Monday, 28 April 2014

"The Blueboys Put An Eye On My Flop”

Mark Abley revels in the Montreal slang of the 1951 pulp novel The Crime on Cote des Neiges, a "noir mystery" reissued in Vehicule's Ricochet Books series:
The narrator, Russell Teed, is an impossibly hard-drinking private eye, and words of his that appear dated today are often the very words that would have made the novel seem fresh and vibrant in its time. Slang doesn’t like to stick around; after a few years, slang prefers to cover its tracks and slink out of town. The words I’m thinking about are mostly nouns. “The blueboys put an eye on my flop.” “Don’t put your stoolies to trail me.” “You saw my yap fall open.” A dead man (the novel is full of them) “had to catch the afternoon flyer.” A flyer was neither an airplane nor an airline passenger, but a fast train. Many of these colloquial nouns are still hanging around the language, although their meanings have moved on with time. When Russell tells a policeman “Don’t pull two boobs in a row,” he’s referring only to blunders. Walking into a pharmacy on Côte Ste. Catherine Rd., he remarks, “The place was inhabited by a soda jerk wearing a white jacket, and a deadpan fountain girl.” Drugstores in those days boasted lunch counters, and the employee who swung the fountain back and forth while adding soda water to flavoured syrup was called a jerk. This had nothing to do—I think—with various other meanings of that word. Montrose was writing when the métro was a faraway dream, and in his narrator’s eyes the pharmacy looked “as modern as the Toronto subway.”

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