Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Cops and Rozzers

We like naming things, so much so that a multilingual glossary of some groups of names would be a hefty volume.

Take insects, for example; in hundreds of years entomologists have already named millions of the little chaps, but there may still be many whole species which remain anonymous. Then there are our naughty bits: there are thousands of terms for these—technical, demotic or vulgar—although those in the last group are never uttered in polite society; any English translation of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel will contain several hundred names for the items relevant to both genders.

A similar restriction applies to deities, many of whom are said to wax exceeding wrathful if their name, or one of their many names, is actually spoken. An extreme case of such divine paranoia is described by Arthur C Clarke in The Nine Billion Names of God, but I will not reveal the appalling punishment meted out if anyone lists these, for that would spoil the enjoyment of those who have never read this classic 1953 short story.

Police officers are another group bearing many names; a few are affectionate, most are insulting; Wikipedia lists two hundred of them. Inexplicably, a disproportionate number seem to originate in Turkey, such as this one:
The most common slang word to address a police officer in Turkish. The word literally means "mirrorless", and its attribution to a police officer suggests that a cop is perceived as someone who constantly accuses others of vice, whereas he himself has no mirror to see his own vice. It is the semi-official equivalent of the English word "pig" (only when used to refer to the police), and commonly used when translating English-spoken movies into Turkish. Pronunciation is roughly I-nuh-suzz. (Plural: Aynasızlar)

Few of the terms Wikipedia lists are as sophisticated as that. Most are rather dull:
Hot Dogs
a Chinese term referring to stationary traffic cops and guards who are standing in the sun all day.
Swedish slang term for the police. Originally an old Swedish word for devil, from Romani Beng with the same meaning.


Elizabeth said...

How DO you find such flowers for your bouquet? Amazing.

Tony said...

Usually, Elizabeth, by reading the papers, looking through my books and spending many of my waking hours surfing the net. Sometimes they are suggested to me by friends: I was given the ides for this one by Grumio, a dissolute person of vast erudition and wide interests.

Gerry said...

Dear Tony,

Just a quick note to let you know I'm back in the blogosphere and that my ego could do with some stroking.

You are, as ever, a true gentleman whereas I am uncouth and ungracious. I do not deserve your attention, but should I receive it, I would experience a frisson of delight.

Yours humbly...

Tony said...

You are not as uncouth and ungracious as all that.

Wiil that do?

Anyway, welcome back.

Gerry said...

Well stroked. :-)

I come to this blog whenever I need a dose of culture to tame my savage breast (and to mix my metaphors.)


Tony said...

Always a pleasure to hear from you, old sport, or from anyone else who pays fulsome compliments, though I don't publish the ones that are really over the top.

Gerry said...

How could any compliment, no matter how effusive, be over the top when they're directed at you, my most august friend?

Do you think my drugs are working?

Tony said...

Yes. Push off.