ISSUE 38: THE SLANG ISSUE
© Mercy 2007 www.showmercy.co.uk email@example.com Magazine / Mercy Design DOUG KERR firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Mercy Design JOE BRAMALL firstname.lastname@example.org Events Programmer NATHAN JONES email@example.com Curator TOMAS HAROLD firstname.lastname@example.org
Mercy is a team of young designers, writers, artists, poets, photographers and scoundrels making their own breaks. This magazine is the tip of the iceberg, get on the website to find out more and to join in with it Circulation: 2000 Distribution: quarterly Stockists: you can pick us up in good bookstores, galleries, boutiques, record stores etc in the following cities... BELFAST BRIGHTON BRISTOL EDINBURGH LEEDS LIVERPOOL LONDON MANCHESTER NEWCASTLE NORWICH SHEFFIELD WREXHAM Full comprehensive list at showmercy.co.uk/stockists.htm -----------------------------------------The views expressed within this publication are those of the contributors, and are not necessarily the editors’ views
COVER Bobby Newall
The Slang Issue. At last. It’s reet shanful we haven’t ad one of these cowies out since The Campaign Issue. Radgeful even. First up, big thanks to everybody who contributed to this issue back before the Spring. As they well know, we hit one or two funding snags and decided to focus our remaining pennies on the world’s first self-destructing exhibition (¡DEMOLITION!), which went off this June. Combined with the Arts Councilversus-Olympics debacle and, thankfully, the ongoing success of Mercy Design, the mag has been on hiatus as a result. Anyways, thanks to a lovely donation here we are: this is the last issue this year, then we reinvent Mercy as a quarterly rag as of January. There’ll be an announcement on the theme and submission info pretty soon so get signed up for the website mail list if you aren’t already.
SPEAK ENGLISH BWOY ISSUE 38: THE SLANG ISSUE
It’s been so long we’ll keep the news short and sweet. We are holding another fundraising party at Mello Mello in Liverpool on Friday 26 October, with live tunage from The Amnesiacs, Radioplastic, The Grand Architects and Wave Machines, topped up with homodisco from Hive’s Dialogue Disco Supreme Team and the Mercy DJ Squad (don’t laugh) plus live poetics from Fiction. The last one was well good fun, and there’ll be more free beers and cakes doing the rounds so please come and give it some Halloween action. A fiver in, bring your own booze. We’re also now writing for Diesel on their website fanzine thing so have a deeks: www.diesel.com. Lastly keep your eyes out for the latest Wombats releases, all designed by us - including an outrageous homage to Peter Saville and Factory Records......
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thisisamagazine Anne-Marie Moore New Art News Angel Food is Not Just For Eating Slangsville The ‘Spring Onion’ Kathryn Cooper Return of a Dead Language Joe Stothard Contact Cwm Bie Yer WWW.SHOWMERCY.CO.UK | 03
NEWS NEW NEW RATS: BETTER LATE THAN NEVER Welcome, welcome. It’s been a while. Have you cut your hair? No? It must be your shampoo or something.
Chewing gum has caught our imagination again this month. An unlikely medium for art perhaps. Remember the chap who painted tiny pictures on the stuff a few years back? The citizens of Liverpool are obviously a fan. Seeing his name absent from the list of esteemed guests lined up for 2008, they’ve begun gobbing Orbit all over the brand new paving in an attempt to lure him to the city with his tiny, tiny paintbrush. While we wait for his arrival, the carpet of gum continues to grow. It’s one way to stop skateboarders, we suppose, but also bicyclists, wheelchairs, old ladies etc. Who hasn’t laughed as an old lady has first lost her slippers, then dragged her snared tights halfway down the road, waggling her feet free at last like a wet dog shaking a leg after exiting a pond? And as we’ve laughed we’ve shown off our pearly whites, kept free of tartar and plaque by regularly chewing Wrigley’s Spearmint in between meals, before realising we are also stuck fast to the pavement. Shoes and socks gone, the foot soles must next do battle. This has good and bad points. Like a barefoot walk on a stony beach, those layers of hard skin – built up after anxious hours standing in line at the newsagents, waiting to purchase a new packet of Airwaves – are quickly stripped away. Cheaper than a pedicure, but it isn’t pretty to look at: think of Church Street on a Saturday morning before the street-cleaners have come, piles of abandoned shoes and shorn skin everywhere, like a cross between Auschwitz and the bottom of a snake tank.
