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|November 16, 2003|
of the Week: horrorshow
In Anthony Burgess’ shockingly violent 1962 novel, A Clockwork Orange, teenage gangs use a unique kind of slang that combines Russian and English. To give you an example of how different this slang is, here’s a fantasy that Alex, the narrator, has while listening to a violin concerto:
“There were vecks and ptitsas, lying on the ground screaming for mercy, and I was smecking all over my rot and grinding my boot in their litsos.” (Translation: There were men and girls, lying on the ground screaming for mercy, and I was laughing hard and grinding my boot in their faces.)
The vocabulary doesn’t just come from one language or the other. Horrorshow, for example, sounds like a scary movie, but it comes from the Russian word khorosho (good). Like synonyms bad, sick, ill and wicked, horrorshow changes a negative standard word into something desirable in slang.
Horrorshow is not the only vocabulary from that book to reach the streets. In the 60s, boychick was popular as a friendly term for men. In the 90s, droog (friend) was used by college students, while spoogy, which Burgess used to mean ‘scared,’ resurfaced as ‘scary.’
Eminem manages to combine the meanings of good and bad in the example above, but horrorshow can still be used to mean something just plain bad. As a noun, horrorshow is often used to describe train wrecks, natural disasters, and agonizingly painful blind dates.
P.S. Apologies for this week's late delivery. Sadly, we were not on vacation in Aruba - technical difficulties kept us offline for a few days.