RARA-AVIS: Layer Cake--Brit slang

From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 02 Jun 2003

I figured out that I was wrong about "the Other People." It does not mean organized crime, as I originally guessed, but the cops.

Two other expressions have stymied me, though, not so much in their meaning as their derivations:

"A straight question deserves a straight answer, no Jack and Danny, . .

Okay, "Jack and Danny" must mean no hesitation or right away, but where does it come from? Who were Jack and Danny and what does their last name rhyme with, assuming it's rhyming slang?

"They're living in big drums, two new motors parked up outside, flashing the cash and even signing on the Kid Creole every fortnight. Balls they called it. Rank stupidity and greed I'd call it."

I get that it means they are living large, being conspicuous and calling attention to themselves. (The "hero" of this book is very careful to keep a low profile, tries to avoid dealing with people like the above.) But what about the specifics. Drums mean house, right? Where's that come from? And I'm guessing that "Kid Creole" means public assistance, rhyming with "dole"? But why Kid Creole? Were he and his Coconuts a lot more popular in the UK than they were in the US (many albums, several of them very good, but only one song I can think of that got any airplay)? I find it hard to believe he is a cultural reference point. I wouldn't be as surprised if it had been King Creole, since it got visibility as an Elvis film (one of the few good ones, directed by Michael Curtiz, of Casablanca and Mildred Pierce, among others, fame).

Decoding UK slang leads me to wonder if there is a similar problem with US slang for non-natives. Do those of you from other cultures find yourself struggling with US argot or is our exported culture so ubiquitous that you are already fluent in it?


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