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Author Topic: PC149: Honing Sebastian  (Read 7257 times)
Talia
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« on: March 22, 2011, 12:10:28 PM »

PodCastle 149: Honing Sebastian

by Elizabeth Engstrom

Read by Kane Lynch

Originally Published in Outsiders

Sebastian found the paper sack at 0217 hours on Monday, the sixteenth of Aout, the day of our Lord Hammersmith 12. He saw it in the corner of the doorway of an old apothecary, and made note of all the details in his journal before he approached it.

He expected it to be empty, something blown there from the other world, but when he touched it, he could tell it had weight. He made note of that in his journal, along with the words that were printed in green on its side. The words made no sense to him, but he copied them as exactly as he was able.

Then he looked inside the sack, and the terror seized him. He cringed, hunkered down over the sack, expecting to hear sirens. He expected the great hands to grab him, rough fingers bruising him, lifting his bony body off its feet and carried by burly, faceless, hairy creatures in blue to throw them into a caddy and land him on concrete with four walls.


Rated R: Contains Adult Themes and Some Strong Language
« Last Edit: April 12, 2011, 05:35:37 AM by Talia » Logged
ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2011, 11:35:44 AM »

I am the king under the mountain, and this is the first post on this thread!

Anyway, I liked this story, but I didn't enjoy it. It wasn't a tale of adventure and passion, it was a kick in the pants. I teach in an inner city school, and my kids are going to grow up to be Sebastian and Cutter if someone doesn't do something about it. The system sucks and it needs to come down. The only thing that would have made this story more enjoyable would have been if Sebastian had stabbed Hammersmith in the eye with a pencil and then pissed on him as he died. This story broke my heart, but left me with the burn to fight harder, teach stronger, kick ass and take names (presumably of people who's asses I will kick later).

Hammersmith, stabbed through the eye with a pencil and dying as Sebastian pisses on him. Ah... that's a happy image. It will warm the cockles of my heart all through this cold, rainy day.

Um... what did you think of the story?
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2011, 11:49:50 AM »

My reaction was similar to ElectricPaladin's.  It hit home because it's just plain true, but I would've liked to see positive change instead of maintenance of the status quo. 

This world needs a revolution, but as with other revolutions, the choice to stand against the established power is an infinitely difficult one.  In this case, if he rebelled he'd just end up being tortured like Slicer and would die soon after.  It sure wouldn't him survive personally, but maybe he could be a martyr in some sense if others saw his example.  Revolutions tend to gorge on blood, and whatever the outcome, if you're one of the dead you don't get any less dead even if the revolution causes change.
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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2011, 04:46:29 PM »

Um... what did you think of the story?

I missed whatever aspect of it made it "fantasy". No trace of magic or supernaturalism was in evidence. It seemed like straight dystopianism to me.
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2011, 07:01:26 AM »

I have the feeling that this story would have been better on paper, or with a narrator who embraced a slightly flatter affect (not a bad narrator, just not a great narration, I think).

I feel about stories like this the same way I feel about the first chapter of "The Sound And The Fury" which is to say; it's risky to tell a story about an unstable and deluded character from their own viewpoint. The listener has to go through a lot of heavy lifting in the first half of the story to decipher the nomenclature of this creature's worldview.

By halfway through, when I had gotten that "grinding" is chewing, "papers" is money, and some of the other hints, only then could I really begin to sink into the story. At which point, of course, the plot pivots and moves into some of the exposition I no longer needed.

It's a grubby little thumbnail sketch scrawled with ashes and mud, skillfully done but depicting something I'm not sure I care about learning.
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2011, 04:19:23 PM »

Um... what did you think of the story?

I missed whatever aspect of it made it "fantasy". No trace of magic or supernaturalism was in evidence. It seemed like straight dystopianism to me.

Probably the urban part. I had trouble seeing it too.

I just didn't enjoy the story all that much. I've read similar stories like this, including "Arvies Aren't Stupid", which ran on EP -- and which I didn't really adore either. Intelligent street-rat type of character finds something he shouldn't and has to deal with it, and in the end nothing changes.

