Monday, February 04, 2013

wotcher cock

Say what you like about corner-shop Spar mini-mart places - yes, people go in there in their pyjamas and slippers, but they're conveniently located and open if not exactly all hours then certainly a lot of hours. More hours than Waitrose, certainly, and in any case I'm more likely to have a sudden need for milk or bread at an inconvenient hour than I am to have a sudden need for lark's tongues or wren's livers.

My local Spar is particularly convenient, as it's quite literally just across the road. It is staffed by some slightly eccentric people, though (and customered by some slightly eccentric people as well, some of them in pyjamas, but that's another story). One of the slightly eccentric things they do is fling chummy endearments at people while handing over change, in that lovable proletarian way that makes uptight middle-class people like me uncomfortable and at a loss for a response - maintain a regal silence and be thought of as all hoity-toity, or weigh in with an ill-judged gor-blimey-strike-a-light-what-about-the-Arsenal-then-bunch-of-wankers-if-you-ask-me-I'm not-racist-but-I'd-send-them-all-back-I'd-pull-the-bleedin-lever-meself and just look like a cock.

Top choice among the terms of endearment on offer from the (almost exclusively female) staff at my local Spar are the ubiquitous (and regionally non-specific) "babe", and a word that could be "doll" but which is actually almost certainly "darl" (as in "darling"), which I think is a typically South Wales usage. All of which set me to thinking: there must be some regional pattern to these things. I recall having to take regular-ish business trips to Chesterfield a few years back, and the endearment of choice there was "duck", just as I vaguely recall it was when I lived in the Nottingham area as a child.

So here's a quickly cobbled-together regional terms of endearment map, with no claims to be comprehensive or indeed accurate, but just to illustrate the sort of thing that could be done with the appropriate research. As always, click for a bigger version:


It would be remiss of me to miss the opportunity to plug the still fascinating Strange Maps at this point; a tangentially related (in that it involves the British Isles - and yes, I know my map omits Ireland) entry is here - a map of the British Isles based on the distribution of first letters of place names.

Another map link shortly; firstly my ramblings about eccentric local supermarkets reminds me of the branch of Somerfield (it's now a Co-op according to Google StreetView) at the top of St. Michael's Hill in Bristol, next door to the legendary Highbury Vaults. In addition to toilet-related celebrity encounters this was also the scene for the following immortal piece of staff/customer dialogue, just in front of me as I queued up:
Vaguely Oriental-Looking Guy: Hello.
Slightly Eccentric Checkout Operator: AAAAH! WE MUST NEVER FORGET THE SAMURAI!
VOLG: Erm, yeah. Um - I'm not Japanese. 
SECO: Oh, right. Three forty-six please. 
Comedy gold. Anyway, this other map: in similar vein to the ones linked here, here's an excellent spoof London Underground map illustrating the secret to writing a story for the Daily Mail. The associated article is here.

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