by Jill Amadio
Would you write this in your next mystery: “He awoke woke as usual, wondering if he might be roofied, kettled or lewked today. Then, as he threw back the bedcovers, he remembered it was his turn to rizz.”
How many readers and writers can figure out the meaning of these phrases? I wonder also how these new words translate into French, Italian, or the Baltic languages. Did you know that lollipop is a slang word for money in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand although the word lolly has been in use as referring to money in the UK for a long time.
Fortunately, I have yet to read a modern mystery that includes any of the above, although a recent read did include the work “hacked” to mean a fairly decent way to dispose of a body rather than hacking into someone’s computer (although it is sometimes tempting to want to snatch up a machete and aim it at my screen).
Gaslighting is common these days but to me the word “deceve” has a far more evil connotation due to its hard “e.” How about being roofied? No, not a new roof on one’s house but a slang word for the drug Rohypnol which, in itself sounds rather boring compared to its new version. I must confess I am rather partial to the word “dox” as it sounds medieval but I don’t write historicals so I would have to use it for its modern meaning, which is cyber-bullying, maliciously publicizing private, personal information about someone, and usually posting it online via social media.
Dox is similar to pox so maybe that is the connection. Medieval slang, or descriptive words, were and are scattered throughout historical novels and plays, especially by Shakespeare who wrote in The Tempest: “a pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!” Yeah! That told ‘em. The bard also used the word “cotton” to refer to a lower-ranking peasant. One wonders if peasants were considered lewk back then because of their wearing of cotton garments that distinguished them instead of costly fabrics.
Acronyms are showing up, too, and turning into daily use as words in their own right. For examples, “lewk.” The letters were all at one time written in upper case and stand for Loitering Electronic Warfare Killer. Now, the first and last words, loitering and killer are understandable and fitting for mystery writers. However, the four uppercase letters together refer to, perhaps, a war machine waiting for the signal to attack, such as an army tank. In lower case, the letters form a word meaning a person’s individual fashion style by which he/she/them/their is instantly recognizable. I’d venture a guess that Sherlock Holmes and his deerstalker hat was the first of his generation to be lewk.
Here are a few of my own suggestions for slang in a murder mystery:
Tompt = a double-bladed dental tool for extracting teeth
Willabot = bird seed for large sparrows
Seso = blood-stained blue underwear
Atikul = a cell phone smashed in four places, a vital clue
Culik = a pearl-handled pistol
Daawtul = a female murder victim
Obviously, not a single one of the above, however specific, makes any sense but does lewk or dox?
Are we free to invent new words with the hope that readers can easily gauge the writer’s intent? That would be like writing a mystery within a mystery, and require a glossary like a list of characters at the front of a book as a few of the Golden Era mystery writers, like Agatha Christie, sometimes added.
What’s your opinion of the new additions to our language? Should they taught in writing workshops?
Jill Amadio is a mystery writer, novelist, journalist, and ghostwriter. Her standalone thriller, “In Terror’s Deadly Clasp,” is based on a true 9/11 story. Her award-winning mystery series features an amateur sleuth from Cornwall, UK, Amadio’s former residence before relocating to California and Connecticut.