When you’re at school certain insults do the rounds like a weird kind of grammatical virus. Two that stand out for me are “wassock” and “pranite”, both of which became very popular in the early eighties and were slung about my junior school playground like disyllabic Molotov cocktails.
But the one that caught on the most and had the biggest impact was “der-brain”. Anyone who did or said anything remotely idiotic (which when you are 10 or 11 is a regular occurrence) was declaimed in as loud a voice as possible as being a “der-brain”. Adopting a heavily spasticated tone of voice was also thought de rigeur when using this insult.
I’m sure this insult went national during the eighties and was heard in playgrounds (and building sites) all over the land. However, what I am sure was a purely local phenomenon was the transmutation that occurred one day when in my school playground at least “der-brain” suddenly morphed into “der-bain”. The meaning stayed the same but the loss of that single “r” somehow rendered the insult (a) funnier and (b) more effective. Being labelled a “der-bain” was a good degree worse than being labelled a “der-brain”.
Eventually, as these things do, these schoolyard insults died away to be replaced with boring, standardized, post puberty expletive combinations. Insulting someone became a cold and precise undertaking with no real room for imagination or the invention of new language forms. So “der-brain” – and indeed “der-bain” – died a natural death and dropped away from the general lexicon of childhood foulmouthedness.
Until last Sunday.
I must have dug “der-bain” out of my memory and uttered it at home or talked about it to Karen... who knows... but suddenly I heard it coming out of the mouth of Ben, my eldest boy. He was playing in the bath with some minifigures while I did some chores in the office and I could hear him re-enacting various scenes from Doctor Who. David Tennant’s last episode featuring the return of the Timelords (and a viciously spitting Timothy Dalton) had obviously made a big impression.
The improvised script when something like this:
Timelords: kneel before us petty humans! You are no match for us – we are far cleverer than you are and you are nothing!
Humans: no we’re not; we’re cleverer than you think and we will defeat you, you der-bains...!
I have to say I stumbled in my chores and had to stifle a giggle. It took me right back to the playground. I am now wondering if, with some clever auto-suggestion, I can resurrect “wassock” and “pranite” for a new generation.
In the meantime, if Steven Moffatt and the BBC would like to purchase a brand new Doctor Who script with cool playground lingo they can contact me via this blog.