The gum might be bearable, if only we knew the once noble art of spitting wasn’t being so steadily devalued. Where are those giants of yesteryear to show us how it was done? Gone, alas. No longer the burly Scandy dropping two gobbets of chewed tobacco on each of your boots as an overture to a bar-room brawl. Lost the punctuation added to oratory by correct and subtle use of the spitoon. Even Johnny Rotten, famous for spitting at straights and granddads up and down the King’s Road, is a shadow of his former self. Now a granddad of the type he once so merrily abhorred, he can barely be pulled away from spitting at himself in the mirror to reform the Sex Pistols more than once a year. There is also the ecological argument. Saliva is 98% water, and consequently a precious commodity not to be distributed lightly. Processed correctly by the kind of industrial plants already at work in Mexico, it might even be a viable solution to water shortages that – either through pollution of the supply because of floods, or disastrous reservoir levels due to the ‘wrong kind of rain’ – dog the counties every year. If you’ve lived in a house where instead of a power shower there’s just a pipe connected to the taps that feels like being drooled on by a St Bernard, you’re already halfway to our glorious vision of the future. These are times of great eco-anxiety; on the emotional colour wheel, jealously no longer holds a monopoly on green. Considering personal taxes might soon be levied on the amount of carbon dioxide we each exhale – sighing lovers, beware – washing your hair in spit will be the least of your worries.
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Some perceive slang to have two purposes: (a) to define a particular group and (b) maintain its ideologies. Slang is neither dialect nor technical jargon. Perhaps it could best be described as a series of lexical innovations originating outside mainstream culture, a parallel language that embodies attitudes and values where whole meanings are understood only by the initiated. When employed by a group that fears persecution by society at large, slang becomes a code. Whether we know it or not, we use gay slang every day. Blag, bitch, cottaging- these words meandered into the common vernacular over the last fifty years, with origins that would make even Catullus blush. From a historical perspective, the English Criminal Cant that developed through the 16th and 17th centuries was acknowledged as one of the first instances of mass slang use. Bandied about by sailors on shore leave in the brothels, saloons and gambling houses of Old England, the Cant was initially presumed to be foreign by the governing classes. The Cant split and mutated and over the next century and proliferated to other English speaking countries with the aid of burgeoning Colonialism. In the early 1920s, slang gained the interest of popular writers and was no longer the reserve of thieves and outsiders. Today’s gay slang words evolved from Polari - the 19th century bastard offspring of Italian, Romany, lingua franca and many others - again, helped by merchant navy movements. Polari proved popular with the predominantly homosexual theatre community in London’s West End, stretching right through to the grimy fishmarkets in the East. At this time, it was still considered unthinkable to utter anything other than Queen’s English in polite circles, so gay slang effectively did operate as a code. A spectacular code in fact, given that during WWII, US Army intelligence thought that the “friends of Dorothy” were a pro-Nazi spy ring.
A VERY BRIEF PHILOLOGY OF GAY SLANG
words Eva Datta picture Jon Greenbank
ANGEL FOOD IS NOT JUST FOR EATING Kings College London house an Archive of Slang and New Language. They accept submissions via their website. Sadly lacking in rainbow flag phrases, I recommend turning to the Internet instead. The best one I stumbled across online was the Gay Language Guide - available in a variety of languages. It starts off innocently enough e.g. how to order at the bar, what time it is etc. Then it moves onto the cruising (cruisen) section. To cut a long story short, Komm auf mich is “come all over me” in German. That’s probably all you will need to know. And if you can’t tell your dutch girl from a diesel dyke, Rebecca Scott’s dictionary is a nice one for the ladies. The Polari roots are still traceable, but the slang has evolved to depend more upon rhyming and acronym. Slang is essentially, language abstracted and this was a key factor in the efficacy of preserving gay identities in the pre-Stonewall age. Which is worth thinking about next time you use a colloquialism. God bless The Empire.
