[Ads-l] "Mental", n

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Wed Jan 25 21:24:09 EST 2017

>      > Is this why, in the Harry Potter books, one of Ron Weazley's favorite
>      > expressions is to say
>     > someone is "mental"? Joanne "J. K." Rowling lived in Glasgow for many
>     > years and may have
>     > picked up the term from Glasgow Urban Speech.
>     >
>     > - Jim Landau
>     >
>     Or visited New York in the 1950’s, when it was a standard insult to call
> someone “mental” (often accompanied by a circular motion with a finger next to
> one’s temple).
>     LH

Where Rowling encountered the word could possibly be determined by the sense Ron
Weazley attributes to it -- the Glasgow usage differs quite distinctly from the
more general (in geographical distribution as well as meaning) sense.

[As an aside, one should probably distinguish a hard man from someone who is
either mental or liable to go mental or right mental.  One should be cautious
around both, but  hard men are more predictable in their actions.]

Anyone who's interested in this area, and hasn't encountered his work, might
look to the work of the poet Tom Leonard. The linguistic register of his
material could probably be defined as Glasgow Working Class Catholic.  (Jim
Kelman, his novelist equivalent, came from a Protestant background, and draws on

Where it all started was "Six Glasgow Poems" in 1966 or 1967:

 [printed text]

Tom also has an interesting piece, called "Honest", on, inter alia (though he
doesn't and I suspect wouldn't use the term) eye-dialect, linked from (among
much else of his) here:


Robin Hamilton

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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