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Harsh realm.
October 2, 2013 7:58 PM   Subscribe

The year was 1992. Grunge had hit the cultural mainstream, and the New York Times, overdue for a trend piece, printed an article featuring a "Lexicon of Grunge Speak." Their list featured terms such as wack slacks for old ripped jeans, harsh realm for bummer, and bloated, big bag of bloatation for drunk.

Unfortunately for the Times, the list was a hoax, made up on the spot by a former employee of Sub Pop records...which is, of course, only the beginning of the story.
posted by duffell (76 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wait, "harsh realm" was part of that hoax? I totally say "harsh realm"! Harsh realm is great.
posted by escabeche at 8:05 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


What a deck prank!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:06 PM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Here's the story retold in the excellent documentary "Hype"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:08 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Harsh Realm was also Chris Carter's follow-up to the X-Files.
posted by jonp72 at 8:08 PM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Score!
posted by salishsea at 8:08 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Score.
posted by limeonaire at 8:09 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Totally un-cres.
posted by not_on_display at 8:15 PM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


As documented in Hype! @ 49:13.
On preview: Potomac Avenue beat me to it as I went through the whole movie looking for the section and setting up the time.
posted by unliteral at 8:17 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess being a fan of Tom Tom Club makes me totally tom tom club :(
posted by moonmilk at 8:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Whoa - that shit's, like, grody, man! Grody to the max.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:21 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


A. Was it just me or was that article really confusing?
First it says it started when British Sky Magazine contacted Megan Jasper and then the Times picked it up. Then it says it originated in the Baffler. Is it actually two different articles? And what is "the Nov. IS edition of Styles of The Times"?

B. So this is proof that Styles trend pieces have always been pointlessly running after hipsters and making their writers look silly?

C. I thought more than one of these were things people really say. Did they come directly from the article, or were some of them kinda true? Examples: "Rock on", "Cobb nobbler", "Dish", "Score" are all things I've heard somewhere or another.

D. "Kickers" for boots is no more silly than calling sneakers "kicks".
posted by bleep at 8:31 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, I'm just swingin' on the flippity-flop.
posted by box at 8:32 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


This was also detailed somewhat lovingly in 1994's Generation Ecch!, a rather thorough takedown of grunge-era ridiculousnesses that teenage me found amazing at the time but probably does not stand revisiting now in my adulthood.
posted by psoas at 8:40 PM on October 2, 2013


The rents will pay for the swench's za.
posted by Bugbread at 8:41 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh I remember this so much. All I have to say to my husband is "Swingin' on the Flippity-Flop," and he knows exactly what I mean.

Oh, to be the lawn-being-on-er instead of the lawn owner.
posted by bibliowench at 8:43 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


This guy just quoted whatever he remembered from the Bill and Ted films, right?

Not that there's anything wrong with that. WYLD STALLYNS!
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:48 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had a reaction to this after reading the NYT article, but before reading the second linked in the --more inside--. I'll post it here, because it doesn't matter whether it's a hoax.

The first 1,600 words of the NYT article are 1,600 words published solely to justify the publication of the next paragraph: "All subcultures speak in code; grunge is no exception. Megan Jasper, a 25-year-old sales representative at Caroline Records in Seattle, provided this lexicon of grunge speak, coming soon to a high school or mall near you."
posted by mudpuppie at 8:49 PM on October 2, 2013


And thus began my love affair with the absurdity of the New York Times Style section. Back to swingin' on the flippity-flop.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:50 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can anyone tell me what they're seeing for the second link? I get a link to a description of a book, with options to order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., some reviews, bibliographic info, etc. Kinda like what IMDB shows for movies.
posted by Bugbread at 8:58 PM on October 2, 2013


Looks like this
posted by Bugbread at 9:03 PM on October 2, 2013


Finally I can fit in with my fellow Seattleites!
posted by Artw at 9:11 PM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kind of surprised this wasn't posted before. This is one of my memories of the early 90s - along with Stormin' Norman and Lorena Bobbitt.
posted by univac at 9:38 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ha. Never send a journalist to do an anthropologist's job, I guess.
posted by clockzero at 9:52 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Can anyone tell me what they're seeing for the second link?

