Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Billy de Bard for de Yoof of Today, Innit?

Whenever I'm back to Britain I feel like Rip van Winkle ... until my niece Lauren takes me under her wing to update me on the most recent developments in British culture. (From Big Brother to Little Britain, at least.) And I also have to play catch-up on the English language as spoken by her and her friends if I don't want to be left behind.

I learned, for example, that a very fanciable bloke is described as "fit" (as in "He's well fit.") and anything rather disgusting is "minging", so I've developed at least a nodding acquaintance with Yoof-Speak.

Which is just as well because it seems that the works of Shakespeare, or at least 15 abridged plays anyway, have been translated into it - the work of satirist Martin Baum, who has compiled To Be Or Not To Be, Innit: A Yoof-Speak Guide to Shakespeare, Benjie Goodheart on the Guardian blog reports. :
Using the sloppy syntax and enunciation of some youngsters that is the bugbear of older generations, Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, for example, becomes 'Amlet. And his famous line "To be, or not to be?" becomes "To be or not to be, innit?"; the state of Denmark is no longer "rotten" but "minging". The Two Gentlemen of Verona have become "geezas" and Romeo, one of the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet, now pines for his "fit bitch Jules". "Verona was de turf of de feuding Montagues and de Capulet families," according to the synopsis of the classic story of young love spurned in the language of the street. "And coz they was always brawling and stuff, de prince of Verona told them to cool it or else they was gonna get well mashed if they carried on larging it with each other."
The purists will probably scream blue murder. Baum thinks the bard might say "Am I bovvered?" (a la Catherine Tate). I think this sounds rather fun.

I'll send Lauren a copy!


animah said...

That's so funny.
Amri/Irman, how about shakespeare in aweks malay? Or better still kecek Kelete.

Madcap Machinist said...


fun! the bard would 'ave been chuffed!

Baronhawk said...

Dear Sharon,

Hurrah for the revitalization of the old bard's work. I have a sneaking feeling he won't really mind. I mean this is the guy who wrote in his day's "bahasa pasar" and takes liberties with conventions and toys with grammar to fit his liking!

This is an issue close to my heart. For I absolutely adore the tales of yore, deep from the depths of Malaysian History. Tales like Merong Mahawangsa and Hikayat Melayu, whose stories I personally find to be rather interesting. But ala, there are no efforts, that I can see at least to propagate Malaysian classics into new veined literary works. There are no competitions for reinvented classics works nor any grants for those seeking to do so.

I am quite familiar with the Shakespearean hip hop having come across them in the states. I saw how the young was being introduced to the tales of yore in familiar younger voices and rewritten in their young tongue. Propagating the old in the young minds with young voices.

Why can't this be done in our land. Why can't the old classics be given the same face-lift and treatment. I would not have strayed far into Shakespeare if I have had some access to our classics as well as our olden tales told, retold in many styles and translated, retranslated into many tongues. I had to read those classics in their original form and I guess it is a bit constraining, me being only 13 then.

Maybe you can talk to Silverfish or other publishers. If DBP is happily contend to sitting twiddling their thumbs (or are they doing anything about this that I have not herd of, please correct me for it then).

Have no one wondered why Latin became a dead language, or why its classics only barely survived? How many people read Julius Caesar's treatise on Military Campaigns or even Virgil's Aenid, in its true context and original form? Sometimes to survive art and literature must be agile and willing to adapt. Its spirit shall survive, only the time, form and context changed.


The UnMalaysian Voice

@baronhawk rambling

Rob Spence said...

Sharon: spookily, I had to talk about this the other day:

Anonymous said...

OMG this is too much fun.

And then he say ah, want to be or not ?

Linguisome said...

I wonder if it's influenced by Ali G, or that his character was created from this linguistic phenomena. 'Ugly woman' is a 'minger' and he's always referring to his girlfriend as 'me bitch Julie'.

bibliobibuli said...

baronhawk - i'm sure he wouldn't have minded either!

rob - yes that really is a strange coincidence

linguisome - i'm sure it is!