I did appreciate Hammersmith's explanation of the way things are. Makes me thing the author might have intended this as some sort of allegory.

I enjoyed the reading, and I think the voice was right, although he did seem to be smiling as he read.
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« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2011, 05:52:13 PM »

Bwahaha!  Oh, that was nice and vicious.
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« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2011, 02:49:24 PM »

I enjoyed the narration, but I did not like or enjoy the story.  It is a straight up dystopian tale with nothing new to differentiate it from any other textbook dystopia.  The characters were flat, the world was non-existent, and didn't really go anywhere.
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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2011, 08:31:29 PM »

Like EP and Unblinking said, it's scary because it's true. On a personal level, I constantly struggle with my lazy inner-Hammersmith, who is quick to remind me, "You know, if you just didn't want that thing you're working toward, you wouldn't have to work so hard..." But the problem with that way of thinking and what I have to keep reminding myself is that there are things in this world that are more awesome than spending every night in front of the TV, and those things take work. Whether it's a big goal like traveling the world or paying off a house, or something as mundane as mastering a yoga pose, it requires a conscious choice to take action.

Another thing I liked about this story was how it reminded me of 1984, particularly the ending, with the main character giving in to his oppressors. "The struggle was finished [...] He loved Big Brother."
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2011, 08:27:56 AM »

Anyone else waiting to hear that in the end Sebastion loved Big Brother? That being said, I think it would not hurt to step back from the bleakness of the story and consider the words of Hammersmith. I'm not saying its wrong to want better for yourself, or that we shouldn't aim high. But for many people who are always miserable because they can't reach what they want, sometimes a step back to notice that what you have is actually pretty great wouldn't hurt. I realize this wasn't the intended reaction for this story but I am trying to look at it another way.
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2011, 02:38:54 PM »

I have mixed feelings about this story, but mostly negative ones.
Using words like "grinding", "paper", "rents' (which I thought for most of the story were parents), "humes" bothered me. It's like the author is saying, "Oh no, this is a made up world. See? They have different words for stuff." What it really does is to make it annoying to listen to. I think I remember reading a TV tropes article about this, but I can't recall. In any event, I hate it when authors do that.
On the other hand, the ending surprised me. Pleasantly. I liked hearing The New World Order According to Hammersmith, and I liked that Sebastian knuckled under. I would have like it even more to see him rebel a little, but acting the way he did was perfectly in character with the whinny, sniveling little wimp we were introduced to in the story. When characters act out of character it means the author messed up in building the character, so here that was well done.
The heavy-handed message of the whole story irked me a little too. I mean, it's a nice moral and all, I just wasn't in the mood to hear a story with a moral. I wanted to be entertained, and mostly I wasn't.
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2011, 03:37:11 PM »

That being said, I think it would not hurt to step back from the bleakness of the story and consider the words of Hammersmith. I'm not saying its wrong to want better for yourself, or that we shouldn't aim high. But for many people who are always miserable because they can't reach what they want, sometimes a step back to notice that what you have is actually pretty great wouldn't hurt. I realize this wasn't the intended reaction for this story but I am trying to look at it another way.

Ah, that's what the Hammersmiths of the world want you to think. It isn't that you shouldn't be content that you won't always get what you want, and should learn how to moderate your aim and compromise your desires. It's this: you have a right to be angry when some selfish son of a bitch is out there stopping you from getting what you want.

You have a right to be angry, and you have a right to fight back.

The Hammersmiths of the world want you to believe that the injustices they perpetrate are the same as the vagaries of chance and misfortune. They want you to believe that this is just the way the world works, and this is how it has to work. They're wrong.
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2011, 03:43:22 PM »

For example.
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2011, 03:56:36 PM »


THIS
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« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2011, 12:01:33 AM »

When characters act out of character it means the author messed up in building the character, so here that was well done.

What about when people do?  Who messed up then?
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« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2011, 12:18:20 AM »

When characters act out of character it means the author messed up in building the character, so here that was well done.

What about when people do?  Who messed up then?

Brahma.
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« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2011, 01:42:52 AM »

When characters act out of character it means the author messed up in building the character, so here that was well done.