The Baffler contains an article debunking the NYT's original story. I believe that Google Books, for arcane legal reasons, won't let you link directly to the text of the story. When I click on the search magnifying icon within that link and then click on the corresponding search result that links to the Baffler's "greatest hits" collection containing the story, it pops up for a moment then disappears.

So, ironically, but unsurprisingly, an article about the commodification of pop culture is unreadable because of the commodification of pop culture.

oooooh, for a minute there I was back in grad school.
posted by craniac at 9:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


When she punked the New York Times, Megan Jasper was a Sub Pop receptionist... Now she's vice president.

Meet the punk who saved Sub Pop - Foul-mouthed and community-minded, Sub Pop records executive vice president Megan Jasper steers the indie powerhouse into its 25th anniversary year.

posted by Auden at 9:58 PM on October 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


Maybe it's not viewable outside the US...I don't get any Baffler article, even when I click the search button. Just a list of books with that phrase, and, when clicking on the "greatest hits" collection link, a book overview/review/bibliographic info page.
posted by Bugbread at 10:30 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Swinging on the flippity-flop" should probably have clued them in. But "score" was a thing people actually said, so I guess maybe lent the article some credibility.
posted by Hoopo at 10:43 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know if that kind of list was published today - even if it was a fake, people would start using those phrases ironically and then they'd actually become words for those things! Sorry for the harsh realm, dishes and cob nobblers.
posted by crossoverman at 10:53 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ha, this brings back memories. I finished high school in '93 in Victoria BC, right across the water from Seattle. I was the right age to watch all this stuff go down - maybe a little young truthfully. I honestly (and this does sound revisionist but it absolutely is not) didn't know or register that the dressing 'grunge' was really a thing until way late in the process. I think it really was a PNW thing. It just looked like young people dressing normally, but normal for me when I got into university was the epi-centre of that exact look (I was taking courses in the University of Victoria Geography department - the crunchiest faculty in the world, probably). Flannel shirts, ripped jeans, hand-me-down t-shirts and birkenstocks. Birkenstocks and wool socks AKA saying 'fuck you, fashion'. I remember sitting around the first few weeks at university in 93-94ish and the first years would be looking all fancy in their white jeans and new jackets then after a few weeks they'd give up and realise that nobody gave a flying fuck what you looked like and started wearing 'normal' clothes.

How could you actively want to emulate that look? I echo the Hyped! comments - we wore (wear!) that shit because it's cold but it's not Manitoba cold. You need a layer - it's damp and chilly year round. Even in summer, you need a sweater in the evenings. The flannel shirt thing was and is (to me) an anti-fashion thing. It's basically giving up, saying 'what the fuck, it's warm and comfortable' and they're everywhere in the thrift shops because everyone kinda hates them.

The Doc Marten thing was especially funny as they were first seen as clunky but extremely durable shoes that would last FOREVER. That was the main point of them. Then they got cool, which was fine because the ones my parents bought me in 90ish (I went to a private school and I needed black leather shoes) lasted well through university. I had a shoe pair (not the knee-high boot ones) that lasted about 10 years.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:08 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


More recently, Sub Pop helped a homecoming candidate with her request for a video of support from Nirvana. Let's go, Hoagies!
posted by hades at 12:05 AM on October 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


What a deck prank!

I've had people try to tell me this is a legit expression, but as a Silver Lake resident I find those people to be pretty fin.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:05 AM on October 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


When she punked the New York Times, Megan Jasper was a Sub Pop receptionist... Now she's vice president.

Hey, Megan, bet you never imagined ending up a lamestain!

A. Was it just me or was that article really confusing?
First it says it started when British Sky Magazine contacted Megan Jasper and then the Times picked it up. Then it says it originated in the Baffler. Is it actually two different articles? And what is "the Nov. IS edition of Styles of The Times"?


