Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A false Peace

An egregious example of getting it wrong. David Peace, in his recent novel The Damned Utd, writes an argument between his fictionalised Brian Clough and Pete Taylor:

'So what are you going to do then?' asks Pete. 'Drive a taxi? Buy a pub?'
'Fuck off!'
'All mouth and no trousers,' says Pete. 'That's the real Cloughie!'
'Fuck off!' you shout and throw a pillow at him -
'All mouth and no fucking trousers,' he laughs. 'No fucking balls!'

Of course, it's fine to have a fictional character use the phrase 'All mouth and no trousers' if that is in character. However, the character here is a working-class man from Nottingham in the early 1970s. It's not in character, and it's anachronistic.

David Peace has been widely praised for his evocation of the language and atmosphere of his native West Riding in the 1970s and 80s. This then seems a rare error. I wonder if it was rather the fault of an keen-but-ignorant editor at his London publisher, Faber & Faber?

The 'No fucking balls!' extension might suggest so - it explicitly distinguishes between the surface gloss (the trousers) and the actual content, a distinction that is at the heart of the correctly-used expression, and suggests that Peace is aware of this. Contrary to the implicit assumptions of the bastardised phrase, 'trousers' is an antonym for 'balls', not a metonym.


Post a Comment

<< Home