Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky


Last week, somebody, with decidedly few jokes and a less than playful lexicon, labelled me (inaccurately as labels often are) a “cartoon Brit” in response to using the word youff.  I have subsequently been thinking of which cartoon would be on the rossette and it’s a toss up between Postman Pat, Trumpton, and Bagpuss. None of which would match the insulter’s lack of appetite for the individual tongue breaking out of generic jail. Postman Pat would be too determined, Trumpton is full of bells and fire engines (overly decorative, urgent, and auditorily disturbing) and Bagpuss is full of wooden spoon dolls and stretching.

Later that day or week at the swimming pool two older Chinese women were explaining to me in Cantonese and hand signals why my locker key wasn’t functioning and then that I may have forgotten to take my quarter out of the locker. The exchange was about curiousity and concern. The medley of words in two languages, neither of us understood, was minor compared to the greater intention to help and the inability to understand only enhanced it all the more. As I walked away to go swimming, a woman attempted engage me with some racist aside about the excessive amount of Cantonese spoken in the room! It was easily quashed, but stung the air nonetheless.

What drives people affronted by the sound of the words that sail out of other peoples mouths? What is this language/voicebox policing: this too much, or you can’t employ that word or you’re x. It is truly a nonsense. (deliberate poor English grammar, acceptable Hiberno-English grammar)

As a child people often complained I spoke to fast, when I related this to my mother, she instructed me to tell them to “listen faster”.  In that instance she instilled in me an acceptance of voice, the defense of the right to speak, however your tongue may form it. I was also raised surrounded by a strong dialect and patois. An English of the inbetween. Hiberno-English. An English informed by another language. A language of the voice (spoken) over the page perhaps. And yes, she speaks fast.

Thirdly, and lastly, I happened to be sat in a caff and introduced to a Lebanese woman living in France. Our conversation took flight when I relayed to her that I had heard a woman on the bus in Dublin say a line about Beirut (in a working class Baile atha Cliath – ease) in a conversation that had absolutely nothing to do with Beirut. It had stayed with me, the way she created Beirut for a second in that bus with its condensation laden windows and Beirut lived in and for those 5 words in her incarnation.  This had inspired almost a third of my current novel that I am completing.  There was a lovely closing of the geographic distance in talking of this in a caff in Vancouver,  and having the stranger on the bus in Dublin and the two of us strangers at the caff, briefly holding the same cup of tea. All facilitated by the paying attention to the capacious roundabout of language. The Lebanese woman kept repeating the Dublin woman’s words.

The uptight examples mentioned in this post are frankly “ensuque” and “ensuquering” my verbal nerves.

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