Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Bashi-bazouk

Bashi-bazouk, Captain Haddock, Tintin
Haddock in an unusually bright and undrunk mood

BASHI-BAZOUK

Noun. M19.
[Turkish başi bazuk lit. 'wrong-headed', from baş head + bozuk out of order.]

Hist. A mercenary of the Turkish irregulars, notorious for pillage and brutality.

Captain Haddock is one of the most popular and colourful characters in the Tintin series. A flawed but ultimately loyal companion of Tintin, Haddock is a veteran sailor in the merchant navy. Alcoholic and surly, he is prone to fits of temper and outbursts of language that presented Hergé, Tintin's author, with a problem. When Haddock was introduced in the 1940s, it would have been unthinkable to have printed actual swearwords. Therefore, Hergé gave Haddock an entire lexicon of appropriated but neutral swearwords (Hergé at times read a dictionary specifically for the purpose of acquiring new expletives for the cantankerous Captain). Bashi-bazouk is one of those faux expletives. Due to their reputation for indiscipline and brutality, bashi-bazouk has become a term in many languages that means an undisciplined and savage bandit, therefore carrying a genuinely negative meaning, as did many of his curses. It's never explained how Captain Haddock came to have such an expansive and esoteric vocabulary; one can only assume that Haddock, like his creator, was an avid dictionary reader (dictionary readers, of course, being an exceptionally cool bunch of people).
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Bashi-bazouk, Haddock, Tintin, Ostrogoth
A famous scene in which Haddock remonstrates with a wandering trader that suggested Webster's dictionary is superior to the Oxford English Dictionary
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10 comments:

  1. Captain Haddock has sailed all seven seas, that's how he got to know so many different words!

    Hehe, you think he's sober in that picture? look at his eyes, nothing sober about that!

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    1. Oh Bibi ... why do you have to over-simplify everything? Everyone knows that, during their long, lonely months at sea, deprived of all human contact and affection, sailors would resort to solo dictionary-reading in their cabins.

      It's a fact; probably the best fact ever! : o D

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  2. Blistering Barnacles! Thanks ed. Enjoyed that one.

    -c in s

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  3. Hi Ed
    I enjoyed this post as I've just started getting in to Tintin at the age of 33. As a massive Asterix fan I thought it had to be one or the other! It turns out I love both. Goscinny and Uderzo, the Asterix creators, got over the problem another way. When one of their characters is swearing it might say something like "X!@*X" in the caption. Although meaningless, it makes the point quite nicely I think.
    You said in your post that it would have been unthinkable for Herge to print actual swear words in the 1940s, I'm hoping that is still the case for anything aimed at a younger audience.
    M

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    1. Ah, they were making use of another great obscure word - grawlix...though I guess it hadn't been coined yet when they started with Asterix.

      I miss those comics. Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge did an amazing job of translating some seemingly-untranslatable jokes for the English editions.

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    2. I'm ashamed to say I've never read an Axterix comic. Like M, I was very partisan, and considered myself firmly in the Tintin camp and the Tintin camp only. As for grawlix - brilliant! I love it! That is definitely going into Lexicolatry (although it will be a couple of years before I get to, for %$!?$ sake)

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  4. I love this word already. I'm going to try to use it in at least 5 sentences a day. Although on second thoughts people will think I have Tourette syndrome...ah well BASHI-BAZOUK!

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    1. I'm glad you like it Dillon. Pedantically speaking, though, a sentence has to have both a subject and a predicate, so you've still got five bashi-bazouks to go to today. There's no shortcuts around here : o )

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    2. well let's refrain from speaking pedantically so

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