'Pidgin-English'

Denotatively this is a square coloured in a shade of pale orange. Within it there is an irregular rectangle. This is a coral colour. Within the rectangle there are two signs composed of the signifiers PIDGIN ENGLISH. Between these is a small horizontal mark - .

Connotatively I can see what looks like a raggedy strip of sellotape stuck to perhaps, an old envelope. On the tape someone has written with a fountain pen, the words ‘Pidgin English’. The elegance of the hand, the round loopy characters, the antique colour of the ink, the pale blush of peach, and of course the words themselves, evoke an unexpected associative memory: Me, 1991, Trafalgar Square, birds, sunset. I am waiting for a date (Australian) to arrive. As I idle by the lion closest to St Martin ’s, I am approached by a stranger, possibly male, possibly Spanish, asking for directions in broken English. I am pleased that I can direct him/her and do so as date arrives. This leaves me feeling useful, confident and like a native Londoner (which I am not). Pleasant romantic date ensues.

But I am not sure if this really happened as, having lost zillions of little grey cells through clubbing and childbirth, my memory now speaks to me itself in Pidgin English. Spluttering half sentences, wafting puffs of atmosphere, it conveys only the essence of people and places from the past, leaving the current ‘Me’ to connotatively fill in the blanks. Sometimes I worry about this loss and decay, but generally, as a storyteller, I like it better this way.

Syd Moore Lecturer in Publishing, Essex University

Taken from: C.G Leland Collection, 'Pidgin-English' with notes from newspapers and oral sources
Author / Creator: Leland, C.G.
Date: 1875
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: Add. 39561