Slang City Mail

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August 20, 2009

Slang of the Week: tag (noun/verb) 
a graffiti artist's signature

Carey tagged every subway car in New York before his mother found out and took away his spray paint.

Celebrity quote
“The post…noted that Fairey, the creator of the iconic Obama Hope poster illustration, had recently pleaded guilty to acts of vandalism in Boston. The implication was clear -- that Fairey was not practicing what he tagged.”
- Blogger Steven Mikulan for the LA Weekly

Shepard Fairey is a good example of an outlaw graffiti artist who has gone mainstream. His work is sold in galleries, this year he had an exhibition at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, and as noted above, he designed a campaign poster for President Obama.

But for all the publicity that “Hope” poster has brought him, another work of his has been reproduced in greater numbers. If you live in the US (and perhaps outside of the US), you have probably seen the Obey Giant. In 1989, Fairey created a rough drawing of André René Roussimoff, a wrestler and actor best known for his role in The Princess Bride, and put it on a sticker with the caption “André the Giant has a Posse.” That design evolved into a stylized portrait, often accompanied by the word “OBEY,” and it can be found across the country on walls, windows, traffic signs and pretty much anything paper or paint will adhere to. (Click here to see Shepard’s extensive gallery of Obey Giant sightings.)

The quote from Mikulan refers to Fairey’s seemingly hypocritical stance on a current problem in his own neighborhood. While he has gotten into legal trouble many times for putting up graffiti – including an arrest just last February for illicit Obey Giant artwork in Boston – he now wants to keep graffiti artists from tagging his own studio.

To keep his building pristine, he’s coating the walls with a material that will make it easy to wash off the spray paint when people leave him unwanted decorations. So whether he’s attacked with throw-ups (simple, quickly-made signatures) or burners (elaborate, time-consuming designs), he can always bring back the plain brick walls that graff (graffiti) artists find so attractive to write on.

What’s New?
Movie quotes from Tropic Thunder. Warning: Adult content.  

Take a look in our bookstore for books and DVDs on all kinds of slang! This week's pick: How to Talk American: A Guide to Our Native Tongues by James Marshall Crotty.  From Bible Belt Banter to Vegas Vernacular, from Redneck Rhetoric to New England Niceties, Crotty's savvy and often hilarious region-by-region guide to the way we talk provides a dead-on (and sometimes too strange) indication of how we think, how we behave, and what we hold dear.