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March 23, 2011 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Do you know of any written stories, fiction or otherwise (but not movies) with language usage similar to that in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome or The Dark Knight Returns? Example of what I'm looking for are after the break.

This was said by one of the characters in Mad Max:
"Time counts and keeps countin', and we knows now finding the trick of what's been and lost ain't no easy ride. But that's our trek, we gotta' travel it. And there ain't nobody knows where it's gonna' lead. Still in all, every night we does the tell, so that we 'member who we was and where we came from... but most of all we 'members the man that finded us, him that came the salvage.
Aother example is finding someone "half jumped by Mr. Dead" i.e. finding someone close to death.

The Dark Knight Returns example:
"Eyes downside spud" (i.e. look down, buddy)

Note how it's easy to tell what's being said in english, but the use of metaphors and anthropization of elements makes what's being said much more interesting and sets tone. What other written pieces of fiction or non fiction (but not movies) contain similar uses of slang and/or metaphors? It's ok if it's not scifi/fantasy or comics.

Not looking for stuff similar to Trainspotting, with its written examples of a thick accent.
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you're interested in fictional/future slang. Have you read A Clockwork Orange?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:07 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: First thing that came to mind was Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. It's set in the old west, though.

Also, is Raymond Chandler along the same lines? I think that reading Chandler now, everything might sound cliched, but that's only because Chandler-style writing became kind of an institution in hard-boiled detective stories.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:13 AM on March 23, 2011

I think Stephen King does a bunch of this (with mixed success) in the Dark Tower books.
posted by COBRA! at 11:16 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Not a direct example to your question, but Thieves Cant can sound alot like that.

It was used pretty extensively in Planescape: Torment
posted by empath at 11:16 AM on March 23, 2011

Best answer: Not sure whether you'll find it's a little too close to "thick-accent" territory, but you may be intrigued by Riddley Walker. The premise is that it takes place over two millennia after a nuclear event which reverted mankind back to a near stone-age level of technology. The author presumes that certain bits of folklore and remembered history from the time of the event would have ended up being transmitted orally going forward, and so the characters' culture is a hodgepodge of oral history, bits from the biography of St. Eustace, and Punch and Judy puppet shows.

The language also is somewhat heady -- it looks like it's in part inspired by a phonetic rendering of a Kentish accent, but also with a lot of the metaphor and such you're talking about as well, so it may be worth a look. (Don't worry if you find yourself rereading the first couple pages over a few times just acquainting yourself with the language, though; that's what I always do when I read it. It's worth it.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2011

Thirding the Dark Tower suggestions. I'd look to the fifth book (Wolves of the Calla) in particular.

Also, I don't know if it answers your question but if you're a fan of language, check out anything by Tom Robbins. Here's a quote from Jitterbug Perfume, describing a mountain:
Chomolungma was what the world looked like when the world stood on tiptoes. Pale from the strain, blue from the lack of oxygen. [...] The vegetation had all grown dizzy and slid down her back, snow swirled in perpetual spirals around her skull, she wore a glacier in her crotch like a sanitary napkin.
posted by fight or flight at 11:30 AM on March 23, 2011

I would also recommend Blood Meridian.
posted by mattbucher at 11:38 AM on March 23, 2011

You may want to look for works that make use of pidgin or creole English, set in colonies or former colonies? The mixture with local grammar forms and colloquialisms makes for some interesting constructions. I'm thinking of how localspeak in Hawaii and the Caribbean uses all English words, but sometimes takes some decoding.
posted by bartleby at 11:49 AM on March 23, 2011

Best answer: You might be interested in David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas - its different segments are written in versions of English ranging from the archaic to the futuristic, and the slang (and its prevalence) varies accordingly.
posted by unsub at 11:56 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gene Wolfe's Books of the New Sun.

Also thought of Riddley Walker (which I was forced to give up on, as unlike the first version of A Clockwork Orange I read, WTF no glossary?)
posted by Rash at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2011

Piggybacking on EmpressCallipygos' suggestion, Will Self's The Book of Dave might be of interest to you--it's thematically related to or inspired by Riddley Walker in some way...In any event it's a fabulous book.
posted by supercoollady at 12:11 PM on March 23, 2011

Feersum Endjinn:
"Woak up. Got dresd. Had brekfast. Spoke wif Ergates thi ant who sed itz juss been wurk wurk wurk 4 u lately master Bascule, Y dont u 1/2 a holiday? & I agreed & that woz how we decided we otter go 2 c Mr Zoliparia in thi I-ball ov thi gargoyle Rosbrith."
an yan "M" banks joined.
posted by bonehead at 1:15 PM on March 23, 2011

Best answer: Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels. Has the added benefit of being amazing.

