Larkin banking his screw
September 17, 2011 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Trying to decipher a line in a poem by Philip Larkin for a translation…

The poem is this:


Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
‘Why do you let me lie here wastefully?
I am all you never had of goods and sex.
You could get them still by writing a few cheques.’

So I look at others, what they do with theirs:
They certainly don’t keep it upstairs.
By now they’ve a second house and car and wife:
Clearly money has something to do with life

—In fact, they’ve a lot in common, if you enquire:
You can’t put off being young until you retire,
And however you bank your screw, the money you save
Won’t in the end buy you more than a shave.

I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down
From long french windows at a provincial town,
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

And the line I am having trouble with is "And however you bank your screw". What does that mean? is "to bank a screw" some sort of common English expression?

Any ideas would be appreciated.
posted by MrMisterio to Writing & Language (7 answers total)
Best answer:

7th definition -- 'wages, pay'
posted by empath at 4:48 PM on September 17, 2011

Best answer: Apparently it meant banking your wages (source). Wonderful poem.
posted by argonauta at 4:48 PM on September 17, 2011

Response by poster: argonauta, thanks for that link. I hadn't seen that blog and it's full of treasures!
posted by MrMisterio at 5:21 PM on September 17, 2011

You might also want to check to see if "screw" at the time that he wrote the poem had the same double meaning that it does today ("have sexual intercourse with").

"Money" was completed in 1973, so "screw" absolutely did have the double meaning then.
posted by maqsarian at 6:58 PM on September 17, 2011

Probably more so than it does now: I don't hear or see "screw" used for sexual intercourse much these days, but it seemed to be pretty common then. ("balling" is another term of the same vintage).
posted by jrochest at 7:49 PM on September 17, 2011

the joys of translation, especially poetry - "screw" in his poem did carry the freight of the sexual metaphor, but unless the language you're translating it into has a comparable word/idiom, you're probably going to have to go with the meaning of "earn your wages" or the meaning of that section is going to fall apart. If you said something like "gather your sexual intercourse," that's not going to make a lot of sense.

Even in 1973, I would say that most people would have seen the phrase as quite archaic (perhaps more common in UK English), and the sexual subtext would have been unmistakable, but to come out and SAY it would be rather contrary to Larkin's intent.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:03 PM on September 17, 2011

Yeah, this is a Brit-ism for wages. If you're on a good salary we say you're "on a good screw". Or we used to. It's probably seen as a bit of an old-fashioned idiom now.
posted by Decani at 12:39 AM on September 18, 2011

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