What about when people do?  Who messed up then?
When a writer creates a character, and then plans on the character acting "out of character" further down the road, or even at the end of the story, there need to be a few small hints that this can happen, or it needs to be under specific and extreme circumstances.
In this story there is nothing to hint at Sebastian's "hidden depths of will". He has none. Had he suddenly developed a backbone it would be akin to George W. Bush saying, "Yes, I once read a comprehensive and detailed article about that and that piqued my curiosity so I researched the matter further, and I must say that I disagree with you for the following detailed reasons:...." simply out of character, and there is no hint that it could possibly be in character.
However, in most cases when real people act out of character it is either under extreme stress, (life or death situations) or you can honestly say "in hindsight, she really does believe that, I should have seen it coming." Because if you know how to look, the clues are there.
And in a story, the clues need to be there, and most readers need to be able to pick up on them. Otherwise it's a bad story because it breaks the suspension of disbelief.
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« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2011, 07:20:27 AM »

The Hammersmiths of the world want you to believe that the injustices they perpetrate are the same as the vagaries of chance and misfortune. They want you to believe that this is just the way the world works, and this is how it has to work. They're wrong.

Reminds me of the president after Iran's recent "Election" comparing the protestors to angry football fans whose team had lost and who needed to grow up and except it.
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« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2011, 08:44:45 AM »

Using words like "grinding", "paper", "rents' (which I thought for most of the story were parents), "humes" bothered me. It's like the author is saying, "Oh no, this is a made up world. See? They have different words for stuff." What it really does is to make it annoying to listen to. I think I remember reading a TV tropes article about this, but I can't recall. In any event, I hate it when authors do that.

I think that "'rents" did mean "parents".  The 'rents were the caretakers of the trashpickers, making sure they didn't overstep their station.  They weren't literally parents of them in the sense of biological lineage (at least not necessarily) but they were taking the role of caretakers and so were called parents, or 'rents.
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« Reply #19 on: March 28, 2011, 10:42:04 AM »

I think that "'rents" did mean "parents".  The 'rents were the caretakers of the trashpickers, making sure they didn't overstep their station.  They weren't literally parents of them in the sense of biological lineage (at least not necessarily) but they were taking the role of caretakers and so were called parents, or 'rents.

I assumed it was short for 'rent-payers' (or rent-collectors?).

It's possible that the term had a kind of dual etymology. Some words in English came from one source but were reinforced by a (perceived, at any rate) relationship or similarity to another.

Of course, I can't think of any examples at the moment...
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« Reply #20 on: March 28, 2011, 11:05:36 AM »

Using words like "grinding", "paper", "rents' (which I thought for most of the story were parents), "humes" bothered me. It's like the author is saying, "Oh no, this is a made up world. See? They have different words for stuff." What it really does is to make it annoying to listen to.

Interesting. I have to admit, I have the complete opposite reaction. For me, slang (whether it's invented, an appropriation of the archane, or something else) fused well into a story is a big plus for me. When it's done and well and makes sense in connection to the world that's build around it, it adds an extra layer to the world-building that allows me to feel immersed in the story and setting. See "Cinderella Suicide" over at Escape Pod, China Mieville's Bas Lag books, William Gibson's Neuromancer, and Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun for examples of this.

On the other hand, when I don't like it, or it doesn't make sense to me in the context of the world, it really bugs me. Frex: I still think "frak" sounded better on Veronica Mars than it did on BSG.
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« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2011, 12:11:11 PM »

For me, slang (whether it's invented, an appropriation of the archane, or something else) fused well into a story is a big plus for me. When it's done and well and makes sense in connection to the world that's build around it, it adds an extra layer to the world-building that allows me to feel immersed in the story and setting. See "Cinderella Suicide" over at Escape Pod, China Mieville's Bas Lag books, William Gibson's Neuromancer, and Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun for examples of this.

One would imagine you're also quite fond of A Clockwork Orange then; it was the first thing I thought of when I noticed the invented slang in this story.
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« Reply #22 on: March 28, 2011, 12:54:48 PM »

Using words like "grinding", "paper", "rents' (which I thought for most of the story were parents), "humes" bothered me. It's like the author is saying, "Oh no, this is a made up world. See? They have different words for stuff." What it really does is to make it annoying to listen to. I think I remember reading a TV tropes article about this, but I can't recall. In any event, I hate it when authors do that.

