Notes / Glossary

[1] blind: (1) adj. highly embarrassing; (2) ‘a blind one’, n. an embarrassing moment, a faux pas; (3) to pull blind, vi. to make a fool of oneself, to commit a faux pas. Origin: unknown, possibly from the shutting of eyes when embarrassed.

[2] red-beard: n. a term for someone with bad acne (derog.) Origin: acne being likened to a red facial beard.

[3] wise: adj. cocky; slack; insubordinate; ‘cheeky’ to seniors (e.g. ‘These Standard Sixes are too wise; they need a spine-talk). Often used in the paradoxical statement: ‘You’re getting too wise; you need to wisen up’. Origin: too clever by half?

[4] 2-5 (two-five): (1) v. to masturbate (e.g. ‘He was bust two-fiving last night’); (2) n. someone known for excessive masturbatory habits; one who has been caught in the act. Origin: from ‘two testes’ and ‘five fingers’ and the fusion thereof.

[5] rocks: interj. interchangeable with ‘at all’, ‘a damn’ or ‘a shit’. (e.g. ‘I don’t dig him rocks’, ‘I don’t give rocks.’). Possibly derived from rocks = gonads.

[6] siff: adj. disgusting; revolting; unattractive; ugly; repulsive; unhygienic. (e.g. ‘This day-room is so siff.’) Origin: possibly from ‘syphilitic’. Also: siffbag, n. someone unhygienic (often abbreviated to ‘bag’).

[7] rumour: undefined: can be used in any sense, in any tense and as any part of speech; meaning depends entirely on context (if meaning is, in fact, present). Some possible examples: ‘That student teacher is a rumour’ = ‘That student teacher is weird’; ‘I rumoured this chick last night’ = ‘I kissed this chick last night’; ‘I got rumoured by this chick last night’ = ‘I tried and failed to kiss this chick last night’; ‘Sports Day is a total rumour’ = ‘Sports Day is a total waste of time’; ‘It’s a rumour’ = ‘it’s true’ or ‘it’s false’ or meaningless.

[8] wildlife: n. generic term covering any form of pornography (esp. videos) (e.g. ‘The Sixth Formers have got some wildlife.’). Origin: possibly from copious footage of wildebeest, hippos, hyenas, etc. mating in wildlife documentaries.

[9] stubbs: n. a homosexual (derog.) (e.g. ‘That new matric is a stubbs.’). Origin: from Zulu isitabane = homosexual, ‘faggot’.

[10] bugger: n. chap; bloke. Not an abusive term; does not mean homosexual; term of affection (e.g. ‘Howzit buggers’ or ‘That’s a good bugger.’).

[11] timeless: adj. useless; inferior; out of fashion; pointless (e.g. ‘That concert was so timeless.’) Origin: from ‘out of time’/‘behind the times’?

[12] Second Hands: term for sister school St Anne’s (derog.) (e.g. ‘Are you going to the Second Hands social on Saturday?’). Origin: implication that St Anne’s pupils are ‘loose’. i.e. They have all been ‘used’ and are thus second-hand.

[13] jol: vi. to take (rave) drugs; to rave; to go clubbing (e.g. ‘Are you jolling on Saturday?’). From the general South African slang meaning to party/have a good time.

[14] fresca: n. nothing; bugger-all (e.g. ‘How much studying have you put in for Afrikaans?’ Reply: ‘Fresca!’). Origin: from the 1990s soft-drink advertising slogan, Nothing tastes like Fresca!

[15] club duvet: vi. to sleep; to take an afternoon nap (e.g. ‘I’m going to club duvet after lunch’, ‘I’ve been clubbing all afternoon.’). Also ‘club bed’.

[16] winner: n. loser; someone unpopular; a social outcast. Origin: part of a lexical group where meaning is opposite to dictionary definition (see also handsome, mate, champion).


‘trying to conform to one particular code would invariably bring you into violation of another’:
From here to the end of the paragraph is a straight lift from George Orwell’s ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’, one of my favourite pieces of prose non-fiction. Though recently a student in one of my classes point blank refused to read it: she was not interested in yet another memoir about the schooldays of a ‘cis-het white middle-class male’. For my efforts to convince her (and a discussion of how Orwell dramatises the ‘wild, almost lunatic misunderstandings’ of childhood), see ‘Such, Such Are the Joys’, Financial Times (11 November 2016).

‘I bury myself beneath the covers’:
The lines are from Genet’s 1943 semi-autobiographical outpouring, Our Lady of the Flowers (Notre Dame des Fleurs), made of stories spun by the narrator (a drag queen) to kill time in prison, and to keep himself aroused. Jean-Paul Sartre called it ‘the epic of masturbation’.

‘both drawn to smell’:
Quoted in the opening chapter of Edmund White’s biography, Genet (London: Chatto & Windus, 1993), to which I am indebted.

‘A joke with a time fuse’:
This phrase, and the pseudonym I am using, is lifted from David Malouf, Johnno (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975).

‘you old dung beetle’:
There is much debate about how to translate the word Ungeziefer in the first line of Kafka’s story (vermin? cockroach? monstrous insect?), but the word used later by the old charwoman, Mistkäfer, is unambiguously ‘dung beetle’. Though in his lecture on The Metamorphosis, Vladimir Nabokov suggests that Gregor, while a beetle, is not technically a dung beetle: ‘It is obvious that the good woman is adding the epithet only to be friendly.’

‘Coleridge and his journals full of haemorrhoids’:
In his essay on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Notebooks, Craig Raine also lifts out the following key passage: ‘Feel a pimple, and measure it in feeling – and then look at it how very small it is compared with what you expected it to be.’ Quoted in Haydn and the Valve Trumpet (London: Faber and Faber, 1990).

‘the larger philosophical questions posed by the rave ethos’:
I found Simon Reynolds’ Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture a helpful text here, particularly his discussions of the MDMA experience as simultaneously intensely significant but also meaningless and void of content, or (to use his word) ‘intransitive’. It is this, he suggests, that lends the drug to very different scenes around the world, from working-class raves to bourgeois, New Age self-awakenings. Though in tracking the shift from E-based ’ardkore to marijuana-laced jungle/drum ‘n’ bass in mid-1990s London (and the different racial demographic of these scenes), he speculates that MDMA’s effects of defenceless candour were ‘probably too risky a cultural leap for the young black male, who can’t afford to jeopardise the psychic armour necessitated by the very different black experience of urban life’ (New York: Routledge, 1999).

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