Also, yes to Cloud Atlas.
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:23 PM on March 23, 2011

Cry your pardon, but I have to suggest the Dark Tower series as well.

Thankee-sai, and Long Days and Pleasant Nights to ya.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:26 PM on March 23, 2011

Frackin' Battlestar Galactica.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:26 PM on March 23, 2011

M.T. Anderson's Feed.
posted by zoetrope at 1:30 PM on March 23, 2011

Response by poster: but I have to suggest the Dark Tower series as well.

The first suggestion mentioned that King does what I'm looking for with mixed success. Would others agree or disagree.

I read the first book over a decade ago and didn't feel compelled to finish it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:33 PM on March 23, 2011

The later books in King's Dark Tower series do indeed have more stylized dialogue. King was still finding his footing in the first couple books, but I'd say by the third one or so, it picks up considerably.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:43 PM on March 23, 2011

I'd say what King does sort of mixes aspects of the metaphorical language you're looking for with the accent/dialect stuff that you're not. He does very well on the former, IMO, and occasionally goes overboard on the latter.

The first book is pretty different in tone and style from the rest of the series, so I wouldn't use that as an indicator of whether you'd like the rest (King himself recommends that people read 2 --> 1 --> 3 if they're really not feeling #1.)
posted by kagredon at 1:44 PM on March 23, 2011

Well, I think the series in general is considered kind of a mixed bag (I loved it, though), but it's hard to argue that he didn't at least do interesting things with language, especially in Book 5, which is basically an extended flashback. The other books are not exactly drenched in it like Cloud Atlas and Riddley Walker, but interesting bits of language and turns of phrase pop up at least occasionally. I'd actually say those two examples don't really fit your request, as they are much more "accent-y" than "language-y," if that makes sense. I love weird accents in novels, but I couldn't get more than a chapter into Riddley Walker, and I really tried.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:44 PM on March 23, 2011

Seconding Blood Meridian, which is a must read for a whole lot of reasons.
posted by neuron at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2011

Watership Down, perhaps? There are some made-up words for the rabbit language, but there are also things like folktales that use this sort of abstracted, metaphorical approach.
posted by dhartung at 2:35 PM on March 23, 2011

Jack Womack does this in several books (Random Acts of Senseless Violence, Terraplane). The language becomes more stylized as his books range farther into the future or further outside the main stream culture.
posted by Balna Watya at 2:42 PM on March 23, 2011

Seconding Jack Womack, especially Random Acts of Senseless Violence, in which the narrator starts out as a nice girl from a decent family and ends up rather differently. It's her diary which forms the book, and the change in language as she gets further from her middle classness is fantastic.
posted by itsjustanalias at 3:13 PM on March 23, 2011

I know you asked for not-movies, but...

If you like Riddley Walker - Deadsy, Door, text by Russell Hoban, animation by David Anderson.

Hoban's a genius.
posted by Grangousier at 4:24 PM on March 23, 2011

And here's the text to Deadsy.
posted by Grangousier at 4:29 PM on March 23, 2011

Raising Arizona.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:41 PM on March 23, 2011

I just started Riddley Walker this week -- it's a gem.
posted by mochapickle at 5:05 PM on March 23, 2011

You might like Damon Runyon. He's probably best known for writing the short stories that "Guys and Dolls" is based on. His slang and turns of phrase are delicious. Here's a lengthy quote, from his story "Lonely Heart" (via this New Yorker review):

It seems that one spring day, a character by the name of Nicely-Nicely Jones arrives in a ward in a hospital in the City of Newark, N.J., with such a severe case of pneumonia that the attending physician, who is a horse player at heart, and very absentminded, writes 100, 40 and 10 on the chart over Nicely-Nicely’s bed.

It comes out afterward that what the physician means is that it is 100 to 1 in his line that Nicely-Nicely does not recover at all, 40 to 1 that he will not last a week, and 10 to 1 that if he does get well he will never be the same again.

Well, Nicely-Nicely is greatly discouraged when he sees this price against him, because he is personally a chalk eater when it comes to price, a chalk eater being a character who always plays the short-priced favorites, and he can see that such a long shot as he is has very little chance to win. In fact, he is so discouraged that he does not even feel like taking a little of the price against him to show.

Afterward there is some criticism of Nicely-Nicely among the citizens around Mindy’s restaurant on Broadway, because he does not advise them of this marker, as these citizens are always willing to bet that what Nicely-Nicely dies of will be overfeeding and never anything small like pneumonia, for Nicely-Nicely is known far and wide as a character who dearly loves to commit eating.
posted by bokinney at 1:01 PM on March 24, 2011

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