domingo, 4 de enero de 2009

Etymology of Poof (in the gay way).

Hello Again loyal follower(s). Time for a bit of MacAlaister-style underworld etymology:

A Libyan friend recently told me about a trip to Malta he took a few years ago, here is his story verbatem (translation from the Italian, B.N Sue, Arabic words not translated, in Italics):

"Yeah, Maltese is very similar to Libi. One time I was there with my friend on holidays, and we were walking round and this guy kept following us, an old guy with a hat and smart clothes. So my friend says to me 'Why is that guy following us, is he a cop?'. So I say back to him, 'Don't worry, hada bufta.' Meaning he's homosexual, and the old guy smiles and goes 'Yes, yes, yes, ana bufta!'"

When I heard this I was immediately struck by the similarity to the English word "Poof" (offensive "gay"), and specifically it's variant "poofter", so I decided to look for the etymology of the English word. According to my Collins dictionary, and various on-line sources, the word derives from the French "pouffe" meaning, not illogically "puff", possibly via theatrical slang for a young actor (nowt like stereotypes is there?). The derivative "poofter" was first noted in 1911, in an Australian context.

How proud I was of my countrymen, sowing our deviant oats throughout the mediterranean, and all the way to Australia, buggering our way into the linguistic records of 3 continents. "Bufta" had entered (oo-er!) Maltese and Arabic through brave efforts of Her Majesty's sea-queens. The change in the first letter was easy to explain, Arabic has no "p", so Arabic speakers hear it as "b".

However, something didn't quite ring true. In my youth I was a big fan of Irvine Welsh, particularly his Edinburgh-smack-epic; Trainspotting. One of the most frequently used epithets in that insult-laden tome is "bufty" or its alliterative child "bufty-boy"... meaning, well, "bufta". Why should Scots have the word starting with a "b" if the original French was "p"? Perhaps I had got the direction of the borrowing the wrong way round.

Maybe English wasn't the active partner, but the passive.

I'm now certain that bufta was an Eastern Mediterranean Lingua Franca term, which could have originated from something like "puta" (Vulgar Latin "whore") or Levantine Arabic bufta ("flimsy", "shoddy"). From there it was transported to Britain through the Polari pipe-line (oo-err), where rhotic scots heard it as "bufty", but non-rhotic Cockneys heard the final vowel as schwa you find in "teacher".

So why did we English change the "b" to a "p"? Perhaps the influence of the theatrical slang word "puff", which merged into the new proto-polari "bufter" to form "poofter".

Just goes to show, there's nowt so queer as etymology.

Here's what I think h

jueves, 31 de julio de 2008

Me voy......

It's all going to go very quiet here, I'm on the way to my second patria "The United Bolivarian States Of Latin America" (my first, of course, is President Ansar's Republic of Spain, I find the imaginary countries so much less disappointing).

Normal service will be resumed after Ramadan, but in the meantime I can be contacted on

All the best everyone, and try not to break Je Joue Au Babyfoot while I'm away.

miércoles, 23 de julio de 2008

Free-market millenarians: Internet Sebastianists who want to sleep with their sisters

One of my favourite books of all time is Mario Vargas Llosa’s Brazilian epic, The War of The End of The World. It is a fictionalised version of the true story of the ill-fated Sebastianist uprising of the early 20th century: a popular rebellion in the unforgiving deserts of the Brazilian north led by an unordained priest calling himself “O Conselheiro”, the messenger.

The uprising (about which Eric Hobsbawm, amongst others has written) was a response to an economic crisis caused by a 30 year drought combined with the transition from a slave economy to a wage earning system. What was interesting about this crisis was that, unlike the revolutionaries who would shortly overthrow (then reestablish) tyranny in Mexico and Russia, the peasants and bandits of the Brazilian Sertao believed that the Kingdom of God was imminent and that, upon its arrival, their dead would be restored to life. Even more bizarrely, they believed that the 16th century regent of Portugal Dom Sebastiao, MIA in Morocco since 1598, would return to lead them to victory (this belief had fascinating roots; the songs of medieval Portuguese troubadours, transplanted to the Brazilian outback, much like the similarly incongruous elf-ridden Anglos-Scots ballads of the Ozarks and the Appalachians).

