Bloody ’ell, wotcha bleedin’ attitude

Posted on Mon 19 Mar 2012 @ 11.27am UTC




AS SOME OF YOU have gathered already, my other blog (The Naked Listener’s Weblog) is on furlough until further notice.

(If perchance you are unfamiliar with the word furlough, you should head straight to this article instead. Then go furlough yourself afterwards.)

My upstairs neighbour Johnny remarked that the arseholes people who have upset me so much that I had to scrub my own blog must have been … — well, Johnny was using the colloquial Chinese phrase to describe the attitude (aptly) and asked what the English word was instead of having to use words like motherf*cker (because his school doesn’t include the word mother in the curriculum).

That’s where today’s word comes in.

bloody-minded

This word is pronounced [bluhd-ee-mahyn-did] [IPA /ˈblʌdiˈmaɪndɪd/] with the stress on first and third syllables.

This word ranks high in Englishness because it is originally a colloquial British word. Translators whom I work with tell me bloody-minded can be especially difficult to render in many other languages. It need not be, and we’ll come to that a little later.

Hyphenated or unhyphenated? Both forms are correct, although the modern trend is to use the solid (unhyphenated) form. The first form mentioned below will indicate which is more usual.

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bloodyminded, bloody-minded (adjective)

The adjective is most commonly used. The trend is to use the unhyphenated form, although the hyphenated form is still rather common in British English.

CURRENT MEANING

The absolute quickest way to explain this word is arsehole-/asshole-minded. If we have some education, we could try arseholey or asshole-ish.

For the last 150 to 200 years, nearly all English speakers recognise bloodyminded to mean deliberately obstructive and unhelpful, or stubbornly obstructive and unwilling to cooperate, or perversely cantakerous. In a word, disobliging.

Originally a British colloquialism, that has been the primary meaning of the word certainly for over 100 years, completely superseding the earlier meaning (below) in all varieties of English. From highly educated professors to rube hillbillies in Kentucky to illiterate child-soldiers in Africa, all use this word to mean asshole-minded.

Examples:—

The … unions … have never been as bloody-minded about
demarcation as the shipbuilders. (Spectator)

The manager was being bloodyminded when he refused
out of spite to grant special leave to Jane.

My dear friend has been mistreated by bloody-minded people.

He was just being bloodyminded. (Disobliging)

“Some people, everybody gets a bit bloody-minded sometimes, but then if you’re living with somebody, you’ve got an ideal opportunity to be bloody-minded all the time.”
(Rachel Lawes, “Marriage: an analysis of discourse,” Interview 19 (page 13), in British Journal of Social Psychology, March 1999, volume 38, issue 1, pages 1-20. Published by the British Psychological Society via John Wiley & Son Ltd. | Link)

Synonyms, near-synonyms and related words:

  • annoying, antagonistic, awkward
  • combative, contentious, contrary, cussed
  • despiteful, difficult, discordant, disobliging
  • exasperating
  • hateful
  • intractable
  • malevolent, malicious, malign, malignant, mean
  • nasty
  • obstructive
  • perverse
  • quarrelsome
  • scrappy, spiteful, stubborn
  • truculent
  • uncooperative, unhelpful, unreasonable, unregenerate

Synonymous phrases:

  • deliberately obstructive and unhelpful
  • tenaciously unwilling
  • marked by tenacious unwillingness to yield

Antonyms: amiable, good-humoured, good-natured, good-tempered

EARLIER MEANING

The earlier meaning is ready and willing to accept bloodshed or to resort to violence. In other words, disposed to warfare and bloodshed.

'Old Blood and Guts' - his guts, our blood

This earlier meaning is now rarely used. Instead we would more usually use words such as bloodthirsty, cold-blooded, bellicose, sadistic or vicious — even better, the unambiguous phrase marked by eagerness to resort to violence and bloodshed.

Examples:—

“… forging alliances with bloody-minded tyrants” (Lewis H. Lapham) (Accepting bloodshed)

“bloody-minded anarchists” (Violent)

“A faithful narrative of the most wicked and inhuman transactions of that bloody-minded gang of thief-takers alias thief-makers, Macdaniel, Berry, Salmon, Eagan, alias Gahagan: with a curious print of Macdaniel as also of that notorious accomplice of theirs, Mary Jones, and others: shewing the diabolical arts by them practised to get innocent persons convicted for robberies and to share amongst themselves the rewards paid for such convictions: by what stroke of providence it was that the compiler of this narrative became acquainted with this mystery of iniquity: the unwearied diligence by him made use of to get to the bottom of it, the manner of his counter-acting those worst of villains”
(Title of a book by Joseph Cox and S. MacDaniel; printed in London for Joseph Cox and sold by M. Mechell, 1756)

First of all, the Cox & MacDaniel book used bloody-minded in the sense of willingness to resort to violence. Second, don’t write books with titles like that — we don’t live in Georgian times anymore (or the ‘Colonial Period’ in the case of our American cousins). I reckon Messrs. Cox and McDaniel are pretty bloodyminded to use a long, overbearing book title like that.

