My favourite niece Georgina sends me SMS messages and she asks me “howzit goin dawg?”
She will also often enquire "Sup mofo?” or “Sup playa?”
When I ask her how she is doing she will regularly respond with such terms as "I am just hangin with my bitches” or "I am chillin with the homies".
The young adults in my life speak a strange language and I think of this as gangster talk. They will spell this is 'gangsta'. The manner in which they communicate has been copied from the African American gangs in the United States. They try to replicate it from Hip Hop and Rapper dudes who wear mirror sunglasses, chunky gold chains and have the tops of their underpants displayed several inches above their oversized baggy pants.
Snoop Dogg is one such example. I actually quite like a lot of his music but his dress, demeanour and manner of speech is laughable.
Well it makes me laugh at least.
Don't grow up though Dogg - I like you just the way you are.
The gangstas, my own offspring and my nephews and nieces use this language all the time. Particularly Georgina and my bogan boy Tom.
I have only recently recovered from a visit by the fruit of my loins. Tom talks gangsta. He mingled much with his wanna-be-gangsta mates whilst he was here in Singapore and he partied hard. Tom greets his friends with a "Yo" and a "Yo" is then returned. There was a lot of "yo-yoing" going on when he stayed with me. When Tom endeavored to "Yo" me I clipped him around the ears.
I do not like being "Yo'd".
I will not abide it.
A yo-yo is a disc that spins on a piece of string.
It goes up and down.
The yo-yo has been around for a couple of thousand years and it is in fact the second oldest toy in the world. The oldest is the doll. The ancient Greeks made their yo-yos from wood and clay and they spun them on twine made from hemp. The Greeks often decorated the two half discs of their yo-yos with pictures of their gods.
As a right of passage into adulthood the Ancient Greek children would give up their yo-yos. They gave them up in a grandiose and ceremonious act where they would place them in their family altar. The Greek children I am referring to were not ancient - that would be an oxymoron. They were children from ancient times. The relinquishing of their yo-yos was both an act of homage to their Gods and a declaration that they were grown up.
They were putting away their childish things.
The reference to the putting away of childish things is Biblical. It is from the Book of Corinthians - from the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle in fact.
It is the Epistle from the Apostle.
I like that a lot.
Paul said in Chapter 13 of Corinthians, "When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away childish things".
I assume that if Paul had a yo-yo he would have put it away when he grew up.
"Spake" is not a mis-spelling - it is the way that people spoke in biblical times.
In the late nineteenth century the yo-yo emerged in England - but it did not come from Greece - it came from Asia - from the Philippines in fact. In England it was not yet then named the yo-yo. The British called the yo-yo a 'bandalore'.
I neither know nor care why.
The toy moved across the British Channel to France where it also became very popular. The French called it 'l'emigrette'. Again, I neither know nor care why it was thus named.
The word yo-yo is actually Tagalog - which is the native language of the Philippines. Yo-yo means "come back" in Tagalog. In the Philippines the yo-yo was not a toy - it was used as a weapon. The Philippine version was very big and had sharp edges and it was embedded with stone studs and it was attached to thick and long ropes. The Filipinos flung it at their enemies or prey.
They aimed to kill.
The Americans started playing with the British bandalore in the 1860s. Coincidently a Philippine immigrant named Pedro Flores who introduced it to them. He introduced it as a toy - not a weapon. Flores became the first person to mass-produce toy yo-yos.
A bloke by the name of Donald Duncan came across Flores' toy. He liked what he saw and in 1929 he bought the rights from the Filipino. Duncan then trademarked the name Yo-Yo. Duncan's first contribution to improved yo-yo technology was the slip string. This consisted of a sliding loop around the axle that connected the two discs - rather than just a knot. With this enhancement the yo-yo could do a trick called a "sleep" for the first time. This was when the yo-yo span at the bottom of a 'drop'. A flick of the wrist spun it back up. I may have got my 'span' and 'spun' confused but I make no apologies.
I rarely do and you know what I mean.
Duncan made a deal with the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst to advertise the yo-yo in Hearst's newspapers and sales went through the roof.
They are still very popular.
My favourite niece Georgina says ‘yo’ a lot and so too does my boy Tom.
I do not and I never will.
Georgina had a boyfriend who was a gangster. I refer to him as Rory although that is not his real name. She tells me that he is now reformed. I have written about this relationship saga several times before so I will not elaborate any further. Rory’s real name is something similar to Rory however I have changed it in my writing not to protect his innocence - but to protect him from my brother Richard - who is the father of Georgina. My brother begrudgingly accepted this relationship. He had little choice in the matter.
Young love is unstoppable.