O Conselheiro and his followers were extreme cases, but all revolutionary movements have a millenarian element, they can’t be divided (as Hobsbawm would wish) into perfectly rational Bourgeois and Proletarian revolutions, and crazy millenarian peasant revolts. The blind faith in “the revolution” as the only instrument of change often creates the belief that it will, in and of itself, solve everybody’s problems; but up till the dawn of the internet, few revolutionary movements explicitly based their ideology on anything as nebulous and supernatural as “The Kingdom of God”.

We now face worthy successors to the pre-modern irrationalism of the Sebastianists, that strange brand of anarcho-capitalist which, in the US, currently sullies the good name of libertarianism. This philosophy rests on the seemingly self-evident concept that everybody has a right to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t involve using violence in anything other than a defensive capacity (what this gang of IT nerd wrong-cocks call “initiation of force”). From this standpoint they argue that any restriction on the use of one’s property amounts to an initiation of force: therefore no taxation, environmental protection laws, labour rights, socialised policing or healthcare, and in some cases, government itself, can be morally defensible.

Here’s the sting; this initiation of force always relates to damage to property (“libertarians” kindly include our bodies amongst our chattels, so even violent crime is crime against property), but not to land (in the economic sense, all natural resources) . No other crimes are recognised. So nobody can prevent the hunting to extinction of any animal, nobody can prevent the poisoning of the air, or, should a company wish to do so, the production of unsafe merchandise, nobody can stop the deforestation of Amazonia, no individual action which is harmful to the collective can be prevented.

Now, perhaps one or two of you can see where the flaws in this plan are(Aside from the obvious moral problem that the only people who get a say in the use the Earth’s resources are put to would be the rich, and that a lack of environmental laws would mean that companies could make a bigger profit by deciding to poison people). But you’d be wrong, “libertarians” assure us that the market will take care of everything.

Q: Won’t people starve? A:No, the market will provide everybody with jobs, there’ll be no tax!
Q:What about people who can’t work? A:Charities will look after them, there’ll be no tax!
Q:Won’t people kill each other for food? A: No, silly! That would be an initiation of force. And there’ll be plenty of money for food, because of the no tax!
Q:Won’t the entire environment be degraded and the Earth turned into a shit tip? A:Why would a good businessman do that? If he owns the land he will manage it better than the state, because it’s his. And there’ll be no tax!
Q:What about the rainforests of Borneo which are being burnt down by their owners to produce palm oil? And the Buffalo hunters who exterminated their own livelihoods, and the Spanish fishermen, and tiger hunters...? A: This wasn’t capitalism!!!!! There was tax! When we have capitalism, there’ll be no tax!!!!
Q: What about all the things the state provides me with now, how much will that cost me when there is no state? A: Market, market, gibber, no tax, Von Mises, Austria, gibber, Friedman was a Socialist, men with guns, gibber, market, no tax, gibber.

These incest-legalising social misfits have a messianically unshakeable faith in the market, and an absolute hatred of any form of collective action. Which is what makes their similarity to raging Trotskyites so amusing: they even have the same slogans when the obvious flaws in their arguments are pointed out:

“That’s not real communism/capitalism (delete as appropriate), real communism/capitalism’s never been tried.”
“In a socialist/free market system, that problem wouldn’t exist”

Well I too would like to dust off a cold war standard for our demented “libertarian” friends, and also suggest a holiday destination so they can see their ideas in action (perhaps in the style of the anglo-soviet friendship tours of old):

“Oy, Atlas Shrugged! If you like anarcho-capitalism so much, why don’t you fuck off to Somalia?”

lunes, 14 de julio de 2008

Detingut per pegar a la seva companya i retenir-la contra la seva voluntat a Lleida

(From Avui)

Well done to the Guardia Urbana.

I can imagine nothing worse than being forced to stay in Lerida against my will. Except being forced to stay in Reus....

(apologies to anybody who doesn't think domestic violence is a laughing matter)

domingo, 13 de julio de 2008

Je joue au babyfoot dukla Prague FC

Is my suggestion for an open collaborative blog.

Any interested parties please answer here (including ANYBODY who has posted previously...)

Then e-mail, and I will invite you to join.

Ishotthemosso will of course continue.

sábado, 12 de julio de 2008

Robert Westall: Best British short story writer since the war?

