Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Grunge speak was a hoax created by Megan Jasper, a sales representative for Sub Pop Records. Under pressure from a reporter for The New York Times who wanted to know if grunge fans had their own slang, Jasper, 25 at the time, told the reporter a set of made-up on-the-spot slang terms that she claimed were associated with the Seattle grunge scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The information given by Jasper would appear in the sidebar of a November 15, 1992 feature article of the Times. The sidebar, titled "Lexicon of Grunge: Breaking the Code", had also mistakenly claimed that Jasper was working for Caroline Records.
In truth, there was no particular slang language used in the Seattle grunge scene, or in any other grunge scene at the time. While some members of the grunge scene may have used other forms of slang (such as those that have become commonly used in the English language), many felt no need to create their own to go along with grunge. Many had even resented the assumption by the Times that they even had a slang language, as well as their claim that it was "coming soon to a high school or mall near you".
The article was proven to be a hoax by Thomas Frank of The Baffler, a journal of cultural criticism. In it, he revealed that Jasper had purposely misled the Times as well as the British magazine Sky as a prank. Jasper, known to be sarcastic, had been sick of the excessive amount of questions that reporters were asking people involved in the Seattle grunge scene, and thus pulled the prank to get back at them for their superfluous questioning.
The Times demanded that Frank fax over an apology for claiming the Times had printed false information, believing that it was Frank that was the hoaxer. Frank instead sent a letter standing by the story and explaining that "when The Newspaper of Record goes searching for the Next Big Thing and the Next Big Thing piddles on its leg, we think that's funny." Frank (as well as many grunge fans) had considered the article to be part of an attempt by mainstream culture to co-opt the grunge scene and felt that the Times had gotten what they deserved.
Shortly after the release of The Baffler's story, some people in Seattle began selling and wearing t-shirts with the words "lamestain" and "harsh realm" printed in the same font as the title of the Times. The words never did catch on as actual slang, but served the purpose of lampooning the Times for a short while. One of the terms, "harsh realm", was used as the title of a short-lived science-fiction television series in 1999. The events of Jasper's prank would also be documented in the 1996 film Hype!, a documentary about the grunge scene of the early 1990s.
Grunge speak words
During the interview, Jasper made up the following terms and their definitions:
- bloated, big bag of blotation - drunk
- bound-and-hagged - staying home on Friday or Saturday night
- cob nobbler - loser
- dish - desirable guy
- fuzz - heavy wool sweaters
- harsh realm - bummer
- kickers - heavy boots
- lamestain - uncool person
- plats - platform shoes
- rock on - a happy goodbye
- score - great
- swingin' on the flippety-flop - hanging out
- tom-tom club - uncool outsiders (possibly inspired by the new wave band Tom Tom Club)
- wack slacks - old ripped jeans
- Frank, Thomas. "Harsh Realm, Mr. Sulzberger!" (Winter/Spring 1993). The Baffler.
- Marin, Rick. "Grunge: A Success Story" (November 15, 1992). New York Times. Section 9, Page 1.
- featuring "Lexicon of Grunge: Breaking the Code"
- Pray, D., Helvey-Pray Productions. Hype!. 1996. Republic Pictures.
- "Those Cob Nobblers at the N.Y. Times" (March 5, 1993). Globe and Mail. Section C1.
- Windolf, Jim. "Off the Record" (March 1, 1993). New York Observer.
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