Rory demonstrated his commitment to my niece by having her name tattooed across his left buttock but unfortunately he mis-spelled it. Georgie has informed me that Rory has returned to school now and his spelling is improving. By all accounts he is now a good and well-behaved boy and he was also a loving and doting boyfriend. Georgina has informed me that Rory has put away his gangster things and I very much hope so for I love my niece.
Remember this Rory.
I know who you really are. I know where you live.
Whilst Tom was here in Singapore he spoke much of the time in gangsta talk. He and his mates would often congregate at my small apartment before they launched themselves into all night vodka drinking sessions in the nightclubs on the Island. They wore baseball caps backwards or sideways on their heads and made strange gestures at each other with their hands. They slapped each other with ‘high fives’ and bumped their chests together in greeting - and they "yo'd". It both amused and annoyed me.
In equal parts.
Conversing with Tom and his Singaporean gangsta friends was at times difficult and confusing for me.
"Where did you go last night Tom?" I enquired of him and his hooligan looking friends when I arrived home after work one evening.
There were five of them crammed into my tiny apartment.
"Avalon nightclub Pops"
"Don't call me Pops"
"How was it?"
"Is that good or bad?"
"It was phat Dad"
"It means good Pops"
"Don't call me Pops"
I am aware that the spelling of 'fat' is "Phat" because I have seen it written on walls and by Tom. He was once a graffiti artist - an infamous one. I know this because he was apprehended for it - more than once. Tom referred to his work as Art however the Authorities took a different view. They called it vandalism.
I tended to lean towards the Authorities view.
Tom was on a bit of journey back then. It was a somewhat wild one and he got a little lost. He went for a ride but fortunately he had a return ticket and he came back - but he remains a little intrepid and rash - and at times reckless. I don't mind this too much. To be honest I quite like it.
I was somewhat temerarious too when I was his age.
As long as he is safe.
I love my boy dearly.
I love him deeply.
I want him to explore life and the world and to take chances.
"What about you" I asked of one of Tom's friends who had a very pierced face.
"Did you have a good time last night as well?"
"Ith wath bumpin dude. Ith wath hardcore" he lisped back at me.
The boy's lisp was not a natural one. It was a direct effect of a tongue that was multiply pierced with pointed metal studs.
"Don't call me dude fucker" I responded.
"What is bumpin?" I enquired.
"Bumpin ith cool" he replied.
"What does your mother think of all that metal in your face?"
"Thee thinks ith is thick" he responded.
"Sick Dad" Tom interjected.
"Sick is right" I said.
'Sick' is gangsta talk for good. Fuck knows why.
"Alright I will take you young thugs down to the food court and buy you all some dinner before you start your vodka drinking binge again" I declared.
"But pull your pants up first so I don't have to look at the tops of your underpants"
The underpants of choice for junior wannabe gangstas appear to be the Calvin Klein brand. Perhaps the branded top elastic band has been designed for display but what do I know of such things?
The gaggle of gangsters all hitched up their pants.
"Do you want to eat Ramen?" I asked of them.
"We're down to it" a couple of them replied.
"We're down to it" actually means "We are up for it". Gangsta talk is often reversed.
"Can I bum some bumps from you Dad?" Tom enquired.
"What the fuck are you asking Tom?"
"Can you give me some of your cigarettes?"
"Absolutely not. Buy your own"
"I lost my wallet" Tom moaned.
"Ith goth ganked' his metal faced lisper mate added.
"Ganked?" I asked.
"Stolen" Tom replied.
"Bullshit Tom. It is over there on the table."
Tom retrieved his wallet and we all went down and ate Ramen at my local food court - Tom and me and four of his wannabe gangsta mates.
Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish. I like it and eat it often. Tom loves it. His gangsta friends seemed to enjoy it as well.
They woofed it down.
"How can you eat properly with all that metal in your tongue?" I asked the lisper.
Soup was dribbling down his chin and a noodle seemed to have wrapped it's way around one of his tongue studs.
"Iths OK" he grinned and slurped.
They ate their fill and I sent them on their way.
Tom asked me what my plans were for the evening and I told him that I was going to do what I normally do on weeknights. I planned on doing a little writing and then perhaps do some reading. I told Tom that I might also wander down to get a coffee and have a yack to whoever happened to be at Starbucks. Then I was going to go to bed and get up and go to work in the morning.
"You're juth kickin ith ath your crib? pierced faced boy asked
"Kickin it" is gangsta talk for relaxing and "crib" is home.
"I will kick you if you don't stop speaking to me like gangsta rappers" I replied.
"Go away boys and have a good time. Don't do anything stupid and Tom don't make a racket and wake me up when you come home in the wee hours"
"Sure Pops" Tom laughed.
"Don't call me Pops" I replied.
Then I went home.