for writers and readers….


letter bAll from the 1995 film Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead.

BOAT DRINKS was the good luck phrase used by a group of ex gangsters when they said goodbye to each other. It originated from their time in prison when they shared a fantasy of one day being rich enough to enjoy a drink on their own yacht.

BUCKWHEATS is the slang for an abnormal assassination – murder with torture attached.

Inventing phrases and special words for characters could be a way of bringing them to life and also a means of introducing the back story.

When I looked up Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead I discovered that the brilliant title comes from Warren Zevon’s song which plays as the film’s credits roll. Andy Garcia is the lead character  Jimmy the Saint, a name that comes from Bruce Springsteen’s song ‘Lost in the Flood’.  So, you can borrow but you can’t steal…

I won’t reveal the plot of What To Do in case you haven’t seen it but I thoroughly recommend it. On Wikipedia it is listed as neo noir (that’s grey, isn’t it?) crime and I think I’d label it as a violent tragic romance…does that sell it to you?

Can you think of any other books, films TV shows that has its own invented slang?
And other famous borrowings (that could never been described as plagiarism)?

13 comments on “B is for BOAT DRINKS, BUCKWHEATS and BACK STORY

  1. A.K.Andrew @artyyah
    April 2, 2013

    What a great idea to create your own phrases to enhance your work. I can’t think of a film that creates its own worded per se though things like The Wire certainly give a good insight into street lingo not nec. in everyday use.
    BTW I finally did the award post. Thanks again Bridget.

    • bridget whelan
      April 2, 2013

      I love the idea of a close (and closed) community creating their own vocabulary. If you need the phrase explained you’re an outsider. I think a lot of boarding schools have a similar internal language and for the writer it is a subtle way of referring to what happened before the story begins.
      Saw your beautiful blogger post – seven things about blogging. Good subject!

  2. tara tyler
    April 2, 2013

    i like your genre description for What to Do…

    and those phrases are stirring! looking forward to more!

    • bridget whelan
      April 2, 2013

      I have only seen the film once ages ago (but did Google it to make sure my memory wasn’t playing me false) and Boat Drinks has stayed with me. Forgotten about Buckwheats, probably because it is so horrible (punished ordered by Christopher Walken. Boo hiss!)

  3. Maria Johnson
    April 2, 2013

    This is such fun! My bestie and I created “Bizzz” in high school for when things were so enormously amazing that our heads buzzed. A little wordplay is indeed all in a day’s work….

  4. cindydwyer
    April 3, 2013

    Very interesting. I haven’t seen the movie, so thanks for sharing.

    • bridget whelan
      April 3, 2013

      Must watch it again to see if it’s as good as I remember but I think the way the plot works is interesting for writers.

  5. Wayne
    April 3, 2013

    Languages need flexibility

    • bridget whelan
      April 3, 2013

      Yes – they evolve , I guess. Never really understood how it works in countries where there is an official body that decrees what is a proper word and what isn’t.

  6. Shannon Lawrence
    April 3, 2013

    I’ve seriously considered creating my own slang for a post-apocalyptic story I wrote, but I’ve not done it yet. Firefly is an example of a show with their own made up slang and terms. And a Knight’s Tale. One set in the past, one in the future. I did love their use of the words.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

    • bridget whelan
      April 3, 2013

      My immediate thought is go for it!

      My only slight reservation is that some sci fi writers fall too deeply in love with the world they’ve created and leave the rest of us behind.

      That’s when they write sentences like: Xcyz ordered two wbg of zplat from the eej on the corner. “Agu,” he smirked, picking small rowls out of the zplat and flicking them with his emerald green fingers etc etc.

      I exaggerate, of course, but how often you can use special vocabulary is a big issue in many genres. So my second thought is go for it and see how it feels. Love your A-Z challenge by the way. Learning so much!

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This entry was posted on April 2, 2013 by in A-Z Challenge 2013 and tagged , , , , .


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