Just as the Inuit, current residents of the Frozen North are reputed to have over a hundred words for snow, the English equip themselves with a similar number of utterances to describe the permanent state of irritability that so many seem to inhabit. ‘Annoyed’ of course is a word that is recognizable in any English speaking country, but here you can also be a bit put out, browned off, hacked off, and at the end of your tether. As with all things English, there is a class element to all this. One would never have the hump (prounounced ‘thee ‘ump’), for example but one may be cheesed off, employing slang to indicate how one’s nose has been put out of joint. As well as having your nose put out of joint, there are other medical improbabilities. A person can swallow the dummy, have hissy fit, see his or her arse(although, admittedly this is a regional specialization), or be beside yourself. After getting up on the wrong side of the bed, you can be in a nark, a strop, or mood. Narks and strops can also be thrown, just like tantrums and wobblers.
If freezing someone out by giving them the cold shoulder does’nt work you can also give them a piece of your mind, the end of your tongue or a flea in the ear, or you can just take umbrage after someone else has taken a liberty or taken the piss with you. The incredible variety and diversity of English swearing, which we wont go into here, adds to the list, as do the equally diverse regional dialects.
Any article on the art of being mildly irritated, English style, cannot ignore the famous “tut” language of the middle classes. As hard to master as the “klick” languages of the San and other Southern African tribes, the “tut” is not one simple expression but is in fact an emerging language of its own, forged, perhaps, in the fires of mass commuting but now employed in so many areas of daily life. As an example, the Crosstowner is frequently tutted at in Leeds station, and on the train, by people who do not expect to encounter it. This is a short sharp “tut”, reserved for inaminate objects that present an obstacle. To illustrate, lets pretend that Jane from Accounts Receivables is hurrying for her train, and instead of observing her route ahead, she is concentrating on the timetable displays overhead. Rapt attention fixed on the overhead timetable and the conversations she has been having on her cellphone for the last forty minutes, she collides with the back wheel of the Crosstowner. In these circumstances, Jane will probably deliver the short sharp “tut”, then move rapidly onwards, “tutting” at escalators, soft drinks machines, platform seating and lampposts that present, to her, similar obstacles and that she collides with on a nightly basis. “Who put that there?” she seems to be expressing.
A longer “tttutttt!” followed by a huff, then the phrase “Charming” is a signal of real displeasure, aimed at, but never said to, a particular individual. It is an announcement rather than the commencement of a dialogue. As I think I have reported before, typical usage of this “tut” might occur as Jane’s train arrives. She positions herself right in front of the train doors, blocking any passengers who might be alighting. When the door opens she shuffles back the merest millimeter, leaving just enough space that emerging passengers are jostled and shouldered. If however, one of the passengers is equipped with a Crosstowner and resolutely uses its handlebars as a battering ram, forcing Jane and her hordes backward so that a clear pathway allows the alighters to alight in comfort, while all the time fixing them square in the eye with a steely gaze, Jane will “tttutttt!” mightily, followed by “Charming”. But she will move.
Mr Gold “tutted” irritably as I announced who I was during our telephone conversation. His tone and language indicated one who was most definitely more than a bit put out, and as the conversation proceeded, he continued to be in a strop. The reason for his annoyance was that we are giving him a quarter of a million dollars for his client’s near derelict property, thus delivering his client the paltry sum of two hundred and ten thousand dollars profit. But, Mr Gold has to actually do something to earn his cut.
“To be perfectly honest, Mr Nickson” [sigh] “I would not have sold you this property under these terms.”
“But you are going to, right?”
Tut. “Yes, we are trying to honour our agreement. The tenants have been served notice to quit, and that should be effective on February, 19th. Heavens know where they’ll go. This should have been sold to you with sitting tenants, and you should have had to deal with it if you wanted them out”
“Not my problem though, is it? Can I ask you just to clarify, one more time, that you foresee no problem with the tenants moving out, and if there is, your company will deal with it?”
Tttuttt. “Yes. I’ve told you. If they do not quit, we will take them to court. Do I have to say it again? ”
“No, it’s just that we have been trying to get some clarity from your company for some time, and had no luck. So let me just see, let me check my notes here. Good. And your company will handle the court action?”.
Tttttttttuuuuuuuuttttt!!!! “Yes. Is there anything else?”
I am feeling particularly stupid today, so I ask Mr Gold one more time if the sale is “on”, which he confirms before slamming the phone down.
We had today begun to look at other houses, and we had concluded that our original target, the derelict, was still the best bargain. However, neither I, nor our crack legal team had been able to obtain clear information form the sellers agents as to what was going on.
Now, in short, we are just waiting until the tenants leave, or the 19th February, whichever is the sooner. I don’t want to count my chickens before they are firmly in the horses mouth, but it looks like the house sale may still be ‘on’. I dig out my plans for a solar roof, and go over the specs one more time. Happy renovating. Possibly.