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Robert Westall's death. There should be articles and retrospectives and solemn acts of rememberance for this great Tyneside writer, but Westall made several serious mistakes that prevented this from happening. Indeed, if a British writer should ever want to be shamefully under-rated, they could do no better than to follow the 4 point Westall plan:

1. Write short stories. Lots of brilliant short stories. Nobody in the London media establishment values short stories unless they are written by blind Argentinians and have mirrors in them.

2. Don't live in London. Don't write about London. Don't mention London. ("Unless you write about the city we all live in, your work will seem so terribly parrochial darling!")

3. Specialise in not just one, but two chronically unfashionable genres; ghost stories and sci-fi.

4. Allow your work to be marketed as books for teenagers.

Number 4 was the factor that really stitched Westall up. People who would wank themselves blind over MR James' Ghost Stories would never consider Westall's work worthy of a second look because it was "for kids". This despite the fact that Westall dealt with themes of loss, sex, death, growing old, poverty and the whole twentieth century history of Britain.

When he is mentioned at all today, it is usually in reference to his war novels The Machine Gunners and Fathom Five. This was largely because they fit with the more fashionable kitchen-sink aesthetic of "regional" fiction, which was popular with the literati in the 70's and 80's, but to my mind it is not his best work.

His collections of short stories are spectacularly good (Rachel and The Angel, The Haunting of Chas MacGill), scary thoughtful and tightly written gems. I also loved his supernatural novels, particularly "The Scarecrows". They are top draw horror and sci-fi, much better than what most of his for-adults counterparts were knocking out at the time.

One story of his has stuck in my mind over the 17 years since I first read it.

It is classic McGuffin story, about a gang of bikers in their late teens who go up to reputedly haunted abbey. Obviously the reader expects the apparition of a spectral nun, but nothing of the sort happens and the lads just lark about, in a beautifully observed scene with one of the best illustrations of the complex relationship between a group of male friends I've ever seen in print.

The most charismatic of the group, Geronimo drives off separately, then the rest go home. The narrator, one of the lads, then describes how he finds out Geronimo was killed in a crash, and tells how his funeral procession was escorted by hundreds of bikers. At the end of the tale we realise it's a few years later, and the narrator explains he is getting married next year and will trade his bike for a family car. He talks about how every day he is getting further from Geronimo, and closer to the boring cardigan-wearing middle-aged men they used to laugh at. But before he sells, he will go for one last ride, sure that Geronimo will be with him, riding just outside his peripheral vision.

It is one of the most beautiful laments for the loss of a friend, and the loss of youth, that I have ever read, and it still haunts me today.

Kids' books my arse.

miércoles, 9 de julio de 2008

Economics: Not science, bollocks.

Here is an excellent article by Tory-boy Simon Jenkins, talking about my favourite people, the economists.

In a previous post I outlined my take on why the world economy is up shit creek without a paddle. Basically my thesis is that credit got out of control, and the financial markets of the post-industrial world started to believe that housing could increase in value forever and therefore the only logical destination for investment was property and its derivatives.

I realised the economy was fucked around 2003, the year when everybody I knew seemed to be buying a house, despite only earning the same as me. Admittedly I was spending a lot on drugs, but not enough to make up the difference between my one-bedroom rent and the price of the mortgage on a scabby terraced house in Beeston. AND I was saving on food...

So if a drug addled loner in a grim West Yorkshire bedsit could work it out, why were so many of the top public and private sector economic analyists completely unaware that the economy was heading towards the worst recession since the 30s?

Because economists know fuck all. Economics depends on the mathematical analysis of a complex system, a system which is completely resistant to correct modeling due to the near infinite number of variables that need to be taken into consideration to get a true picture.

Of course that doesn't stop economists from making up mathematical models to predict and explain what's happening, but it does mean they are always wrong.

But the true hubris of the economist is that they believe that they can separate economic activity from all other systems, as if it were in some way "pure mathematics", rather than a symbiote of politics. To decide economic policy one must first decide what goals one finds desirable, and that is first and foremost a political decision.

Not even the never-ending quest for "growth", the foundation of economic policy-making, is a neutral aim. Can the environment sustain constant growth in economic output? Is perceived growth real, or does it disguise costs (environmental or social) that far outweigh its benefits? The professors of economics would either ignore these issues, or present them as dry methodological questions, when theyshould be the subject of intense public and politcal debate.