The Power of Colloquialism and Peculiar Jargon by M. Laszlo – Guest Blog and Giveaway


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The Power of Colloquialism and Peculiar Jargon
We all know that everything began with the word. According to Judeo-Christian tradition, nothing even existed before Jehovah spoke. “Let there be light,” the Deity said, if memory serves. At any rate, a slightly dissimilar kind of awesome, language-related event happened to me during my youth. In the summer of 1985, I traveled to London and discovered the most glorious words of all: the freakish brilliance that is Britspeak.

Ah, London! Ah, the summer of 1985! What a magnificent experience. As a weird kid daydreaming about being an author, London made me realize that dialogue has to be real—that characters ought to talk the way people really talk. All these years later, that’s what guided me through the authoring of my first book. Every step of the way, I endeavored to employ British colloquialism and phraseology to capture London and to bring it life. This comes down to the fact that it is the vernacular that makes characters and their stories seem genuine. In short, glorious Britspeak makes the unbelievable seem as true as Coventry blue.

At this point, it would be tempting to list out some of the really great terms that had come into fashion back in 1985. The problem is that so many of them are utterly obscene. More to the point, though, 1980s Britspeak opened up my mind to the rich history of British colloquialism—the quirky, brilliant, obsolete terms and jocular phrases that came into existence long before the summer of 1985. Looking back, there can be no question that the magnificence of Victorian-era and Edwardian-era colloquialism influenced me to set my writings in the WW-I era—a really interesting time when nineteenth-century phrases and modern-day ones were constantly coming into contact with one another. As an author, though, this is where things got really confusing. Imagine translating a London diary filled with 1980s slang and vulgarism into the kind of slang and vulgarism that young people would’ve used back in the 1910s.

Another challenge came in the form of trying to translate the language of the music scene. That process became especially challenging when trying to create a mythical explanation for the origins of London’s Goth youth culture. In the summer of 1985, London was alive with the sounds of Goth bands and really dark neo-psychedelic bands alike: the Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Throbbing Gristle, and the Teardrop Explodes to name a few. How to reduplicate such extraordinary nomenclature? It’s easier said than done—especially if the author wishes to remain fairly accurate to history.

In the course of writing my novellas, another challenge presented itself: how to describe the Goth attire? In the 1980s, London was alive with beautiful, somber-dressed young women who had a really timeless, almost Edwardian style. For my first book, it was necessary to learn the terms that precisely denote defunct women’s fashions. Make no mistake about it: without the jargon of fashion history, it’s impossible to really give characters their proper, era-appropriate “clobber.”

Another place where it proved incredibly trying to move the 1980s into the past came with the sport of ice-skating. In the spring of 1985, the very beautiful Katarina Witt had won the world figure-skating championship—and because of my infatuation with her, my youthful diary reveals a habit of constantly comparing young ladies to the famous skater. As a consequence, there was no way to translate the diary into novellas without having at least one character dedicated to skating. Ultimately, though, my novellas had to become fairly anachronistic in some respects. This follows from the fact that my WWI-era characters had to be able to perform the elements that Katarina Witt could. In the end, I had no option but to employ literary license so as to let my WWI-era narrator know about 1980s ice-skating jargon and the various terms for futuristic, yet-to-be-developed techniques.

As it so happened, back in the summer of 1985, nobody in London seemed to care very much about Katarina Witt. The one German athlete who dominated the papers that summer was Boris Becker. He did well at Wimbledon, but it surprised me to see all the snide, snarky humor in the print media. The British journalists presented him as a kind of cartoonishly wrathful Red-Baron type figure. What a surprise, too, just to hear all the Britspeak epithets reserved for German nationals. Perhaps it would be impolite to repeat any of them here, so I’ll not do it. The salient point is that the whole Boris Becker media frenzy must have had something to do with my peculiar impulse to translate my diary into the WW-I era. In short, I picked up on the British-German rivalry and really wanted to say something about it.

All of which brings us to the novellas themselves. Why go to all this trouble to write them at all? Well, here’s the reason: the written word is far more potentially enlightening than the spoken word. It is the written word which permits us to share what we have learned and to perhaps help to ennoble someone somewhere. Yes, the notion that the spoken word created the universe is the Judeo-Christian belief. Nevertheless, the power of the written word is much more than belief. The written word provides an opportunity to form a meeting of two minds—that of the author and that of the reader. Nothing could ever be more miraculous than that. Perhaps that is why every successful religion requires one thing more than any other: a book.

