pee)

He can't hear you, he's mutton... Technically 3rd degree... (CRS- Mutt & Jeff; {r/w} deaf.) Mutt & Jeff were cartoon characters from the 1940’s.

I’m off down the High Street for a Ruby...  (CRS- Ruby Murray; {r/w} curry) Ruby Murray was a Belfast singer from the 1950’s.

Cops are coming, we’d better scarper... (CRS- Scapa Flow; {r/w} go.) Scapa Flow is a harbor in the Shetland Islands where the WW1 German fleet was scuppered.

I’m on my Tod today... (CRS- Todd Sloane; {r/w} alone, lone.)

He’s wearing his Lionels… (CRS- Lionel Blair; {r/w} flare, flared trousers) Lionel Blair was an actor/singer/dancer in the 60’s 70’s in the UK)

Don't be stupid, use your loaf... (CRS- Loaf of Bread; {r/w} head)

I’m a bit Boracic (Borrassic) this week... (CRS- Boracic Lint; {r/w} skint, broke, penniless) Borassic Lint was a gauze substance put on wounds in the old days.

How’s it going, me old China?... (CRS- China Plate; {r/w} mate, friend)

What a fine pair of Bristols... (CRS- Bristol City; {r/w} titties, breasts) Bristol City is one football team in the English seaside town of Bristol.)

Listen to him spin that Porky... (CRS-Pork Pies; {r/w} lies)

Oh, now that’s a nice whistle.... (CRS- Whistle and Flute: {r/w} suit, three piece suit)

My book The Ridiculously Comprehensive Dictionary of British Slang has over 200 pages of slang definitions, available in paperback or eBook.

Monday, May 9, 2016

SOE: Churchill's Spy School that Spawned All Others

SOE camps in Britain and abroad were the model of all spy-craft for years

Many books have been written regarding this one department, that it almost does not need repeating, and yet, although its influence cannot be calculated, the SOE manages to remain relatively obscure in the minds of most of the world’s population.
The SOE alone did not win the war, but its organization, training camps, instructors, training methods and gadgetry were used in every single theater of the war. Many of Churchill’s ‘Secret Armies’ were trained under SOE jurisdiction, and most of the world’s spy networks modeled on their mold.
Without doubt, the SOE was Churchill’s greatest creation.
An examination of all of Churchill's 'Secret Armies'.

Initially formed to combine all of Britain's fractured Military Intelligence Services, it did far more; it provided a training regime that served not only the allied spies and counter-espionage agents, but all Special Forces too. From its early days in July 1940 until the end of the war in 1945, the SOE schools in Britain and the training techniques they had developed were used on a massive scale. The Commandoes, the SAS, the Paratroopers, SBS, Cichociemni (Polish S.F.), US Rangers, Canadian Devil’s Brigade, Jedburgh’s and many others were trained in the SOE’s 50 plus locations in Britain.
Later coined as "the school for mayhem and murder", the deep-background preparation, the variety of subjects, the attention to detail, and the hardy regime were used as the blueprint of every single spy organization in the modern world today.
When Churchill came to power, at least four different intelligence agencies vied for power, and did not share techniques, information or personnel. It was Churchill alone on his first days in charge who set up the ambiguously titled Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.), and detailed their mission; ‘to set Europe ablaze’. You can see Churchill's footprint from the inception of Britain's structured military intelligence; had been in the cabinet when Britain’s first Military Intelligence agency was set up in 1909. In the landings at Gallipoli in 1915, he had personally witnessed the disaster that could strike the largest of military operations if the intelligence was not accurate or up to date.
When he took charge in 1940, he was determined not to make the same mistake twice; to beat the Nazi menace, Britain’s military intelligence service would have to be the best in the world, and would train and operate to standards far exceeding the expectation of both its founding members and the enemy.
"If you have to search a prisoner, kill him first..."

Of all the allied forces, the USA followed SOE guidelines more than any other. The Office of Strategic Studies (O.S.S.) continued Churchill’s penchant for ambiguous titles, and from its inception, the OSS trained their operatives in the SOE camps in Canada. Within months of entering the war in December 1941 they had begun construction of their own camps in Maryland and Virginia. The largest were at Prince William Forest, near Quantico (near the Marine base and FBI Headquarters) and Catoctin Mountain Park, (now the location of Camp David).
At the close of the war, the OSS went on to become the CIA, and is still active today.
Churchill's Special Operations Executive may not have won the war on its own, but it shortened it by many years, and saved millions of lives.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Winston Churchill's Ungentlemanly Side

Was principled gentleman Winston Churchill also the master of dirty tactics?