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THE DIRTY DOZEN
That next game of Scrabble could be interesting... CAFE CURTAINS A short foreskin COMETOSIS Stale semen on one’s breath after sucking cock DYKON Lesbian icon e.g. kdlang DONALD DUCK Dishonourable discharge from US Navy for being gay
FACE ARTIST A fellator FISH QUEEN A man who prefers to perform cunnilingus over anything else. GRAVY GIVER 19th Century slang for an erect penis TEAROOM TRADE Men who like to conduct “business” in public lavatories TWINK Under 21, skinny, blonde highlights, vest i.e. Soho gay. You know the type URANIAN 19th c. word for gays coined by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. Still used today in Europe
VAGITARIAN A lez YESTERGAY Someone who magically went from gay to straight WWW.SHOWMERCY.CO.UK | 07
THE ‘SPRING ONION’ We was in the pub. There was me and Ian and Gimmo and Spazzer. We was drinking pints of lager after work. It was Friday night. We was in the pub. Ian and Gimmo was having an arm wrestle. Me and Spazzer was watching them. We was laughing at them. Gimmo was winning. They was having an arm wrestle. Then we stop. This girl walks in. She’s walking in with a ‘spring onion’. We all look at them. We look at the girl and the ‘spring onion’. They look back at us. The girl and the ‘spring onion’ are at the bar buying wines. They are looking at us. The ‘spring onion’ is saying something to the girl and she is nodding. We are looking at each other. That ‘spring onion’ is talking about us, says Spazzer. Fucking ‘spring onions’, says Ian. Oi, says Gimmo. He is saying it at the ‘spring onion’. The ‘spring onion’ is pretending not to notice. He is pretending not to have heard us. He is sipping his wine and pretending to listen to what the girl is saying. Oi, I say. Oi, says Spazzer. Oi, says Ian. The ‘spring onion’ looks over. Come on then, says Ian. Give us an arm wrestle. The ‘spring onion’ looks down at his wine. Give us an arm wrestle, I say. Give us an arm wrestle, says Gimmo. Give us an arm wrestle, says Spazzer. The ‘spring onion’ looks down at his wine. Then he looks at the girl. The girl is saying something to us. She is saying no. We wasn’t talking to you, says Spazzer. So what, she says. The ‘spring onion’ is still saying nothing. He is crossing his ‘leaves’ and looking at his wine and not saying anything. So we go over. We get up. We go over. We stand around them. There are four of us: me, Spazzer, Gimmo, and Ian. We are standing around them. We are standing around the girl and the ‘spring onion’. Show us what you’re made of, says Ian. The ‘spring onion’ shakes his ‘bulb’. Come on, says Gimmo. Come on, says Spazzer. Come on, says Ian. Show us what you’re made of. The ‘spring onion’ uncrosses his ‘leaves’. He stands up. He makes a run for the door. We go after him. The girl is screaming. Leave him alone, she’s screaming. Leave him alone. We chase him into the car park. There are four of us. We are circling him. He is not fast enough. We are circling him. He is looking scared. Gimmo pushes him over. Kick his ‘bulb’ in, says Ian. Yeah, I say. Kick his ‘bulb’ in. Go on, says Spazzer. So Gimmo kicks his ‘bulb’ in and then Ian starts to pull his ‘leaves’ off. We all join in. We pull the ‘spring onion’ to pieces. The girl is not here to stop us. Nobody is here to stop us. When we are finished, we just stand there. It is night time. We are in the carpark. There are four of us. We have bits of the ‘spring onion’ on our hands and we are crying.
words Chris Killen picture Joseph Bramall
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words Ross Sutherland picture Doug Kerr
China’s economic upheaval has had a profound effect on global communication. With 1.5 billion East Asians ready to log-on and do business, the Western world has found itself paralysed by its inability to bridge the translation-gap. The English language’s dominance as lingua franca is waning fast, leaving us tardy monoglots digging into our wallets for a quick solution. Upstate New York is now swarming with unqualified Asian au pairs, solely employed to teach their charges Mandarin from birth. Granted, it’s not a bad solution: its great to hear a preschooler say “carrot” in the tongue of the next world megapower, yet by the time this little globalisation project is old enough to even waggle a Wii, the battle for a voice amongst the new world order will be lost.