Important:Sometimes bloodyminded is used on purpose in its original sense, such as this news article from an Australian newspaper:

‘Boatloads of bloody-minded pacifists’ | The Daily Telegraph (Australia) | 2 June 2010

The writer (Andrew Bolt) probably wasn’t being bloodyminded when he used bloody-minded in the earlier sense of disposed to violence and bloodshed. It is rare to see that word being used like that nowadays, and even rarer in a news story.

One possible reason might be that the writer wanted to show the pacifists he mentioned not only are obstructive (in the current sense) but bloodthirsty (the original sense). In all, the writer was using bloody-minded for special effect.

The meaning might be clear enough to most natural-born English speakers, especially if they go down a quarter of the way into the news story — but that’s no guarantee. Non-native English users should stop being bloodyminded and stick to the current meaning in all possible circumstances.

Synonyms, near-synonyms and related words:

  • aggressive, assertive
  • barbaric, barbarous, bellicose, belligerent, bloodthirsty, blood-stained, brutal
  • cold-blooded, cruel
  • fell, fierce
  • gladiatorial, gory, grim
  • heartless, hostile
  • inhumane
  • merciless
  • pitiless, pugnacious
  • ruthless
  • sadistic, sanguinary (don’t confuse with sanguine or sanguineous), savage
  • vicious, violent
  • wanton

Synonymous phrases:

  • disposed to violence and bloodshed
  • marked by eagerness to resort to violence and bloodshed
  • having or covered with or accompanied by blood

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bloodymindedness, bloody-mindedness (noun)

This uncountable (i.e. mass) noun is a back formation from the adjective.

It means the quality or condition of being deliberately obstructive or unhelpful. This is the only meaning and it takes it from the current meaning of the adjective.

High-speed redefinition would be assholeness or assholery — even assholishness for the really educated among us.

Or simply a bad muthaf@cking attitude.

Bloodymindedness in no way carries the earlier meaning of the adjective — don’t make that mistake just because you bloodymindedly see bloody- in that word.

* * *

bloody-mindedly, bloodymindedly (adverb)

The meaning of this adverb also takes from the current meaning of the adjective — to do something in a deliberately obstructive or unhelpful manner.

In other words, doing it like an arsehole (asshole) — or assholedly or assholishly.

The hyphenated form is still the more usual in all varieties of English.

Again, the general rule for good, vigorous English is to avoid assholishly load your speech or writing with adverbs:—

He did it bloodymindedly. (Latinate flavour)

He did it in a bloodyminded way. (Anglo-Saxon flavour)

The modern trend (for the past 150 to 200 years) is to go with the Anglo-Saxon flavour. It is a simpler, more direct way of expression and produces a cleaner, crisper English. It also makes your English sound more ‘native.’

Latin is no longer a school subject, so a preference for latinate sentences is usually a mark of the bloodymindedness of these bloodyminded arseholes who never actually took Latin lessons.

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WORD ORIGINS

Bloodyminded dates from 1575-85.

It was first used (as an adjective: “bloudie minded”) in 1584 in Gwyndonius by Richard Greene.

Eight years later in 1592, Shakespeare started using the modern-looking bloody-minded (in spelling and in meaning) in King Henry VI, Part III.

The highly respected The Phrase Finder by Gary Martin says bloodyminded in our modern sense of obstructiveness dates only from March 1934, from James Agate in The Sunday Times. This cannot be correct since there are many pieces of writing published decades before 1934 that uses bloodyminded to mean obstructiveness.

Bloodyminded was already in use with our modern sense around 430 years ago:—

Shakespeare: I supplicate your honour to impart unto me, in your wisdom, the mode and means whereby I may surcease to be disgraceful to the country.

Sir Thomas: I am not bloody-minded. First, thou shalt have the fairest and fullest examination. Much hath been deposed against thee; something may come forth for thy advantage. I will not thy death; thou shalt not die. The laws have loopholes, like castles, both to shoot from and to let folks down.