You bet he was!

With his back to the wall in 1940 and invasion from the Nazis imminent, not only did he use every trick in the book… it turns out he "wrote the book"! I've covered it all in my latest release:

 Churchill's Secret Armies War Without Rules: The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Behavior by Ian Hall

Monday, January 11, 2016

Two Old Farts Writing Science Fiction: Dennis E. Smirl & Ian Hall

The new series; Star-Eater Chronicles

Can you remember when real Science Fiction was Asimov’s Foundation, or Herbert’s Dune? When Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers, and Clarke did 2001: A Space Odessy?
Yeah, so can we.
So, fed up with the dark matter of today, Dennis and I got together to write some of our own. We didn't want to wallow in depression, though, we decided to write some old-fashioned Science Fiction, you know, the stuff with blasters and aliens, rockets and ray-guns, the type of SF from a more buoyant age, stuff that we’d like to read. No more cruel, dark, Dystopia, no more end-of-the-world scenarios, each dimmer and more depressing than the last, no Zombie apocalypse.
We decided to go back to the good old days of optimism, the eager look to the stars that once kindled longing in our childhood.
It wasn’t quite the dip into the age of Dan Dare, or Flash Gordon, but it was a definite vision into a time where the whole of mankind would rally together in the face of an alien foe, rather than wallow in fear in an age of terrorists and bomb-plots. It was a trip back to the day when the phrase ‘dirty bomb’, just meant one that had been rolled into a muddy puddle. It was a time of rockets to the Moon, then Mars, times when NASA actually launched rockets, not lectured about it.
Book 2: The Stars Are Fire

Dennis and I began with a universe containing a small human federation of planets; the Fellowship. Then we gave everybody a corporate entity to universally hate; BIG SPACE.
The MacCollie Company owned space travel, having invented both drives to take us to the stars. They allotted franchises, they literally controlled the very nuts and bolts of getting out to the stars. It gave us a good feeling to give the humans an enemy of sorts, but then again, things change bloody quick up there.

So, to our story… the STAR-EATER CHRONICLES. MacCollie (with their new FTL drive) have sent 1000 Survey-Scouts to the edges of the galaxy to map it for mankind… well for MacCollie to collate the findings and sell it to mankind.
Seth Gingko is one of those Scouts. When he reaches the edge of the galaxy, his contract is over, as payment for his five year mission (yes, it was a five year mission, Star Trek fans, an homage, we did it on purpose) he takes ownership of his one man Scout ship.
But being an owner-operator was never going to be easy. Seth discovers an invading fleet, and must warn Earth of the impending doom.
Thus begins volume one in the STAR-EATER CHRONICLES, A Galaxy Too Far; Seth’s first solo adventure. We’ve finished book 2, (The Stars Are Fire) and we’ve raced right into book three. We’ve put them on Amazon kindle, on Nook, iTunes, Kobo and in paperback.
It proves to be a great ride, but you better hold on to the safety bars, ‘cos it’s about to get real bumpy out there… real quick… and don't expect us to be "Politically Correct" about it.
After all, we are just two old farts....

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The SOE Counter Espionage Manual... How it Won World War 2

The 1943 SOE Manual; Available in Kindle and Paperback format

When we think of spies, we conjure images of Ian Fleming's James Bond, the suave 007, the ladies-man, licensed to kill.
But truth is always darker than fiction.

Around the town of Dunkirk in May 1940, the British Army had abandoned most of its tanks and artillery. As the men were transported home, Britain was truly at the‘darkest hour’ of World War 2. The newly appointed Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, had a lot to do, and very little time or money to do it with.

Churchill poured every resource into the RAF, for if Hitler wanted to invade Britain, he would need control of the skies. But Churchill had many other plans, hatched in those ‘dark hours’… plans for small units that would survive Britain's defeat; the Commandoes, Long Range Desert Group, British Resistance (GHQ), and the cream of the crop; the Special Operations Executive (SOE).

Formed from three separate military intelligence entities, the SOE would be solely responsible for counter-espionage, and behind-the-lines projects. Back then, many thought Britain itself would soon be under German control, and Churchill prepared against it. By the end of 1941, the SOE had a program of Special Training Schools, both in the Home Counties (near London) and in the depth of darkest Scotland, training agents for covert operations.

