[DWJ] Black Maria

Martha Hixon martha.hixon at mtsu.edu
Tue Dec 12 11:21:59 EST 2017


Yes, the book does mention a card game in the opening paragraph, which is
known most often over here as "Hearts," and so certainly Cathy is right,
that the card game is a primary reference--and "Black Bitch" does so fit
Maria, ha! Definitely more so than "Hearts," except ironically. So that
helps. I can't really figure out how a police van reference might fit into
the story other than as a vehicle that confines, restricts, or incarcerates
people who break the law and disrupt the social order--though that does
also fit Maria, doesn't it? She saw herself as the maintainer of social
order, and incarcerated people who disrupted it. I just had not ever come
across the term before--it is definitely not an American term ("paddy
wagon" is an old-fashioned American term, and a rather insulting ethnic
reference, in that it was a reference to the large Irish population in New
York City in the 19th century). Yes, the U.S. edition specifically says,
"You have to call this plague *Ma-rye-ah*. Aunt Maria insists you say her
name like that." ( 2nd and 3rd sentences in the first paragraph). That's
not in the UK edition? I've never heard anyone named "Maria" in real life
pronounce it that way; it's always "Ma REE a." I thought maybe that was
just a British or a class distinction, but that pronunciation does clearly
connect to the police van term, yes? If it's an old-fashioned way of saying
the name, that also does fit Maria.

I do think it's fun to find out tidbits of contexts and connections, small
things that a storyteller might have had in their head when writing. It
adds to the world building for me and to seeing the story as the author saw
it, which is important to me as a reader and as a scholar. And I find it
intriguing when those ideas and assumptions aren't universally shared by
readers. (Some of you who are also on the UK children's lit list might
remember that a year or so ago I asked about the house on the first page of
Anthony Browne's *Voices in the Park *and how British readers interpret or
see it in terms of First Voice's self identity. Americans don't get all the
nuances that Browne was visualizing, it seems--it's just a rather ordinary,
middle-class house to us. And my students always ask why First Voice
doesn't just let the dog--and Charles--out to run around in the yard at
home; the British concept of public parks is not one we have here in most
cities and towns).

Martha

Dr. Martha P. Hixon
Department of English
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
615.898.2599 / martha.hixon at mtsu.edu

On Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 12:00 AM, Catherine Butler <cathcbutler at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Diana would certainly have known the term as meaning a police van - it’s in
> fairly common usage in the UK. (I`ve never heard paddy wagon here - it
> feels very American to me.) However, the book mentions Black Maria as the
> name of a card game, so I take it that`s the primary reference, I've never
> played the game under that name, but imagine it's like the one I knew as a
> child, before I foreswore cards on the grounds that they're boring, under
> the charming name The Black Bitch, where the aim is not to hold the queen
> of spades.
>
> Cathy
>
> On Tuesday, 12 December 2017, Elizabeth Evans <er.evans at auckland.ac.nz>
> wrote:
>
> > Hello Martha
> >
> > In New Zealand in the 1960s and early 70s 'Black Maria' was an idiomatic
> > term for a police van, but I think 'Black Maria' was overtaken by the
> term
> > 'Paddy Wagon'.
> > I'm afraid I don't know what the current term is, but I wouldn't be
> > surprised if it has changed again.
> >
> > Regards
> > Elizabeth.
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Dwj [mailto:dwj-bounces at suberic.net] On Behalf Of Martha Hixon
> > Sent: Tuesday, 12 December 2017 3:29 PM
> > To: Diana Wynne Jones discussion <dwj at suberic.net>
> > Subject: [DWJ] Black Maria
> >
> > hi, everyone,
> >
> > I was reading *The Hanged Man *by P.N. Elrod, and ran across the term a
> > Black Maria, meaning a police van. I immediately thought of Diana's book
> by
> > that name, and was wondering whether anyone knows whether she was making
> > conscious connections when she used that term, or of course if anyone
> else
> > has made that connection, or has another insight on that title--?
> >
> > it's *Aunt Maria *here in the U.S., so I'm more familiar with that
> > title--and I confess, I was unfamiliar with that term as a reference to a
> > "real" thing, so "aunt" has always made more sense to me.
> >
> > Martha
> >
> >
> > Dr. Martha P. Hixon
> > Department of English
> > Middle Tennessee State University
> > Murfreesboro, TN 37132
> > 615.898.2599 / martha.hixon at mtsu.edu
> > _______________________________________________
> > Dwj mailing list
> > Dwj at suberic.net
> > http://www.suberic.net/mailman/listinfo/dwj
> > _______________________________________________
> > Dwj mailing list
> > Dwj at suberic.net
> > http://www.suberic.net/mailman/listinfo/dwj
> >
> _______________________________________________
> Dwj mailing list
> Dwj at suberic.net
> http://www.suberic.net/mailman/listinfo/dwj
>


More information about the Dwj mailing list