Welcome Pat and thank you for visiting the YA/MG Blog Bonanza.
Born and educated in Boston, Massachusetts, Pat McDermott is the author of a series of romantic action/adventure stories set in an Ireland that might have been. Glancing Through the Glimmer, her first Young Adult novel, is a prequel to her “Band of Roses” trilogy, coming in 2012 from MuseItUp Publishing. Her favorite non-writing activities include cooking, reading, music, hiking, music, and traveling, especially to Ireland. Pat is a member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project, Seacoast Writers’ Association, Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. She lives and writes in New Hampshire.
No Slang in YA? Codology!
by Pat McDermott
Slang. I didn’t find much when I started reading YA books to get a feel for the genre. That makes sense. The teen slang in vogue when a story is being written is likely to be on its way out before the writer completes the manuscript. By the time the book appears in print, it’s a good bet that any slang the author used will be utterly obsolete. Teen slang changes as fast as teen fashion, and the use of it dates a story. Writers are wise to avoid it.
Or are they? Is it ever all right for teenage characters to use slang? In historical pieces, forsooth. If a story is set in Robin Hood’s time, or if a character is a “jazz cat” in the “hip” 1950s, a writer may safely use a “gadzooks” or “cool man” or two. Then there are fantasy authors, who often create their very own slang for the singular worlds they invent.
Slang or jargon unique to a specific region or ethnic culture might also be acceptable. If a story takes place in Boston, the teen who wants a soda or soft drink might reach for a bottle of tonic. If the story occurs in Ireland (as does Glancing Through the Glimmer), the teen would ask for minerals. In Ireland, cookies are biscuits, French fries are chips, and potato chips are crisps. Confusing?
According to some dictionaries, the word “slang” originated from the Norwegian phrase slengja kjeften (literally, to sling the jaw). In my humble opinion, no one “slings the jaw” better than the Irish.
The bits of Irish slang I sprinkled through Glancing Through the Glimmer help my teenage characters, Liam and Kevin, get their Irishness across without leaving readers astray in the head. At first I felt pig-ignorant, exploring such a power of words, but I think I can pass myself now. Still, I’m only trotting after the true jaw-slingers.
Readers won’t need a glossary to understand Liam and Kevin’s slang. The boys use words that cause no botheration. They say Howya instead of Hello. A recimitation refers to a tale Liam tells, a performance that’s easy cakes for such a gifted storyteller. Slick talk is cleverality. Nonsense is codology. Something that’s broken is banjaxed. Instead of arriving quickly, Liam and his American friend, Janet, arrive in jig time.
The slang in my Irish teens’ dialogue is just enough to set them apart from their American friends. I’ve used Irish slang in all the stories I’ve set in Ireland, and I’m not concerned that it will go out of style soon. Whether used by teens or adults, Irish slang has been around for a long, long time. I hope it will endure.
There. All done and dusted.
Blurb for Glancing Through the Glimmer:
In the modern Kingdom of Ireland, few mortals believe in the fairy folk. Without that belief, the fairies are dying. Finvarra, the King of the Fairies, would rather dance than worry—but he must have a mortal dancing partner.
When Janet Gleason’s grandfather becomes the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, the sixteen-year-old orphan must leave Boston and her friends behind. Janet is lonely in Dublin and unused to her grandparents’ stuffy social life. An invitation to a royal ball terrifies her. She can’t even waltz and dreads embarrassment. Finvarra’s fairy witch overhears her fervent wish to learn to dance.
Seventeen-year-old Prince Liam Boru loathes the idea of escorting another spoiled American girl to a ball. In fact, he detests most of his royal duties. He dresses down to move through Dublin unnoticed and finds himself on his royal backside when Janet crashes into him. Intrigued, he asks to see her again, and she willingly agrees. Unaware of each other’s identities, they arrange to meet. When they do, the fairies steal Janet away.
Liam’s attempts to find her trigger a series of frustrating misadventures. Can he and Janet outwit a treacherous fairy king who’s been hoodwinking mortals for centuries?
The first time Liam slipped and fell, he cursed the rain-damp grass. He blamed his second tumble on his haste to catch up with Janet. What on earth had possessed the girl to run off like that? She couldn’t possibly want to find music that badly.
Music only she could hear.
The third time he lost his balance, he’d swear someone had pushed him, but no one was there. He landed on his hands and knees and cursed again. He might not be a muscleman, but he was far from a clumsy dolt. A lifetime of sports and outdoor treks had surely left him fit enough to climb a scrubby little hillside.
Something strange was afoot.
I’m being ridiculous. The breeze must have kept him from hearing the music she heard. She’d likely gone after the owner of whatever was playing the tune to learn its name.
Yet the Nose of Howth seemed deserted. How odd for a sunny Sunday morning. Even if Janet had gone off seeking the source of the music, no amount of rationalizing could explain why she’d left so abruptly. The chilling sense that she was in danger had Liam’s heart thumping high in his throat.
Should he call his cousin? If Kevin was still on the pier, it would take him a while to get here. And practical Kevin would surely think Liam astray in the head.
Maybe he was, but something told him he had to find Janet, and fast. Keeping close to the ground as if he were dodging radar, he clambered monkey-like up the hill. This time he reached the top of the rise. Lumps in the landscape surrounded him, clumps of rock and rolling masses of heather and gorse that encircled the level spot where he stood. He knew the place well. Except for the curious lack of weekend hill walkers, nothing seemed amiss.
He listened hard. A seagull cried in the distance. Otherwise, all was silent. No, wait! Music drifted toward him, a plucky harp tune he might have enjoyed under different circumstances. Was that what Janet had heard?
Where was it? He turned in a circle, squinting in the sunlight, scanning, straining to hear. When he returned to the spot where he’d started, a jolt of fear set his pulse racing.
A round stone hut had appeared on the highest part of the clearing. Its low thatched roof rose to a ridiculously high point. It resembled a roundhouse, the sort of dwelling that belonged in a prehistoric ring fort.
Or a fairy fort.
Liam swallowed hard. He’d seen replicas of such huts in Ireland’s folk parks. He’d also viewed ruins of the original ring forts, all that remained of the structures built by the mysterious peoples who’d lived and died in Ireland thousands of years ago.
Where had this one come from? Why was it on the Nose of Howth? Liam had never seen it before, nor had he heard of any gimmicky tourism plans for the cliff walk. Of course, he didn’t know everything. Convincing himself that he’d failed to see the hut at first because the sun had blinded him, he ventured toward the structure.
He spotted a doorway and relaxed. Janet was there, speaking to a woman wearing a period costume, medieval or older. That’s what it was, he thought: tourism come to tarnish Howth. How could Uncle Peadar have allowed such nonsense?
Liam called Janet’s name again, but neither she nor the woman showed any sign that they’d heard him. The wind must have carried his voice away. He stalked toward the roundhouse. As he approached, the costumed woman placed a necklace over Janet’s head.
The roundhouse flickered, faded, and reappeared. Alarmed, Liam stopped. This was no tourist gimmick. As his thoughts scrambled for an explanation, the woman grabbed Janet’s arm and pulled her into the hut.
“Janet, no!” His ferocious roar proved useless. Unbelievably, the roundhouse began to dissolve. No longer doubting his horrified senses, he dove at the hut and charged through the disappearing door.
The world around him melted away.
My Web Site: http://www.patmcdermott.net
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