I think it goes like this:
* Jasper began talking to Sky, finding she could say anything and be believed. The slang was then printed in Sky.
* The Nov. 15 edition of Style, in a piece "Styles of the Times" (I guess, but in my memory the section has always been named Style), reprinted the list without fact-checking, as it normally would, considering it's a more august periodical than Sky.
* The Baffler interviewed Jasper, wherein she admitted the hoax.
* The New Republic pointed out the hoax, citing the Baffler.
* The NYT contacted Jasper, but she coyly denied the hoax, forcing them to contact the Baffler directly.
* The Baffler rapped the knuckles of the NYT by fax.
* The Observer interviews Jasper and she again admits the hoax.

The problem here is that, as I see it, in addition to Jasper doing some pranking of obvious establishment tom-tom-clubbers, there was a game of inside baseball tit-for-tat being played among journalists who were at least familiar with each others' work. It wasn't just a simple prank, then.
posted by dhartung at 12:19 AM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Re "score" and "rock on", both are real terms, but neither mean what they are described as meaning in the article.

I've always understood "score!" to mean, like "Yay, I have found a cool thing!" Sort of analogous to "Eureka!", I guess. You might say it after being first in line for tickets to something, or if you found a stack of cool records for a quarter apiece at a thrift store.

"Rock on" is a verbal phrase in the command tense. It's roughly synonymous with "You go, girl!"

(It is entirely possible that I invented the "score!" thing based on a misunderstanding in Empire Records or Reality Bites. "Rock on" I'm pretty sure about, though.)
posted by Sara C. at 12:29 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Rock on" is a verbal phrase in the command tense. It's roughly synonymous with "You go, girl!"

Funny...is saying 'right on' an American thing? Because I have a theory that while 'eh!' is the most overrated but strangely sort of accurate Canadian thing (you catch yourself saying it occasionally), the phrase 'right on' is the least celebrated but most often used Canadian saying. The number one scenario where it is used is the winning of something on the radio:

Radio DJ: Get ready Dwayne, because YOU'VE JUST WON TICKETS TO LASER PINK FLOYD AT THE PLANETARIUM!!!!

Dwayne: RIGHT ON!

It's ALWAYS 'Right on!'. 100% of the time. Do Americans do this?
posted by jimmythefish at 12:36 AM on October 3, 2013


Do Americans do this?

I do. Well, maybe. If someone told me that _they_ had just won tickets to laser Floyd, I'd probably say "right on". If they told me _I_ had just won tickets, I'd probably say "sweet". Or, come to think of it, possibly "score". But "right on" is something I do say regularly. Then again, I'm in Seattle, which is relatively close to Canada, and slang probably doesn't get filtered out at the border.

I'm also a Seattleite who had just started college when the NYTimes article came out, and I said so many of those things ironically at the time that some of them appear to have slipped into my actual working vocabulary. Huh. It probably doesn't help that I worked with a working grunge guitarist (I guess his band's classified as "melodocore" now; not a genre I'd heard of before) for a few years around then, and he too was constantly using slang off that list ironically with the intent of getting tourists to buy it as real.

I remember "harsh" being real slang meaning "bummer", roughly. Not so much with the "realm".
posted by hades at 12:59 AM on October 3, 2013


Oh, never mind, I know why I say "right on". It's from Mike Myers as Wayne Campbell, on SNL. There's a sobering thought.
posted by hades at 1:02 AM on October 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I think harsh to mean "bummer" shows up in Clueless.

Also "way" as a response to "no way!", which was always one of my early-mid-90s favorites.
posted by Sara C. at 1:07 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


fuck you, fashion

Martin Margiela's Autumn/Winter collection of 1989 just raised an arch eyebrow in your direction ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 1:33 AM on October 3, 2013


From that Seattle Times feature...

> Jasper, 46[...] In her early teens Megan and her sister Maura rebelled... riding a Greyhound on weekends to Boston, where they danced in mosh pits to loud, abrasive hard-core punk bands... like Bad Brains, the Misfits, the Sex Pistols and Minor Threat.

I think she still enjoys pranking journalists.
posted by ardgedee at 3:50 AM on October 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


In the words of Opus: major uncool, man.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:53 AM on October 3, 2013


I find it interesting that the style editor told her that the reporter's job was on the line, since that would seem to imply that they were more interested in bullying her into recanting than they were at getting the truth. And for something so petty.

