This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Spot the frippet: graffiti.

Graffiti has been around a long time.

(Yes, I know that technically graffiti is a plural, singular graffito, but not even a delight in odd plurals allows me to use the word in the singular. It would only make people hate me. It's the same with describing The Emirates and The Den as football stadia; technically correct, but in practical terms both aggressive and absurd.)

Anyway, here's some 7th century graffiti at New Grange in County Meath, Ireland.

Photo by Mc Glen.

Still older, the eruption of Vesuvius preserved lots of graffiti in Pompeii, including curses, declarations of love, spells, and political slogans.

In fact it seems as if there's graffiti defacing practically every ancient and beautiful building in the world.

(I expect it defaced every ancient and ugly building in the world, too, but luckily most of those have been pulled down.)

Is graffiti all bad? Well, the only known source of the Safaitic language, a form of early Arabic, is from graffiti inscriptions. So that's something.

Nowadays...well, you know about nowadays. It's the same old same old.

Occasionally it's funny:


Occasionally it makes money. Banksy has become famous for his careful and interesting graffiti,

There have even been attempts to run graffiti advertising campaigns.

There are galleries selling graffiti, too - except that, given that graffiti consists of unauthorised marks on someone else's property, being able to sell it must mean it isn't graffiti at all. Doesn't it?

Ah well. I do quite like the idea of reverse graffiti, which is when you make a message by cleaning away the dirt on something. The commonest message, of course, is WASH ME.

And I quite like some other graffiti, as long as it's more beautiful and entertaining than the building it's drawn on.

But there's not much of that about, is there?

Spot the frippet: graffiti. This word is Italian and means a little scratch. Before that it comes from the Latin word graphium, which means stylus.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I just learned something else here.
    I had no idea that the likes of "wash me" etc., was called reverse graffiti.
    I have seen some wonderful images of this art, and called them dirt pictures.
    Not nearly as eloquent is it?!