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Graffiti Entenditi

In which the author explains a few enigmatic and largely unknown graffiti

1. At Bard College, next to the ol’ abandoned swimming pool by the Sawkill waterfall. The pumphouse has an inscription somewhere: “Dean Levine is a dustcovered fuckhead” This has been transcribed elsewhere as “Dean Levine is a dustlove red fuckhead”, which is just the kind of dustlove ravings that you might see on that building. But still, I always read it as “dustcovered”.

2. On Cruger Island, on the ol’ shootin’ wall at the ruins, laboriously scratched in between the shotgun patches and bullet craters, “What’s a Skeezer?”. This is obviously a reference to the L.A. Dream Team’s 1987 hit of the same name. “If we list to speak” we could say who put the graffito there but we listn’t.

In March 1996, possibly before I had ever used the internet, Rudy Pardee posted to alt.rap, saying that he and Snake Puppy had come up with another album. He apparently died in 1998 in a scuba diving accident. Peace, Rudy. I liked your song.

U.T.F.O., the Untouchable Force Organization, had an entire 1986 album, “Skeezer Pleezer“. I only ever knew one song of theirs — I don’t even know its name but the main refrain is “If Everybody in the Place Wanna Party, Clap Your Hands”. Can’t find anything about this song on the internet so maybe someday I’ll transcribe what I remember of the lyrics.

3. In the parking lot of the “Pittsford” Barnes & Noble. I think this store is actually in Brighton, but Pittsford is richer and whiter than Brighton, and the store is near the border, so why not call it “Pittsford”?

Anywho, you can see “¡Vi” scratched in to the back of a stop sign there. Only I know the truth about this one, since I put it there. It has nothing to do with text editors. It was going to say “¡Viva Len Riggio!” — I had a plan of scratching one line in with my key every couple days until it was completed. But I got a job as a supervisor at the Greece B&N before I finished this plan. The customers were nice at Greece.

6 Responses to “Graffiti Entenditi”

  1. Erin Says:

    Brilliant piece of writing, this. It speaks to me. So deeply, in fact, that I plan on making it my “tag.” The whole thing. I’ve already decided on the first monument I will defile (or enhance): a particular “CAUTION: DIP” sign that has a lot of personal significance for me, about halfway between here and Cape Cod.

    Still, the question remains: Will this multiparagraph manifesto constitute just one graffito, or rather many graffiti? YOU decide…

  2. Desultor Says:

    Huzzah! You’re just like Amelie with that Poetaster, wuzzizname, Apollinaire? I’ll hafta check all the Dip signs next time I go down there.

    But on to your question. Graffito we get from the Italian. First attested mid-19c. One envisions English gentlemen on some sort of wanderjahr, sketching in the ruins at Rome, learning high-toned forn phraseology etc. etc…

    It literally means, “scratched”, from their word graffio a scratch. This is pretty obviously from the Latin graphium, the stylus one would use to scratch words onto a wax tablet with.

    Let’s leave that aside for a moment. The real question is whether your admiring echo is graffiti or a graffito? Well, are you writing it in cursive or print? If it’s cursive, and you write it without lifting your scratching implement, I think it’s unquestionably safe to call it a graffito.

    But what if you print? What then?!?! I would say it’d still be legit to call it a “graffito” since it expresses a single connected (albeit vaguely (literally)) thought. But a real mean pædantical bastard might impugn your terminology, tax it with laxitude, on account of you’re actually making “many little scratches, therefore plural, therefore properly graffiti, look you at the Latin, graphium, etc. etc.”. I’ve heard this argument many times.

    But now we tie it all together! If and when this pædant attacks you, you’ll be able to say, “Sir or Madam, you are an ignoramus! Tho I heartily confess that I have not written this graffito [you’ll emphasize that word] in one continuous stylus-stroke, yet the Latin you adduce here is but False Learning — look you into the full and genuine history and etymology of this word — you shall find, Sir or Madam, it comes to us from the Italian, where the usage of graffito to mean ‘many scratches or marks forming a connected thought’ is most common. Go back to Massachusetts, pædant!”

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    Good article!
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