I think that "'rents" did mean "parents".  The 'rents were the caretakers of the trashpickers, making sure they didn't overstep their station.  They weren't literally parents of them in the sense of biological lineage (at least not necessarily) but they were taking the role of caretakers and so were called parents, or 'rents.


Hammersmith explicitly said that the rents pay him rent, which goes a long way to explaining why they are called that.
Of course Wilson Fowlie has a point, and it could be both.
Also, I remembered another one that particularly bugged me, "trow" for trousers. I mean, really? Trow? If you want a one syllable word use pants. This was just trying to go that extra micro-millimeter to show that this world is different.
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« Reply #23 on: March 28, 2011, 01:02:37 PM »

4rlz?

 Grin
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Talia
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« Reply #24 on: March 28, 2011, 01:15:07 PM »

Using words like "grinding", "paper", "rents' (which I thought for most of the story were parents), "humes" bothered me. It's like the author is saying, "Oh no, this is a made up world. See? They have different words for stuff." What it really does is to make it annoying to listen to. I think I remember reading a TV tropes article about this, but I can't recall. In any event, I hate it when authors do that.

I think that "'rents" did mean "parents".  The 'rents were the caretakers of the trashpickers, making sure they didn't overstep their station.  They weren't literally parents of them in the sense of biological lineage (at least not necessarily) but they were taking the role of caretakers and so were called parents, or 'rents.


Hammersmith explicitly said that the rents pay him rent, which goes a long way to explaining why they are called that.
Of course Wilson Fowlie has a point, and it could be both.
Also, I remembered another one that particularly bugged me, "trow" for trousers. I mean, really? Trow? If you want a one syllable word use pants. This was just trying to go that extra micro-millimeter to show that this world is different.

Well the story is from the protagonist's point of view. In this world, they aren't pants, they're trow. If the story was from Hammersmith's point of view, they'd be pants (presumably).
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« Reply #25 on: March 28, 2011, 01:44:34 PM »

It felt like Chapter One of a YA novel, after being sent back down Sebastian develops hitherto unnatural spine and returns above to burn down the tower blocks and upend the social order. At the end I just thought 'meh'. I felt there was insufficient work put in to explaining the world we were in and how everyone worked within it. Even Hammersmith at the end is an enlightened being talking with a non-enlightened being within the system that the author has created and so doesn't explain how the world works in any way that made sense to me. So the story in the end is 'boy finds sack, boy loses sack, boy goes up stairs, boy goes down stairs. With mucus.'
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« Reply #26 on: March 28, 2011, 05:46:00 PM »

Quote
Also, I remembered another one that particularly bugged me, "trow" for trousers. I mean, really? Trow? If you want a one syllable word use pants. This was just trying to go that extra micro-millimeter to show that this world is different.

I haven't heard the story so maybe I'm completely misunderstanding but not only is "trow" a valid slang word for trousers, it's not even an attempt to be futuristic slang!  Am I now so old that no one has heard the expression "drop trow", or "dropping trow" before?  It's been a common slang expression since, hmmm, I'd bet WWII.
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« Reply #27 on: March 28, 2011, 07:48:07 PM »

Quote
Also, I remembered another one that particularly bugged me, "trow" for trousers. I mean, really? Trow? If you want a one syllable word use pants. This was just trying to go that extra micro-millimeter to show that this world is different.

I haven't heard the story so maybe I'm completely misunderstanding but not only is "trow" a valid slang word for trousers, it's not even an attempt to be futuristic slang!  Am I now so old that no one has heard the expression "drop trow", or "dropping trow" before?  It's been a common slang expression since, hmmm, I'd bet WWII.

Scooped.
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« Reply #28 on: March 30, 2011, 08:35:10 AM »

I haven't heard the story so maybe I'm completely misunderstanding but not only is "trow" a valid slang word for trousers, it's not even an attempt to be futuristic slang!  Am I now so old that no one has heard the expression "drop trow", or "dropping trow" before?  It's been a common slang expression since, hmmm, I'd bet WWII.