Imagine how they'd handle a story that mattered.
posted by empath at 4:17 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Political/crime/investigative beats would be staffed by different people, empath. In those areas they're probably more interested in cultivating relationships with people who can provide them steady streams of information and stories for years, rather than the sorts of quick hookups with the leaders of scenes that will only be considered newsworthy for three months. Which is not to say there isn't any bullying there either, only that they're likely to be more judicious with it.
posted by ardgedee at 4:30 AM on October 3, 2013


Sorry, I can't get past:

"WHEN did grunge become grunge? How did a five-letter word meaning..."
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:32 AM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's ALWAYS 'Right on!'. 100% of the time. Do Americans do this?

More so in the 1970's, but yes. In the example you quoted, "Rock on" or "Sweet" seem to have replaced it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:32 AM on October 3, 2013


We really should bring back "Keep On Truckin'"
posted by thelonius at 4:38 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


"WHEN did grunge become grunge? How did a five-letter word meaning..."

Trailing "e"s didn't count as a letter until the Clinton Orthographic Reforms of '94.
posted by griphus at 4:52 AM on October 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ah, yes, the Clinton Orthographic reforms which eliminated the Quayl(e) trailing e's on vegetables.
posted by empath at 4:57 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


But but but... there are only five different letters!

E, G, N, R, and U.
posted by ardgedee at 5:02 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think harsh to mean "bummer" shows up in Clueless.

PCU. By the skaters/stoners, who are grunge/metalhead hybrids. When Moonbeam stops them from nailing up flyers for the Pit party. ("harsh buds!")

I'd be surprised if harsh didn't carry directly back to earlier pop culture -- 'don't harsh my mellow.'
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:42 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


"hawdcaw," per Jasper’s then thick "Woostuh" accent - that Seattle Times article

Can we add "hawdcaw" to the list of words we're going to ironically adopt and then, over time, find ourselves using sincerely?
posted by moonmilk at 5:57 AM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I, too, thought "hey wait. 'Score' and 'Rock on' are things that my friends and I have used for years. Did we become part of the prank inadvertently, or were those real slang items that she included on the list of fake ones for verisimilitude?"
posted by edheil at 6:01 AM on October 3, 2013


Wikipedia dates the term "grunge" to 1981. Maybe that's only 6-letter-grunge.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:28 AM on October 3, 2013


Has anyone seen PCU recently? I loved it when I was a teenager, but I'm terrified it held up as poorly as I suspect it did.
posted by griphus at 6:28 AM on October 3, 2013


I find it interesting that the style editor told her that the reporter's job was on the line, since that would seem to imply that they were more interested in bullying her into recanting than they were at getting the truth. And for something so petty.

I believe that could be a back-prank.
posted by srboisvert at 6:32 AM on October 3, 2013


"kickers" at my (rural, flyover) schools was always a shortening of "shit kickers" which is to say, country boys (or their boots).

i feel like rock on and score might have been more the reporter had heard those terms and asked for definitions. or, mudhoney using them in interviews really did bring them to the forefront.

DISH: Desirable guy
and now i can link one of my favorite songs, candypants - dishy
posted by nadawi at 6:38 AM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obscure Reference: "Wikipedia dates the term "grunge" to 1981. Maybe that's only 6-letter-grunge."

This grunge is just six letters long.

------
Harsh many a time - mostly as a verb "Don't harsh my buzz".

"Rock on" (Hey kid, rock and roll... Rock on!)

Kickers, yeah, was boots, as I knew it. Though I'm not sure if we ever really used it at the time.

Score - totally means to obtain something sweet. Also, Heroin. Which, to Junkies, is pretty sweet.

Swingin' on the flippity flop is hilarious - it sounds like something we would have come up with in high school as an in-joke.

Requisite Mr. Show: No Adults Allowed

Finally - that Nirvana "Go Hoagies" thing was mean. BUT HILARIOUS! The fact the girl just accepted it made me sad.