(Quoted from Walter Sage Landor, Citation and Examination of William Shakespeare, Etc., with an introduction by Hamilton Wright Mabie, 1582-99, page 77. (Classic Reprint Series by Forgotten Books, http://www.forgottenbooks.org) | Link)

If Sir Thomas’s bloody-minded had been in the sense of warfare and bloodshed, then it didn’t fit in with Shakespeare’s words preceding it — or his own word “examination” in the same breath. Therefore Sir Thomas had to have been using bloody-minded in our modern sense — a usage also supported by Sir Thomas’s last line “The laws have loopholes,…” All these indicators show that our modern meaning of obstructiveness goes way further back in history than James Agate in 1934.

The main trouble with most academics is that they often take the first citation recorded by another academic (also invariably in an academic work) and disregard everything else. Fortunately, Gary Martin and The Phrase Finder rarely does that, so that foul-up is an isolated case.

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TRANSLATORS BEWARE

Why is bloodyminded such a hot potato for translators? Why do they translate it wrong so often?

The first problem is that almost all the English dictionaries still give an outdated definition (blood and violence), which no one in living memory ever uses anymore. Then the outdated definition carries over to the bilingual dictionaries for the other languages. This kind of asshole-ish behaviour is precisely the definition of bloodyminded.

The second problem is that bloodyminded in most other European languages actually mean ‘disposed to bloodshed and violence.’ French, German, Italian and many other European languages have other words or phrases to describe the same asshole-mindedness that bloodyminded describes.

Remember, bloodyminded originally was a British colloquialism, therefore other European language don’t necessarily converge with it in meaning.

The third problem is that Asian lexicographers and translators usually take a strict interpretation when translating from source to target (despite their claims to the contrary). In most Asian languages, the presence of the word blood usually signifies blood (literally) and violence, cruelty or viciousness (connotatively). Again, remember the English word bloodyminded is a British colloquialism, so a strict interpretation breaks down here.

When you work with translators who work on high-speed, time-limited stock flotation or legal markups for bloodyminded bankers, warmongering lawyers, scrappy accountants and obstructive government officials as I do, you tend to put your trust in those high-speed practical-minded translators over those slower-moving translators in academia who work on academic papers or literary works with more open-ended leisurely timeframes.

IN CHINESE

Translators need to know that the actual Chinese translation of both bloodyminded and bloodymindedness is 臭檔 (SChi 臭档) (Mandarin chòu dàng [Pinyin: chou4 dang3] or Cantonese chau dong [Jyutping: cau3 dong2]).

Over the years, several translators (each with 25 to 30 years of experience) have been telling me the two words have often been mistranslated as:—

  • bloodyminded = 血腥的頭腦 xuè xīng de tóu nǎo (literally, ‘bloodthirsty in mind’)
  • bloodymindedness = 血淋淋的意識 (血淋淋的意识) xiě lín lín de yì shí (‘blood-splattered in intent’)
  • bloodymindedness = 血腥的胸襟 xuè xīng de xiōng jīn (‘bloody breadth of mind’)

What kind of 'bloodyminded' youths are these?

They could have saved their breath — even a non-Chinese reader/writer like me know they’re butchered translations.

These and other mistranslations that contain 血 (‘blood’) are often done on the strength of the bloody- element in the English word. Bloodyminded has nothing to do with blood, whichever the blood group, whatever the nationality.

By themselves, the ‘blood’ mistranslations look as though they converge with the outdated English meanings — but that’s as far as it artificially goes.

Also by themselves, they don’t make sense even in Chinese. When did the Chinese ever describe an idea like ‘intent upon blood and violence’ as 血腥的胸襟? It’s never described like that in Chinese anyway — unless it’s a Chinese arty art movie produced by Hongkywood.

At the end of the day, they are wilfully negligent mistakes produced by mechanistic translators. Just because you can read the Chinese characters or able to translate it verbatim into such doesn’t make it Chinese. Learn translation, or starve.

Personal remark: I agree with my translators that those ‘blood’ translations aren’t worth any commendation or recognition, but I’m putting them in just to show you how bad things can get. They’re lazy pieces of work and wrong on so many levels. It also denegrates the word c*nt, which happens to be an overqualifier when applied to these translator personages.

Protip: Watch some Mandarin-speaking Hong Kong martial-arts movies produced in the 1960s by Taiwanese directors and Japanese crews, and you’ll find the proper Chinese phraseology in the subtitles for ‘intent upon blood and violence.’ Derp. You’ll also find in those movies how they translated chòu dàng 臭檔 into English. Hurr durr.