In this trio of novellas, three game young ladies enter into dangerous liaisons that test each one’s limits and force them to confront the most heartrending issues facing society in the early twentieth century. The Phantom Glare of Day tells of Sophie, a young lady who has lived a sheltered life and consequently has no idea how cruel public-school bullying can be. When she meets Jarvis, a young man obsessed with avenging all those students who delight in his daily debasement, she resolves to intervene before tragedy unfolds. Mouvements Perpétuels tells of Cäcilia, a young lady shunned by her birth father. She longs for the approval of an older man, so when her ice-skating instructor attempts to take advantage of her, she cannot resist. Not a month later, she realizes that she is pregnant and must decide whether or not to get an abortion. Passion Bearer tells of Manon, a young lady who falls in love with a beautiful actress after taking a post as a script girl for a film company—and is subsequently confronted with the pettiest kinds of homophobia.

Enjoy an Excerpt

London, 29 September, 1917.

Sophie paused beside a stock-brick building, and she listened for the unnerving rumble of an airship’s engine car. How long has it been since the last bombardment? Sometime before, as she had stood in this very spot, she had heard the Zeppelin clearly enough.

At that point, a Royal-Navy carbide flare had streaked heavenward. Then, from the neighboring rooftops, fifty or more pom-pom guns had opened fire–and the night air had filled with the odor of something like petroleum coke.

Yes, I remember. Now she braced herself for a salvo of fire.

No deafening tumult rang out. Neither did any sickening, stenchful fumes envelope her person.

No, it’s just my nerves. She glanced at the sky, and she whispered a simple prayer of thanksgiving.

From around the corner, an omnibus approached.

She climbed aboard and rode the way to Mayfair Tearoom.

The establishment had never looked so inviting as it did that night. By now, the proprietress had decorated the tables with Michaelmas daisies the color of amethyst, and she had adorned the china cabinet with ornamental cabbage. Moreover, how appetizing the scent of the fresh Eccles cakes.

The tearoom had attracted quite a crowd, too, the young ladies all decked out in silken gowns.

I wonder why. Sophie removed her coat, and she suddenly felt underdressed—for she had not worn anything too fancy that evening, just a puffed blouse and a fluted skirt. At once, she sat down at one of the last available dinette tables.

An eclipse of moths fluttered through the transom, meanwhile, and even they looked better than she did. What beauty the creatures’ wings—a fine royal purple.

Don’t look at them. Alas, when she turned her attention to the doorsill, a dull ache radiated up and down her left arm.

Not a moment later, a tall, gaunt lad, his eyes a shade of whiskey brown, entered the tearoom.

For a time, he glared at the patrons—as if at any moment he might remove a musketoon from beneath his frock coat and shoot everyone.

About the Author:M. Laszlo is the pseudonym of a reclusive author living in Bath, Ohio. According to rumor, he based the pen name on the name of the Paul Henreid character in Casablanca, Victor Laszlo.
M. Laszlo has lived and worked all over the world, and he has kept exhaustive journals and idea books corresponding to each location and post.

It is said that the maniacal habit began in childhood during summer vacations—when his family began renting out Robert Lowell’s family home in Castine, Maine.

The habit continued in 1985 when, as an adolescent, he spent the summer in London, England. In recent years, he revisited that journal/idea book and based his first work, The Phantom Glare of Day, on the characters, topics, and themes contained within the youthful writings. In crafting the narrative arcs, he decided to divide the work into three interrelated novellas and to set each one in the WW-I era so as to make the work as timeless as possible.

M. Laszlo has lived and worked in New York City, East Jerusalem, and several other cities around the world. While living in the Middle East, he worked for Harvard University’s Semitic Museum. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio and an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.

His next work is forthcoming from SparkPress in 2024. There are whispers that the work purports to be a genuine attempt at positing an explanation for the riddle of the universe and is based on journals and idea books made while completing his M.F.A at Sarah Lawrence College.

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  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. M Laszlo says

    Thank you for hosting me!

  3. Rita Wray says

    Sounds like a great book.

  4. This sounds like a good book and I really like the cover.

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