A manual was written, over 400 pages of studiously crafted courses in espionage, propaganda, cell making, demolition, and many more. Wrap those up with in-depth instruction on close combat, arms training, parachuting, fitness, and Morse code, and you have a ready supply of agents ready for action. But this was no Geneva Convention led syllabus. Agents were taught to shoot first, and ask questions later. One section in the manual, on searching prisoners, has the following advice… 

“Searching a Prisoner, if you are armed.... Kill him first. If that is inconvenient, make him lie face to the ground, hands out in front of him. Knock him out, with rifle butt, side or butt of the pistol or with your boot. Then search him."

That’s not exactly like the instruction at boot camp in the regular army. This was preparation for a dirty war, one run by knives in the throat and jackbooted Gestapo interrogations. The gloves were off, and both sides knew it. Nearly 7000 men and women graduated from the ‘schools’ in Britain, but the manual did not stop there. In the event of Britain falling to the Nazis, camps were set up in Palestine, Singapore and Canada. The newly formed OSS (soon to be the CIA) took the British manual and trained their own agents. Soon the SOE-trained agents were operating all over the world.

There are many stories of bravery in the SOE annals, and many thousands of men and women did not come back from their missions abroad. Their biggest day was D-Day, May, 1944. On the night before the invasion, over 1000 different operations were put into place behind enemy lines in occupied France; roads blocked, officers assassinated, railway bridges blown up, communication lines fouled, locomotives put out of action; of the 1000 operations, over 950 were successful, meaning the invasion of France could continue.

In 1940, Churchill told the SOE to “set Europe ablaze”, and they didn’t do a bad job of it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Your Book Title Doesn't Have To Suck!

Would these titles have caught your imagination? can you name the films?

Let's Face It; Book Titles Don't Need to Suck!

Who gets paid the most money on the planet to write the fewest words?
Copy writers? Good guess, but the people who get paid most… are the people who find the ‘perfect’ name for a movie, when the book’s name just sucks. If movies had been named like their books, we’d have a host of different movies…
Here’s a list of books, that got their name changed for the movie. (Thank Goodness)

  • We can Remember it for You Wholesale... Total Recall
  • Lost Moon... Apollo 13
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?... Blade Runner
  • Heart of Darkness... Apocalypse Now
  • Nothing Lasts Forever... Die Hard
  • Q & A... Slumdog Millionaire
  • Rope Burns... Million Dollar Baby
  • The Short-Timers... Full Metal Jacket

Getting a Great Title for Your Book.

For some writers the title of their book is a foregone conclusion; the words on the book’s spine come from a phrase, passage or action inside the book,.. and there’s little to no point in changing it. I'm quite sure when George Orwell penned Animal Farm, he had the catchy title in his mind from day one.
But if this isn’t the case why rack your brain trying to find the perfect title, when others have already done the research for you.
Whether you know the lyric or not, it tells a story

A Book Title from a Song Lyric

Getting your book title from song title or lyrics is always a good one, although if you make it too obvious, people may think you're shallow or that the book is fan based. Feels Like Teen Spirit, may sound good in your head, but perhaps just Teen Spirit may be better. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? might seem ideal for your romantic drama, but perhaps a simple All the Flowers, or Flowers Gone? will allude the whole quotation to some, while still finding a good title. You can also use a lyric, maybe with a twist... Davy's on the Road Again, is a good book title for a road novel, but how about Maybe's... On the Road Again. A twist to the original title, then made special. How about a line from Billy Joel's hit, Piano Man; Better Than Drinking Alone. Now, isn't that a good book title... doesn't it just draw you in?

Novel Titles from The Bible?

You could get ideas from other books. One superb source is Bible quotations. Here’s a very short list of book titles taken from the bible, and trust me, there are many hundreds… A Time to Kill (Grisham), East of Eden (Steinbeck), Number the Stars (Lowry), The Wings of the Dove (James), Behold the Man (Moorcock). How about taking words from other great works? With so many well-read poets, so many Victorian novelists, how could you not find something that fits your story like a glove? R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island is a treasure trove indeed... how about Take This Black Spot... or Shivering My Timbers

From Shakespeare quotations?