RETURN OF A DEAD LANGUAGE
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But it’s not Suntory Time just yet, folks: computational linguists have been working since the 1950s towards a painless alternative to learning a second language. Originally developed to help us spy on the Russians during the cold war, automatic translation programs have proliferated ever since. Flawed as they are, these systems have become the linguistic crutch of international relations: The EU already uses Alta-vista’s Babelfish program for about 70% of all in-house communications, British troops use the software for the assessment of confiscated military documents, and Compuserve offers automatic translation as standard for all their on-line accounts. These endorsements may come as a shock, considering the fact that Babelfish still translates “deliver us from evil” as “put us on diabolic transport”. Anecdotal gaffs aside, there is a fallacy deep at the heart of translation technology that threatens the very core of our communication networks. Digital translation is based on the belief that deep down, buried inside every language, is a set of rules and principles that all communication is based upon. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking Erdu or Cockney, developers believe that all languages can be distilled down to a set of mathematical statements. However, this means that far from freeing the world from the imperial grip of English, translation software imposes its own lingua franca: a deeplevel semantic cipher that all communication must be parsed through. Much has been written on the ‘great firewall of China’: the web-filter that censors websites passing in or out of Hu Jintao’s one-party state. Translation software operates on an identical principle and can be abused just as easily. Operating as a barrier between sender and receiver, the text must fit into the programmers’ prescriptive system, or be misinterpreted and mashed into nonsense. Such a system potentially possesses the same level of power and control as George Orwell’s fictional language, Newspeak, from 1984, where a word such as ‘freedom’ can no longer refer to spiritual or political freedom, but only be used as a synonym for ‘unfettered’ (as in “the dog was free from lice”).
Sadly, we are so desperate to use this technology that it doesn’t matter how poorly it works. Like the alchemists of the middle ages, digital linguists know that big businesses want to believe in the regeneration of Babel, regardless of how much the soft sciences may bitch and mewl about its ‘philosophical impossibilities’. Yet the consequences of this technology could be the privatisation of language itself; passing the very privilege of interpretation from the individual over to multinational telecommunications companies such as Siemens, IBM, Intel and Microsoft. As the global village of cyberspace draws its picket fences in forever closer, there seems little we can do to stop the onslaught of digital translation. Human translators are too expensive, our time too precious. The Daily Mail can keep pumping out ‘teach yourself Portuguese’ CD’s, but we all know a pain/gain ratio when we see it. The most valuable thing we can do is to keep pushing the limits of this technocratic, totalising technology. We need to champion the irregularities of our language: our slang, our poetry, any communication where what we say is not what we mean. The aim here is not to blow the servers by peppering our dialect with gibberish, but to ensure that oral dialect is never entirely absorbed into a mathematically-controlled system. The alternative is that we as a species will begin to moderate and streamline our language in order to reduce the ‘interference’ of every communication we make. The repercussions of this method of selfcensorship are endless, for the price is Language itself. Not the words themselves, but the actual knowledge they impart .