You're completely right.  "trow" is a current, though not oft-used, slang for trousers.  I've only ever heard it as part of the phrase "drop trow", such as one might do at the doctors office or when mooning someone.

Hammersmith explicitly said that the rents pay him rent, which goes a long way to explaining why they are called that.
Of course Wilson Fowlie has a point, and it could be both.
Also, I remembered another one that particularly bugged me, "trow" for trousers. I mean, really? Trow? If you want a one syllable word use pants. This was just trying to go that extra micro-millimeter to show that this world is different.

My parents pay rent too.  Coincidence?   Cheesy

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« Reply #29 on: March 30, 2011, 09:05:52 PM »

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/drop_trou

Allegedly American slang.
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« Reply #30 on: March 31, 2011, 10:43:35 AM »

I find it very hard to believe that it's an American slang. Americans (and I mean citizens of the USA) tend to use the word "pants", not "trousers" as do their friends across the Atlantic.
And don't bring proof from Wiktionary...
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« Reply #31 on: March 31, 2011, 11:08:06 AM »

I find it very hard to believe that it's an American slang. Americans (and I mean citizens of the USA) tend to use the word "pants", not "trousers" as do their friends across the Atlantic.
And don't bring proof from Wiktionary...

I've heard Americans use it.  Part of the appeal of the slang is that it's based on the word "trousers" that almost no one uses anymore.
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« Reply #32 on: March 31, 2011, 11:09:14 AM »

I think it's American slang in the way that calling something "the bees' knees" is American slang. Sure, we said it back in the day, but you'd get funny looks if you used in in conversation nowadays.
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« Reply #33 on: March 31, 2011, 11:45:58 AM »

I think it's American slang in the way that calling something "the bees' knees" is American slang. Sure, we said it back in the day, but you'd get funny looks if you used in in conversation nowadays.

Yeah, I say "the mutt's nuts".
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« Reply #34 on: March 31, 2011, 01:12:43 PM »

I think it's American slang in the way that calling something "the bees' knees" is American slang. Sure, we said it back in the day, but you'd get funny looks if you used in in conversation nowadays.
Actually, the only time I ever heard that phrase was from BBC Radio 4, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio drama, Quandary Phase.
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« Reply #35 on: March 31, 2011, 01:15:50 PM »

I always understood that drop trou was a slang from the American Military.
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« Reply #36 on: March 31, 2011, 08:31:11 PM »

And don't bring proof from Wiktionary...

... hence the leading word, "allegedly".
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« Reply #37 on: April 01, 2011, 08:56:12 AM »

I think it's American slang in the way that calling something "the bees' knees" is American slang. Sure, we said it back in the day, but you'd get funny looks if you used in in conversation nowadays.

Ah, but see that's the BEST sort of slang.  Slang that goes unnoticed is boring.  I have said "the bee's knees" and "the cat's pajamas" as well as a variety of rural colloquialisms that you don't often see in modern cities, like "he's as ____ as the day is long" or "I haven't seen ____ in a coon's age".  The dumbfounded reactions are hilarious.
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« Reply #38 on: April 01, 2011, 09:16:32 AM »

I think it's American slang in the way that calling something "the bees' knees" is American slang. Sure, we said it back in the day, but you'd get funny looks if you used in in conversation nowadays.

Ah, but see that's the BEST sort of slang.  Slang that goes unnoticed is boring.  I have said "the bee's knees" and "the cat's pajamas" as well as a variety of rural colloquialisms that you don't often see in modern cities, like "he's as ____ as the day is long" or "I haven't seen ____ in a coon's age".  The dumbfounded reactions are hilarious.

ha! that's awesome Cheesy I don't think I've ever heard "the cat's pajamas" before! I did however find this link (however much or little it's worth) when googling around and it seems apropos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Illuminatedwax/List_of_Outdated_English_Slang
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #39 on: April 01, 2011, 12:15:49 PM »

I think it's American slang in the way that calling something "the bees' knees" is American slang. Sure, we said it back in the day, but you'd get funny looks if you used in in conversation nowadays.

