May 31, 2017

Spot of Banter, Old Chap?

When this Chap entered his current professional employ …

… he was handed a two-page list of acronyms and the like. And it suddenly hit him that there, as with (perhaps) many professions, entire communications could be conducted in a language entirely impenetrable by outsiders –

Asked to describe how he could improve his work, Mr Day told the Committee: “Each department has its own horizon scanning policy development machinery. If I was to identify the first risk, it is this work is stove-piped…. That mechanism starts before the disruptive challenge. Some of the stove-piping is broken down to get departments together about the issues that are approaching.” Rear Admiral John Kingwell said his committee would conduct “deep dives and experimentation to consider the ‘so-whats’ for defence and security”. Greg Mulholland, a Liberal Democrat MP, had had enough. “I just look at some of the documents we’ve had, some historic and some current. Now it’s all about horizon scanning, trend analysis, road mapping, visioning, gaming, back-casting and this morning we are being told it’s about stovepipes.”

Daily Telegraph

Or maybe even insiders, sometimes …

Granted, the banter had some basis in reality, but only some.

The pre-war RAF was a professional body and as such encompassed pilots from all social backgrounds, but in 1924 the Auxiliary Air Force was founded as a reserve, the RAF’s equivalent of the Territorial Army. A number of geographically-based squadrons were set up, and pilots were expected to attend a number of flying days per year at the allotted base. However, in order to join the AAF, you had to already be a pilot and have paid £96 (about £5000 in today’s money) for your license. This meant that the AAF membership was in practice restricted to the wealthier parts of society and during the 1930s the AAF became a part of the upper-class social scene, particularly the London squadrons, where it was seen as a sort of “three-dimensional fox-hunting” and indeed some terms from fox-hunting made it into general RAF parlance; the cry of “Tally Ho!” for “Enemy Sighted”, for instance.


But then there’s other, less innocent banter – the secret languages of Cockney rhyming slang (which always had a semi-villainous element) and the almost-lost mainly-gay cant, Polari, where semi-secure in-group communication was, at times, a survival issue. (Readers of a certain demographic may remember Polari’s regular cameo in the BBC radio series Round The Horne.)

Which brings us to completely-invented banter.

Just supposing the same happened to Alex as to Eric Idle …

Alex: So I’m mollychocking with the droogies, perusie, and this kachachacka goes aspies filigo on  the litivava. So, fiko-fiko, I firt fivie on the… Droog 1: Er, Alex? Alex: Wake? Droog 1: Well, it’s jusavaka… not catchy the ling… [**Exit, canal left…]**

This Chap Is Reminded That …

A slight inclination of the cranium is as adequate as the movement of one optic towards an equine quadraped devoid of its visionary capacities.

… of course he is .. both the other chap … … and whatever he’s talking about.

But this all does raise an interesting question: What’s the boundary between banter, jargon, and cant?

Banter ˈbantə/ noun 1. the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks. “there was much good-natured banter” synonyms: repartee, raillery, ripostes, sallies, swordplay, quips, wisecracks, crosstalk, wordplay; More verb 1. exchange remarks in a good-humoured teasing way. “the men bantered with the waitresses” synonyms: joke, jest, pun, sally, quip Jargon ˈdʒɑːɡ(ə)n/ noun special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand. “legal jargon” archaic a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid. Cant noun 1. hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature. “he had no time for the cant of the priests about sin” 2. language specific to a particular group or profession and regarded with disparagement. “thieves’ cant”

The Chap feels a Venn diagram coming on …

This Chap doesn’t … but …

This bloke comes up to me and says ‘you can’t’

At least I think that’s what he said …


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