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In the distant mists of what were the days of yore; when Michael Jackson was still black, Henry VIII was a slim young thing that didn’t murder women and Moira Stewart was still sexy enough to have a job on TV reading the news; a mummy and a daddy accidentally made a bubble whilst doing the washing-up together. They didn’t even notice the bubble; they were too busy finding each other’s hands in the suds, looking at each other coyly whilst unsuccessfully trying to ignore the stirring of the tens and thousands of tiny fish that swim in lovers’ loins. Minutes later they conceived a human life, one that was born nine months later and grew up, developed a distinct personality, a sense of self and humour, and a remarkable capacity to put others at ease. Meanwhile, the bubble floated around the lovers’ apartment trying to attract some attention, watched the mummy and daddy make love on top of the washing machine, floated by the mirror in the bedroom, where it made the painful discovery that it was barely visible. The bubble was prompted out of the bedroom window by a sudden draft and was left at the mercy of the winds outside. Once outside, the bubble drifted past windows, looking in, it saw people talking, playing, fighting, arguing and working, this made the poor bubble feel deeply envious. The bubble realised that it could never engage with others as long as it was a soapy, transparent sphere, especially as the slightest of touch would burst the bubble. It realised that it coveted the interaction and relationships people have more than anything, the bubble felt sad and frustrated that it did not have the necessary skin for togetherness and if it’d had eyes, it would have cried. Suddenly, a window opened and the bubble was sucked into a child’s bedroom where a girl was cutting out pictures of a magazine, the same gust that had forced the bubble in, took hold of an arm that the girl had cut out, and the light glossy paper stuck to the spumescent bulbousness of our bubble. What a revelation!
STRANGE PROPORTIONS NO 8 GRABIELLA CLUNT
At first it was confusing, the bubble felt very different indeed, and as it slowly floated out of the room again, it saw that the girl was waving at it, smiling and laughing. As the wind carried the bubble through the town, people were waving and pointing at the lone hand bobbing around in mid air, like a ghostly adieu. Once the bubble had caught sight of itself in a shop window and realised what had happened, it knew that this was the only way for it to achieve its ultimate goal of the lasting human relationship. Discovering a way of using its new arm to steer and propel itself, the bubble made its way back to the girl’s house. The girl and her mother were in the kitchen eating dinner and talking about dried foods, and whether they are a boon or a bane in modern cuisine terms. The girl’s bedroom window had been left ajar, and so the bubble snuck in as quietly as only a bubble can. Most of the cut out limbs and features had already been used for the picture the girl was making, and had been glued to a piece of wood. These could obviously not be used, so the bubble, who had become feverishly desperate with the prospect of physical acknowledgement, threw itself into the left-over cuttings. Cavorting around in clippings like an animal on heat. When it had finished its febrile, spumy paper rut, the bubble was no longer a bubble, as we know one. As it left the girl’s room, the bubble decided that it would be a nice token of its gratitude to name itself after the girl, misreading the name on the girl’s bedroom door, the bubble called itself Grabiella and it became a she. Sadly, the bubble, due to its preoccupation with the inadequacy of its own physicality, had not researched the human form it was emulating sufficiently, and as a consequence has a vast collection of arms. This has enabled Grabiella to keep adding to herself more efficiently, sadly, she is unable to add to herself without taking from others, and it means that poor Grabiella has had immense difficulty attaining her ultimate goal of a lasting human relationship, as people generally can only give a certain quantity of what and who they are away for free. After some time, something must be offered in return, and poor Grabiella has nothing of her own, she is in essence still a bubble, a unit of froth, almost nothing except air, disguised by loose, clunky, rattling pieces of others’ hearts, souls, achievements and dreams, and that is all our bubble has become. Pity her from afar, that is my advice. Thank You
words Mia Tagg picture Mia Tagg
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“...if they ay forget about it its a fugazy - im gonna go skitzo on there ass...”
“...sweetville - i’l give it a crack yo - weather is top bananananana here...”
Cyber-babies sharing an unforeseen flow of text, images and ideas… but what is on the mind of this totally wired, wi-fi generation, Sarah? What is it saying to itself? well, it’s saying things like “OMG!!!!” and “LOL!!!” look at some of these comments I’ve found on random peoples’ pages…
When I first signed up it looked like a new frontier. An unlimited one. Everyone creates their own little island, their own territory so to speak,we hop from island to island, sample the culture of each territory, leave messages, and generally ‘interact’.
Nowadays, of course we have the myspace thing to keep in touch.
To be open and honest, It was your American-ness that first attracted me. I suppose it was exotic - The way you spoke, like being ‘bugged out’ or how crap things were’ tacky’. And how you would explain things without trying to be logical... and you in turn, thought my accent was cool (surely you were joking??)