Ah, but see that's the BEST sort of slang.  Slang that goes unnoticed is boring.  I have said "the bee's knees" and "the cat's pajamas" as well as a variety of rural colloquialisms that you don't often see in modern cities, like "he's as ____ as the day is long" or "I haven't seen ____ in a coon's age".  The dumbfounded reactions are hilarious.

ha! that's awesome Cheesy I don't think I've ever heard "the cat's pajamas" before! I did however find this link (however much or little it's worth) when googling around and it seems apropos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Illuminatedwax/List_of_Outdated_English_Slang


Ooh, that's a fun list.
--Drugstore Cowboy-I hadn't heard about the actual usage, but that was the title of a Matt Dillon film in which he'd rob pharmacies to steal their drugs.

Some of those aren't particularly outdated, like "shiv", which I've seen on prison shows rather frequently.  I don't see a lot of rural colloquialisms there which are my favorite.
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wingodzilla
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« Reply #40 on: April 13, 2011, 12:28:24 AM »

I just finished the story and it goes well with the dystopian mood I have found myself in. Funny really, I just got back from Room 101 and all I have to say is..."O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! I have won the victory over myself. I love Big Brother."
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #41 on: April 27, 2011, 10:08:49 PM »

Its funny that all the posts seem to reference the slang used or 1984. I think in a longer story, when we have more of a chance to be accustomed to a certain speech mode or slang, its easier to get past it and into the characters' lives. In a short story rife with slong, its just a bit hard to get a grip on what is going on.
I was more reminded of Dicken's Oliver Twist and a little bit Gibson's Neuromancer for some reason. Perhaps I'd better dust off 1984 to see what y'all are talkin' about.

My family always uses the saying, "If it was a snake, then you'd be dead." (Describing an object close at hand that the other person can't find) I really never realized how unusual it was until I said it one day at work.  Undecided
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LaShawn
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« Reply #42 on: April 29, 2011, 11:58:35 AM »

I thought this story was pretty good, though the slang didn't really do much for me. It was interesting though, that the 'rents' had an alternate meaning other than parents, and thinking on the duality of it made the story a little darker. That and the head guy's line, "The best thing you can do about your dreams is to make your reality your dream."

::thinks of all the school drama happening over the country::  ::gets very depressed::
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justenjoying
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« Reply #43 on: January 24, 2012, 12:53:50 AM »

This was a great idea, with a amazing way to build the setting it drew me right in, but over all it was forgettable. It
is almost sad for it's own sake. But much more like catch 22, you get the futility in the first chapter or two, and then it goes
on forever. I thought it could have ended about half way through when his "paper" was stolen. I honestly will not be
reccommending this one.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #44 on: January 24, 2012, 10:51:47 AM »

This was a great idea, with a amazing way to build the setting it drew me right in, but over all it was forgettable. It
is almost sad for it's own sake. But much more like catch 22, you get the futility in the first chapter or two, and then it goes
on forever. I thought it could have ended about half way through when his "paper" was stolen. I honestly will not be
reccommending this one.

I just read Catch-22 a few months ago, and I totally agree with you on that book.  Really, I'd have been happy if I just read the first 1-2 chapters, plus the chapter titled "Major Major Major Major".
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Fenrix
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« Reply #45 on: April 30, 2012, 08:58:47 PM »

This was a great idea, with a amazing way to build the setting it drew me right in, but over all it was forgettable. It
is almost sad for it's own sake. But much more like catch 22, you get the futility in the first chapter or two, and then it goes
on forever. I thought it could have ended about half way through when his "paper" was stolen. I honestly will not be
reccommending this one.

I just read Catch-22 a few months ago, and I totally agree with you on that book.  Really, I'd have been happy if I just read the first 1-2 chapters, plus the chapter titled "Major Major Major Major".


I'll only agree that this story is like Catch 22 if you completely skip the first handful of chapters. The first few chapters have almost all the delightful absurdist humor. After that I agree. I'll tell you about the rest of the story, but only if you let me put these crabapples in my cheeks.
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