Funny thing is that yesterday I listened to Nirvana to start my day! SCORE!
posted by symbioid at 6:46 AM on October 3, 2013


I lived in Seattle for ten years and here is my lexicon of the actual slang I heard there:

HOT VOM - sexy guy
HOT STANK - sexy girl

GROMMET - little dude
GROMMET COMET - little girl who likes little dude

ANVIL - what we now know as a "cougar"

SLUDGE, PRUNE, BLACK SABBATH, MIDNIGHT OIL, NEIL YOUNG - all slang for heroin

ALMOST LIVE - crap show (there was a local SNL ripoff comedy show called Almost Live airing in Seattle when I lived there)
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:47 AM on October 3, 2013


I say 'right on' all the time.

But then again, I'm in northeast Ohio, where we're usually 15 years behind on your average trend.

I'm also in my early 40s, so I guess that makes me something of a lamestain.
posted by slogger at 6:47 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The dude from Almost Live is an entertainment big shot now, you see him everywhere.
posted by Artw at 6:50 AM on October 3, 2013


This is awful! Who put this here?
posted by Mister_A at 7:26 AM on October 3, 2013


SWINGIN' ON THE FLIPPITY-FLOP is so fucking sublime. Take that, Old Gray Lady!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:32 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fact, I am going to start replying "Keep On Truckin'!" to anyone who tells me to "have a good one". RESOLVED.
posted by thelonius at 7:34 AM on October 3, 2013


I'm bringing back "keep on keepin' on," myself. And Foghat. They're coming back, too.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:36 AM on October 3, 2013


Almost Live can't be all bad. I mean, you got Bill Nye from it.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:53 AM on October 3, 2013


I lived in Seattle for ten years and here is my lexicon of the actual slang I heard there:

I was with you on your continuation of the lexicon prank right up until you dissed Almost Live.
posted by hades at 8:11 AM on October 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


This article is pretty deck.
posted by evil otto at 8:27 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a deck prank!

D'oh! Potomac Avenue got there first. Now I feel like such a frado.
posted by evil otto at 8:28 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was college-age and living in Olympia, WA at the time this article came out. Well within the boundaries of Grunge Ground Zero.

We were perplexed, to say the least. It was so obviously a hoax, but it was printed in the New York Times, like how did that even happen?

It was sprinkled with a few terms people really said, which only made it more baffling.
posted by ErikaB at 10:11 AM on October 3, 2013


FWIW - I seriously hated Almost Live when I moved to Seattle from SF in the late 90's but then I found it endearing when I knew what they were talking about.

Plus, Kim Thayil horsing around.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 10:36 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


now i can link one of my favorite songs, candypants - dishy At first I thought you were going to link to this song, also called Candy Pants. Ah well-- back to swingin' on the flippity-flop.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:52 PM on October 3, 2013


Outdoorsy trading posts like L. L. Bean, Timberland and Lands' End have been flogging long johns and flannel forever. "I haven't heard it called the grunge look," said a baffled L. L. Bean spokeswoman. But notice that Timberland stock has doubled in the last year.

Oh yeah, that had everything to do with grunge and nothing to do with Timbs in hip hop fashion.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:35 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The more inside link is a little confusing, in that it's in a Baffler anthology, but is a NY Observer article about a Baffler/NYT collision.
posted by klangklangston at 3:05 PM on October 3, 2013


Rock On [1973]
posted by unliteral at 4:13 PM on October 3, 2013


FWIW - I seriously hated Almost Live when I moved to Seattle from SF in the late 90's but then I found it endearing when I knew what they were talking about.

I hated it from the first time I ran across it till the last. SNL without the humor. Just awful.
posted by scalefree at 6:00 PM on October 3, 2013


So.... SNL?
posted by escabeche at 6:40 PM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has anyone seen PCU recently? I loved it when I was a teenager, but I'm terrified it held up as poorly as I suspect it did.

I think it holds up rather well as a relic of its era, but YMMV.

But, seriously, anyone who doesn't appreciate PCU can blow me where the Pampers is. Don't be that guy.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:43 AM on October 5, 2013


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