Our 105 year- old dear lady of a house has finally had her roof redone, which is of course fantastic. The pack of buckets we’ve accumulated can be rehomed or released into the wild, and items of furniture can be placed anywhere in a room without having to take into account possible water-damage. But the re-roofing has meant almost two months of having various tradesmen around the house, swinging from the scaffolding and singing interpretative renditions of Crowded House and Johnny Cash as they work. We’ve had the chippy and his lads, a sparkie, the roofies, and a rather odd brickie. So, with all these affectionate nicknames, I assumed the collective term was ‘tradies’. As in ‘yes, I’m going slowly mad because every time I try to write something intelligent for my #thesis, one of the tradies picks up a tool or a pair of trady’s boots walk past my window.’ But no, it turns out ‘tradies’ is a Freya’ism, which my father has had delight in repeating to the various tradies (as if they didn’t already think I was some weird failed novelist type who sits around with her laptop and stacks of papers all day, occasionally sighing and shuffling to a different spot).
As I have spent a disproportionate amount of my life studying English Literature, you would have thought (hoped, assumed) that I’d mastered the #language. But sadly, mistakes are still made. No doubt my parents had reservations about my ability to cope in the real world when they took me down to Wellington to start university and I pointed out the ‘monkery’ that overlooks Oriental Bay; a logical fusion of ‘nunnery’ and ‘monks’ in my teenage mind. When my sister brought her boyfriend home to meet the family over the festive period, I naturally tried to appear witty and learned at all times. Whilst we were all watching the news one night, I remarked on a story’s location, and said ‘You don’t hear much about Ar’kansas.’ My youngest sister politely pointed out that the state is pronounced ‘Ar-Can-Saw’ (of which, for the record, I have heard of).
I’m sure this kind of thing happens more than people admit. Think of the thousands of readers who would have been pronouncing ‘Hermione’ in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways as they read the first Harry Potter book, many eons ago now, before the characters and their names became commonly discussed and used. People seem to strike this problem a bit in saying my own name, which is pronounced Fray’Ya. As a child, I had a scarring incident when I wrote a letter into my favourite tv show and the hosts read out the letter as being from ‘Fryer’. The school yard was tough that week. When the bread range ‘Freya’s’ was launched about 10 years ago, user understanding and pronunciation of my name increased dramatically. I just say ‘like the bread’ and people seem to click.
#words can be endlessly fun though. I go through phases with having a word I’ll use all the time. At the moment its ‘marauding’. I find myself talking about marauding gangs of chickens, children, old people. I love the word ‘circumnavigate’ and do try to weave it into normal conversation, but as I don’t talk a lot about sailing, this is a little tricky. The tradies refer to their wives and partners as the ‘missus’, which got me thinking, what is the plural for missus? Two missi? And the collective noun? Would you talk about a pack of missi turning up on the job site to keep an eye on their partners? An army (used for caterpillars) , a murder? (like crows).
All this (clearly unthesis related) thought reminded me of a sweet little book The Meaning of Tingo (Penguin, 2005) which details humourous words and phrases from other languages, including the Portuguese saying for living in a dream world, viajou na maionese, which literally translates to ‘to travel in the mayonnaise’, and ‘tingo’, a term from the Pascuense language of Easter Island meaning ‘to borrow objects from a friend’s house, one by one, until there’s nothing left’. Perhaps a new addition to the book could be ‘Freyaisms: ‘words which one unwittingly invents and proceeds to use in normal conversation on the misguided assumption they are in fact real words’.