Here’s a short list of both books and films, the titles inspired by the great bard… The Mousetrap (Christie), The Dogs of War, Where Eagles Dare, Journey’s End (Sherriff), Band of Brothers. The book opposite doesn't need the first part of the Shakespeare quotation... Alas Poor Yorick..., it's implied enough already. Sometime subtlety is the best method of making a splash.

How About Stealing From Other writers?

Stealing from other literary sources seems to be quite a pastime with writers, here’s a few that have robbed titles from the lines of their predecessors… All the King’s Men, Cabbages and Kings, From Here to Eternity, The Grapes of Wrath, A Passage to India.

Let's face it, all these above methods are quite acceptable, but there is a wealth of book titles in one easily-accessed basket, in fact it lurks so close to your nose it’s a wonder you haven’t smelled the roses already…

Ten Billion Titles at Your Fingertips

One step down from the Film-naming job...? Television episodes. Yes, I said television episodes. Are you writing a thriller? So go look at a thrilling TV series. Wikipedia is chock full of episode lists for almost every television show ever aired. Whether you write Romance or Urban Adventure, there's a billion title variations just waiting for your novel's spine.
Below, just a few examples…
Blindspot… Episodes include; A Stray Howl, Eight Slim Grins, Bone May Rot, Split the Law, Cede your Soul. Let’s face it, not every title will fit your thriller book…. but these are catchy titles, and at the time of writing this blog, none show up in as a book title.
Sons of Anarchy… Episodes include; Old Bones, The Sleep of Babies, Orca Shrugged, Playing With Monsters.
If you’re writing horror, vampire, werewolf, you could do a lot worse than take a look at the numerous television offerings. Even The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural, with most titles a terrible cliché or a song title, is worth a look…
The Vampire Diaries… Episodes include; Fade Into You, Best Served Cold, My Brother’s Keeper.
Supernatural… Episodes include; Dead Man’s Blood, Red Sky at Morning, On the Head of a Pin.

And it’s not just a matter of trawling your own genre… try mixing it up. For instance, no one would think of looking at The Waltons for literary titles, but even there you’d be wrong. Each Waltons episode has a ‘the’ beginning, and although that stymies some titles, it also gives rein to a series…
The Waltons… Episodes include; The Last Mustang, The Hiding Place, The Changeling, The Last Ten days.

The Fun in the Litter; Mix 'n' Match

Then there’s the mix and match… just going from the titles above, we can switch the words around, we can shift one word, either obviously, or with an allusion to what’s between our book covers. Here’s my mix of the above; Red Sky at Mourning, Not My Mother’s Keeper, The Wings of Stars, The Last Changeling, The Stars… Shrugged, A Fade Into War, Wings of the Dive, Howls of Eagles.
You have no limit to the titles you can forge, new, stolen, mixed. But what you can be is original, while still being pithy and catchy.
Best of luck, and I hope I’ve fired your imagination.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Varney the Vampyre: A New Take on an Old Classic

Varney the Vampyre, first published as a Penny Dreadful in 1845, lives in vampire folklore as the pivotal moment in the creation of the genre. Its writers, James Rymer and Thomas Prest wrote over 200 weekly chapters spanning over four years. In 1847, it was published as a novel, and has been read by millions of aficionados.

The influences of this work are enormous; Dracula would never have been written without it, and most of the vampire fiction that followed in its wake owes much to the Victorian original.

I first came across Varney in my research into other vampires, and was immediately captured. Although the language is dated from modern terms, it retains an aura of Victorian melodrama imitative of Dickens and Thackeray.

In my new novel series, The Penny Dreadful Adventures, I find documents in my grandfather's will that present a history to me of his own grandfather, Alexander Mair MacNeill, the nephew of James Rymer, the author of these Penny Dreadfuls in London in 1845. 

In my story, Varney was actually a creation of three men; Rymer, Prest and MacNeill. Rymer and Prest churned the chapters out, and MacNeill edited them into a readable fashion. They made a formidable team. But all was not well in the partnership. As the chapters are written, Alexander begins to question the storyline itself, wondering if the vampire legend has a basis in fact.

This Penny Dreadful series is far more than a re-hashing of an old genre, it is a new, energized vignette into the lives of the times... bold, exciting, yet full of darkness and intrigue.

I included pages from the original texts of Victorian writings such as Varney the Vampyre by James M. Rymer, The Mysteries of London, by George Reynolds, and Burke & Hare by Alexander M. Mair himself.

There are two novels currently available in eBooks;

We hope you enjoy.
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