I’d just got into email at the time. so at least we had a way to keep in touch. but you still wanted to know my ‘land addy’ (my home address!) for letters.
Sarah, How are you babe??? hope you’re doing fine, it’s been a longlonglong time. can you believe it’s almost nine years since we first met round the campfire at glasto? I really hope I’m gonnasee you there this year...it was so special to find you. And go around the festival together. And the next few days in London WERE Cool. words Tom George picture Stephen Chan
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As for us, we just wanna keep in touch…a photo or something is nice too. And if it’s on public view then other people can join the party…it’s just a more spicy kind of normal (!) I really hope you see this, cos to me you will always be my ultimate shoom-buddy Tom
Slang addicts are really trying to tell everyone ‘I make my own rules’. And yet there is nothing more sheep-like than adopting the latest slang term. When a new word is hot, it spreads through the culture like a pandemic. Remember how quickly ‘bling‘ went overground? I first heard it on radio 1, relating to hip hop, and within weeks it was applied to Hollywood stars, even the royals. The media are always hungry for new terms to show their relevance. Let’s face it black slang is the ultimate source of cool. It’s an appropriation thing. Mainstream culture’s hunger for it underlines our obsession with the exotic and the ‘other’ and all that entails.
“...holy shiznit dawg...”
But there’s a competition thing. Everyone wants to mark themselves out from the mass, so they create exaggerated personas, wanting to appear larger than life, or more enigmatic than thou.
“...ooh that is good. well trashbat. me liketh free stuff...”
when I met you Sarah, you admitted that some of your favourite words (which I’d assumed were Americanisms), you had made up yourself. I reckon people do that on myspace. I like that modern implication that no-ones in charge of language. It’s a linguistic free-for-all…
Often it reads like breathless cyber-babble - throwaway conversations conducted in public and recorded for posterity. The public/private barrier has dissolved as far as communication goes, hasn’t it? Remember how odd it was to hear people talking into mobile phones on buses, like five years ago. Nowadays no-one cares. There are breezy, sassy rules of engagement. no one gets too serious or businesslike, for fear of looking square. and everyone knows that it’s all a bit of game...
words Nathan Jones picture Kenn Goodall
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CWM BIE YER I thought I’d spend my whole life on my tod after Rhiannon stood me up down Ponciau park wilted my chod and busted my heart: From my specky head, I attoo watch as she grew into a woman. Like a ship full sail she was. And for a bag of jubes she’d be anyone’s but mine. Attoo watch in horror too as it went on – as she went out to the pub and walked in and girls stopped their clonc and men their fightin to stare at my first love’s round ripe breasts, and I had to go home to my bed with my belly it was so terrible lonely in my ‘ead. Of course, there was ‘er friend, who I kissed soft and cwtched hard like she asked – Mary – only to have her scarper away on me, then call me alsorts and snigger at my back. Apparently it dobbed me for being not much so cop in the gwelli ,as if she was someone! Well! it was Kate told me, round back of the chippy – where she carries her clecs – Mary ‘ad said I had a dwtt winkie! I said right back, Well I might not be a blomper, but I’m a chomp more useful than a poo in the sewer, and I can show you that for nothin, too. Thought I was real cewte, she did: A boy and a half! till I bought her a few in the Albion and soon there she was aswell again – gone.
It was early Spring, that late Summer I sat by Rhiannon, on the seat by St Mabon’s in Ruabon and listened to her crotch about her rag frock and crib over ‘er bald-headed baby, all day long. All jaw she was. She’ll complain about the noise of the harps in heaven, that one, that’s what they all say. Anyway, I saw thru her craxin her old bloom and cwm bie yer right then. I’m always the same, you see, got hours for everybody. And she loves me now. You wouldn’t credit it would you? Since she set a smile on my wrinkley old frown, she says. So I finally get someone who will cook my toast and butter my bread, and it’s the one who made my life misery. I’m stuck with her, but, because she puts up with me.
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xLOL WTF!! OMG x :oP !! THE SLANG ISSUE