Round up the usual perverts
‘Some men get the whole world,’ Kim Basinger says. ‘Others get an ex-hooker and a trip to Arizona.’ The camera pauses on the man who has got the world, an ambitious, heroic, decorated and promoted policeman. The actor is Guy Pearce, his face narrow and eager, all sharp planes and angles. He doesn’t look too pleased. The film ends.
Vol. 20 No. 2 · 22 January 1998
I’m sure I’m not alone in much admiring Michael Wood’s review of LA Confidential (LRB, 1 January). But I wouldn’t think of proposing marriage to him. When I bought a paperback copy of James Ellroy’s book a month or so ago, it had two covers. One was the usual card affair, with author, title and doubtfully illustrative photo. The other, though the film has not yet been released in Italy, had a dustjacket with the movie promo montage and, on the back, a cast list, just like a video cassette. Is this better or worse than flogging a book with a cover using a film or TV still? Am I alone in being disconcerted by the freedom this pick-a-back approach thrusts on me?
Also, am I the only person not to be familiar with the verb and noun ‘hink’? It appears very often in LA Confidential, but I couldn’t fix on its meaning. Can Michael Wood, or Jenny Diski with her whizzy new dictionary, or even James Ellroy, tell me?
University of Bergamo
Vol. 20 No. 5 · 5 March 1998
In response to Richard Davies’s question (Letters, 22 January) about the meaning of the word hink in James Ellroy’s novel, LA Confidential, the slang word hincty/hinkty/ hink(y) meaning ‘snobbish, aloof, haughty’, found its way into undercover/police jargon as hink(y) – a word that can mean a number of things, such as ‘petty, cheap, nervous, jumpy, cautious, suspicious’ etc. I (t)hink that there must be some connection between the slang word hincty/hinkty/ hink(y) and words such as hinkin (Old Norse) meaning ‘to limp, falter, hobble’; hink (Scots obs.) meaning ‘to falter, misgive, hesitate’; and inca (Old English) meaning ‘to doubt, question’.
Vol. 20 No. 9 · 7 May 1998
I was interested in S.E. Yousoufian’s assertion (Letters, 5 March) that the word hink, meaning ‘to falter, misgive, hesitate’, is now obsolete in Scotland. In fact, an apparent homonym is still in widespread use in the West of Scotland, where hink serves as a Glaswegian version of ‘think’. Michael Munro, in his guide to current Glasgow usage, The Patter (1985), cites the example: ‘Ah hink you’re smashin, so Ah dae.’ Curiously, in the same reference work, Munro gives the Glaswegian meaning of thought (not hought) as ‘something involving great effort or something approached with reluctance’, as in ‘Aye, it’s a thought gettin up these dark mornins.’ Perhaps Mr Yousoufian’s obsolete Scots word has a closer link with the contemporary Glaswegian hink after all.
Vol. 20 No. 10 · 21 May 1998
I’m touched at the trouble S.E. Yousoufian and Annalena McAfee (Letters, 7 May) have taken in checking their dictionaries for the word hink. Still, what they have come up with doesn’t really resolve my doubts about this use: ‘Call it busy work for Dudley – maybe Cindy was hinked on more than the cash she held back’ (LA Confidential, p. 158); or this: ‘No hink, a deft touch with the knife’ (p. 361); or this: ‘No smut, no dope, nothing hinky – negligées the only shit worth a sniff’ (p. 103). From the contexts, I’d guess the semantic focus is on something close to guilt, guile or surreptitiousness. But it’s obviously versatile, and so is James Ellroy, who can flip it three ways – as a verb, a noun and an adjective.
Vol. 20 No. 12 · 18 June 1998
There is a longish discussion about the word hinky in the 1993 version of The Fugitive. Detective Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) has the following conversation with two of his Chicago police colleagues as they are waiting for a lift:
Biggs (Daniel Roebuck): This is hinky. This guy’s a college graduate. He went to medical school. He’s not gonna come through all this security, go to the county lock-up to find someone his own people say does not exist. Hinky.
Gerard: What does that mean, Biggs? ‘Hinky’.
Biggs: I dunno, ‘strange’ …
Poole (L. Scott Caldwell): ‘Weird’ …
Gerard: Well why don ‘t you say ‘strange’ or ‘weird ‘? I mean, ‘hinky ‘, that has no meaning.
Biggs: Well we say ‘hinky ‘.
Gerard (annoyed): I don ‘t want you guys using words around me that got no meaning. I ‘m taking the stairs and walking.
As a result of his decision to walk up, Gerard sees the fugitive Dr Kimble (Harrison Ford) on the stairs, which seems quite hinky.