Q. on Canajun colloquialisms re: 'Whitey' Bulger Trial.

Reply Mon 15 Jul, 2013 01:26 am
I was reading an account of the 'Whitey' Bulger trial in Boston in a Canadian newspaper, The Vancouver Sun and ran across a couple of words that were incomprehensible to me. In an early paragraph it is alleged that Bulger might have been a "supergrass." Further down, he is said to have personally strangled a young woman because he feared that she "would grass."

Now, putting this all in context, I guess the expression means much the same as we in the USA mean by "snitch" or "rat", i.e. inform. But the words are used so nonchalantly that one must assume the writer assumes they will be readily and immediately understood by the Sun's readership. I've never heard those expressions in my life. Is this commonplace Canadian slang that we, south of the border, have been shielded from so far?

And, of yeah, while we're on the subect, how 'bout that Bulger trial? Any thoughts, comments? Here's ABC's background take on it.

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Reply Mon 15 Jul, 2013 01:37 am
@Lustig Andrei,
As a noun, a grass is a snitch. It can be used as a verb.

Maybe you should be reading some of that delightful John Mortimer stuff.
Lustig Andrei
Reply Mon 15 Jul, 2013 02:03 am
Well, I reckon you do learn something new each and every day. First time I've seen the word used in that sense.
Reply Mon 15 Jul, 2013 02:21 am
@Lustig Andrei,
Seriously, give Mortimer a try. I think you'll like Rumpole of the Bailey.
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Reply Mon 15 Jul, 2013 04:08 am
@Lustig Andrei,
It's believed to be derived from Cockney rhyming slang and first used around the 1930's.
Grass is shortened from grasshopper, which links with copper (police), or shopper, one who "shops" information to the police.
The term Supergrass, as far as I am aware, came into frequent usage during the late 1960's, early 70's, when informants were used to break major crime organisations (The Kray Twins, etc), or terrorist networks within the IRA.
A "Supergrass" would usually be someone from within, who would be a witness on behalf of the police in return for a lenient sentence and/or new identity.
Other terms are squealer, mole, snitch, stool pigeon etc, but grass is by far the most common term that is used nowadays, certainly in the London area.
I remember walking past a really nice little sports car (MG) in the early 70's, which had all four tyres slashed, the soft top cut in several places, and the word "grass" scratched into every metal panel around the entire car.

I don't think someone was very popular.....
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