DO NOT on any account translate bloodyminded or bloodymindedness as anything connected with 血 (‘blood’) — or you’ll find a sudden need to look for some other line of employment. Learn translation, or starve.

IN FRENCH

The French phrase is qui fait des difficultés (‘bloodyminded’) is almost identical to the current English meaning, whereas esprit sanglante (bloodymindedness) is closer to the earlier meaning.

The real killer is to be asked, “Why do you not speak French? Are you stupid or English?” It’s proof that you’re either astoundingly stupid or have become totally anglicised, which comes to the same thing.

IN GERMAN

Tricky in German. Sturheit (‘stubbornness’) has the closest meaning to bloodymindedness — close, but no cigar. The alternative blutigen Aufgeschlossenheit (literally, ‘bloody openmindedness’) is probably as alien as fish language to German speakers.

And then comes a unisex-looking German guy inviting you to join him in the nearest favourite toilet for ‘extra’ German opera voice lessons.

IN ITALIAN

Bloodyminded is usually translated into Italian as sanguinario (‘bloodthirsty’), which again is akin to the outdated English meaning. So sanguinario basically means a bloodthirsty psychopathic state of mind. Some bloodyminded individuals may also be psychopaths, but most are just tiresome and unhelpful in a spiteful sort of way.

Bloodymindedness is mentale sanguinosa (‘blood mentality’) — which, come to think of it, also sounds like a psychopathic state of mind and probably isn’t too far removed from the truth about people with a bloodyminded attitude.

The quicker Italian sign language is just to point to your head, show your middle finger and then point at the asshole in question to indicate that person’s state of mind to others.

IN JAPANESE

Like the Chinese, the Japanese also frequently mistranslate bloodyminded and bloodymindedness. Someone told me the nearest equivalent for both is kyōakuna 凶悪な (‘heinous’), but in reality that would be tāo tiān 滔天 (‘harrowing’) in Chinese — another dead-end.

We could do a literal translation of Chinese chòu dàng 臭檔 into Japanese nioi fairu 臭いファイル, but I seriously doubt any Japanese speaker would understand that.

The Japanese mistranslations are usually chimamire no kokoro 血まみれの心 (‘bloody hearted’) or ryūketsu no maindo 流血のマインド (‘bloody mind’). Again, the same mechanistic translation attitude of Chinese translators.

Since I’ve forgotten all my Japanese, I can’t say if any of the above means anywhere close to the English words.

At the end of the day, it might be better just to talk ‘supersonic Japanese’: yell arsehole/asshole (asuhōru in Japanese) and slap the person around to get the point across quicker.

Spanish Sign Language: mano in fica

IN SPANISH

Bloodymindedness is empecinamiento (masculine noun) meaning ‘stubbornness,’ as in:—

Lo hizo sólo para fastidiar empecinamiento.
(He did it out of sheer bloodymindedness.)

More often, it is translated as malintencionado (‘malicious’) or malicia (‘maliciousness’), which are as good and accurate a translation as any to describe that asshole-mindedness.

Alternatively, just use the proverbial Spanish sign language (photo) as high-speed translation.

IN VIETNAMESE (AND CAMBODIAN)

DON’T. If you’re bloodyminded with the Vietnamese or Cambodians, they really will physically bleed you to death. The Cambodians are especially well experienced in this regard. These are peace-loving, tranquil people who will suddenly become terrifyingly warlike (bloodyminded in the earlier sense of the word) if you piss them off.

IN WELSH

Bloodyminded is gwaedlyd eu meddwl, whose meaning is same as English.

More usually, though, 99% of Welshmen would simply use the English word (in perfectly enunciated English), as in:—

“Sod off! And take your bloodymindedness back to England with yah!”

And then they kick your teeth in or bury you alive in the flint hills of North Wales.

*

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TRIVIA

Incidentally, there is a Chicago band called BLOODYMINDED (unhyphenated, all caps) formed in New York in 1995. They do heavy electronic, experimental, industrial, punk and noise music.

Trust me, they’re not bloodyminded at all.

© Learn English or Starve, 2012.

Images: Asshole via c4c | General George S. Patton by cliff1066 on Flickr via Fotopedia | Shotgun via Internet Blog | Dislike Middle Finger via c4c | Shakespeare on a finger via Neatoshop | ‘A bad attitude is a terrible thing to waste’ via Zazzle | Bloodyminded youths via China Daily | You Suck Dislike Hate You via c4c | Spanish Sign Language via Project Gutenberg | Bad Attitude, Screw ‘Em via Melissa Galt.

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