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Vulgarity, insightful and otherwise, on both sides of the Atlantic

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  • Off-Topic: Vulgarity, insightful and otherwise, on both sides of the Atlantic

    I was just thinking a few days ago, Mike, about a phenomenon I had noticed - and filed away - when I was a kid at a hostel in Wewak in the East Sepik district as it was then, to get some education.

    Us kids bought comics - dozens of them - Superman, Batman, subman, and the like ... amongst them was a very Cockney comic book/magazine the name of which I have forgotten, that had, instead of the usual granite-jawed superhero and supervillain of the American tradition, a pack of rosy- and chubby-cheeked Upper-crust Brits, whose chief preoccupation in life was to liquidate their finances.

    Two incidents in this particular comic stand out in my mind - once, they bought some shellfish in a pack, and the instructions were to shell them - so they rolled out the howitzer and proceeded to do so. Another occasion, they got ahold of a very bright and shiny ray-gun that was guaranteed to destroy whatever it hit, and all looked rosy: they were going to liquidate their gold in no uncertain terms, until the boy came out with the mirror to add to the pile, while the father fired it, and the ray got reflected back onto the ray-gun, which got destroyed ...

    This was something I never thought at the time people could make fun of, could make a mock of. You will certainly never see it in a US comic. I have no doubt even Superman keeps in close touch with his investment manager ...

    I got to wondering, since this was so obviously a Cockney interpretation of Britain's position in the world at that time, and the social divisions, etc, what sort of differences in vulgarity re there between the US and the UK? Mike, you've lived for long periods of time on both English-speaking sides of the Atlantic Ocean - what sort of differences are there in vulgarity? (The closest I've seen the US come to that Cockney view of society, was in The Blues Brothers - and that depended very heavily on the African American contingent to hold it together. American Beauty approached it, but missed, by a mile. Some of the TV cartoon shows also approach it... )
    sigpic Myself as Mephistopheles (Karen Koed's painting of me, 9 Nov 2008, U of Canterbury, CHCH, NZ)

    Gold is the power of a man with a man
    And incense the power of man with God
    But myrrh is the bitter taste of death
    And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod,

    Nativity,
    by Peter Cape

  • #2
    this not may exactly fit

    I just read Player Piano By kurt vonnegut a few months back-an american writer with unusual wit a finesse in my estimate -for a time I thought he was English! He did write quite a bit about social groups and Ideas in what I think was much more readable and coherent than burroughs naked lunch [which could have been written that way on purpose as one of it's underpinnings was Heroin, but Naked Lunch was a trend setter and something new and did also as a major theme deal with social groups]. I find Kurt Vonnegut much more witty,smart,razor sharp and funny at times if darkly so!....Ive read most all his books. Even though many employ the theme of rich and poor and the in between and each their habits-I will say the book player piano Is highly prophetic to current times and that the "liquidation of the upper crust of assets as a pass-time" makes it's appearance. In the book however the peoples are more segregated physically-a thing happening out of necessity mind you[sarcasm]. You might look to him as a writer on the American side to represent and embrace the Idea you put forth-Dr.Strangelove was a English production-so it can't count ,but talk about liquidation of assets!
    Last edited by wiredwullff; 04-15-2011, 03:38 PM.
    "? ",qouz"! ' c. mackay from extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of the crowds.

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    • #3
      Is this a high vs low brow question coupled with Oscar Wilde's comment ' USA and the UK divided by a common language'?
      Papa was a Rolling Stone......

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Pebble View Post
        Is this a high vs low brow question coupled with Oscar Wilde's comment ' USA and the UK divided by a common language'?
        You could put it in those terms, though I never thought of it that way when I posed it.

        I was also thinking at the time of some British comics that did take themselves far, far, far too seriously, the names of which I have mercifully forgotten - and then there are the "Commando" comic books, which take taking oneself seriously to a level high in the stratosphere, from which one can catch glimpses of the conference satellite of the Justice League of America orbiting far above...

        I still remember with something approaching affection, some Commando comic books which actually did break the mold somewhat - one was set in Germany, the Rhineland, and concerned a trio of British soldiers, and a century of Roman soldiers in precisely that same region two thousand years before; and the fact that one of the British soldiers felt certain he knew what was going to happen. A serious look at a form of reincarnation and inherited memory in the form of a kid's comic, which I didn't expect - or understand - but which I can still remember after all these years.
        sigpic Myself as Mephistopheles (Karen Koed's painting of me, 9 Nov 2008, U of Canterbury, CHCH, NZ)

        Gold is the power of a man with a man
        And incense the power of man with God
        But myrrh is the bitter taste of death
        And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod,

        Nativity,
        by Peter Cape

        Comment


        • #5
          As an avid reader of Commando comics when I was a kid, it seems funny to me that they did take themselves so seriously. I guess the authors would argue that war is a serious business.

          Anyway, what they have created is a generation of British boys who smile when they hear German expressions like 'Gott in Himmell', 'schnell!', 'rauss!' and the best of all, 'Donner und Blitzen!'.

          Comment


          • #6
            But we had Dennis the Menace too - was there really an atlantic divide, or just some variation in the medium?

            Comment


            • #7
              Donner und Blitzen! Thunder and Lightning! Sturm und Drang!

