I don’t believe it’s any secret that English as a whole has gone a bit downhill in the past century or so. As we descend into the cavernous Language Trench, monstrosities such as “yolo” and “on fleek” begin to be heard constantly and are even seen in professional writing. It’s almost enough to cause physical pain. I am not condemning slang by any means. I readily confess to using such terms such as “noob”, “legit” and “pwned” when the occasion calls for it. And as a child of two Californians, I have addressed practically everyone I know as “dude” at some point.
However, among these terms there is still room for the occasional classy one-liner to really make one’s statements pop. On Slang for the Sophisticate, you will learn expressive and amusing phrases from classic books, plays, poems and films that can be injected into any conversation. This segment is all about making speech classier and cooler at the same time.
As Shakespeare contributed so much to his own era’s slang, I thought we’d take a line from him first. Let’s start with a line from one of my aforementioned favorite works, Macbeth.
LADY MACBETH: …Are you a man?
MACBETH: Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that
Which might appal the devil.
There’s bad, and then there’s ‘appall the devil’ bad. This line, used by Macbeth to describe the haunting, bloody vision of the man he has just had murdered, perfectly expresses a breathtaking horror which adjectives such as ‘ugly’ or ‘nasty’ simply leave lacking. Thrown into casual conversation, the line is sure to get amused laughs of just the right kind from Shakespeare Nerds and Shakespeare Noobs alike. Ugly shirt you found at the store? It would have appalled the devil. Grandma painted her bathroom in mustard yellow? That color would appall the devil, dude. Bonus points are awarded if you can manage to work in that you’re bold for looking upon the object in question.
There seems to be a surprisingly slim range of phrases to properly express horror and disgust in modern speech. You can say something is “horrible” or “terrible” and that is about where the average vocabulary seems to reach its limit. With this line from the classic tragedy, however, our troubles are over.
I’ve seen the new modern sculpture they put up in the park, and I’m telling you, that brass atrocity would appall the devil.
I let my niece do my makeup for fun, and by the time she was finished, my face would have appalled the devil.
You saw my ex? Well, you’re a bold one, to look on that which might appall the devil.
Can you think of a recent conversation where this line might have been useful?