              I think the national stereotypes are perhaps the easiest to get rid of ... :)

              Speaking of Dennis the Menace, Calvin and Hobbes, and the like - very good comics, BTW, but I'm talking more about kids-level, not newspaper comic strips. And the existence of a genuine "working-class" "vulgarity" in the US seems to have disappeared around the time the US decided it single-handedly won both World Wars, around the late nineteen-fifties.

              I think maybe what I'm thinking of, goes by the name of Ofisa Pup, and early Felix the Cat, and early Popeye the Sailor-Man ... but their vintage is early to mid nineteen-hundreds ...
              sigpic Myself as Mephistopheles (Karen Koed's painting of me, 9 Nov 2008, U of Canterbury, CHCH, NZ)

              Gold is the power of a man with a man
              And incense the power of man with God
              But myrrh is the bitter taste of death
              And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod,

              Nativity,
              by Peter Cape

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by In_Loos_Ptokai View Post
                ... amongst them was a very Cockney comic book/magazine the name of which I have forgotten, that had, instead of the usual granite-jawed superhero and supervillain of the American tradition, a pack of rosy- and chubby-cheeked Upper-crust Brits, whose chief preoccupation in life was to liquidate their finances.
                That would have been The Bumpkin Billionaires, which ran in first Whoopee! before transferring to Whizzer & Chips both published by Fleetway Publications (formerly the employer of one M.J. Moorcock, Esq.).

                Before the Lottery, we had the Pools. And most folks could only dream of winning that £1m prize. But Ma and Pa Bumpkin and the kids, Billy and Daisy, won a whole lot more than a £1m. They won billions, and their winnings took them out of their ramshackle cottage and into the mansion of their dreams...

                Or nightmares, even.

                You see, money simply couldn't buy happiness for the Bumpkins. The foursome were driven to distraction by the trappings of their winnings. And their Bank Manager suffered too, because, each strip the family would scheme up extravagant ways to dispose of their fortune - much to his exasperation. They'd fling, lose, gamble, invest, and hand over great bundles of cash, shovel-loads of gem stones and piles of gold bullion before driving into the sunset in the Bumpkin jalopy, believing themselves to be halfway to penniless bliss...
                They were, as the title 'Bumpkin' suggests (think 'Hillbilly'), less 'Cockney' (let alone 'Upper-crust') and more of a rural Somerset-type family. Furthermore, I suspect Fleetway (formerly Amalgamated Press, later IPC Media) wasn't really much of a 'Cockney' company since they had their headquaters in the evocatively titled King's Reach Tower* situated in SE1 (Southwark), not traditionally part of the 'Cockney area' (although the precise area is disputed). However, it's possible that I'm nit-picking over your use of the term 'Cockney' in your question.

                *Supposedly, King's Reach Tower was the cunning disguise of 2000AD's Tharg the Mighty's spaceship in which he had arrived on Earth from the planet Betelgeuse but since it was also where such magazines as Woman's Own and Woman's Weekly were published I suspect this was a big fib!
                _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by In_Loos_Ptokai View Post
                  Speaking of Dennis the Menace, Calvin and Hobbes, and the like - very good comics, BTW, but I'm talking more about kids-level, not newspaper comic strips.
                  In the UK, Dennis the Menace is the main featured character in the weekly children's humour comic The Beano* and not a newspaper strip (like the US Dennis?).



                  Unlike either the London-based Whoopee!, Whizzer & Chips or 2000AD, The Beano (and its stable-mate The Dandy) is published by the Dundee-based Scots publisher, D.C. Thomson (not to be confused with the New York-based DC Comics!)

                  *Just as Judge Dredd is the main featured character in the weekly SF comic 2000AD.
                  _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                  _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                  _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                  _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by porcus_volans View Post
                    Anyway, what they have created is a generation of British boys who smile when they hear German expressions like 'Gott in Himmell', 'schnell!', 'rauss!' and the best of all, 'Donner und Blitzen!'.
                    'Hande hoch' was another phrase that featured heavily. For years the only German I knew I'd learned from those comics.

                    I'me sure some of us Brits must remember Starblazer, a similar size comic featuring SF stories?

                    You see, it's... it's no good, Montag. We've all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal.

                    -:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-

                    Image Hive :-: Wikiverse :-: Media Hive

                    :-: Onsite Offerings :-:


                    "I am an observer of life, a non-participant who takes no sides. I am in the regimented society, but not of it." Moondog, 1964

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Yes, yes, great fun, that movie-German! Once I was in the awkward situation of having to prove that I was German to the ticket controller at the exit of the London subway. It was my first day in London and first ride ever on the Tube and I had discarded my ticket right after getting off the train convinced you didn't need it after the ride it entitled you to ... uhoh! Now the old gentleman in his booth simply refused to believe me. And when I said I was a foreigner - and a German at that - he demanded I speak German to prove it. So I gave him a rendering of what I thought he'd know: "Halt! Herr Kommandant, nicht schiessen, Schweinehund!" This got me an incredulous frown if I ever saw one. And while he was still pondering his options what to do with me, luckily my father finally came up those endless escalators behind me and was able to support my case...
                      Google ergo sum

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        That is so excellent. I'll have to share my time of getting stuck on the bridge between Strasbourg and Kehl one of these days. "Kanadischer?" "Erm, ya, oder oui?"
                        Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

                        ~Henry David Thoreau

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I used to read a lot of "Tarzan Comcs" and "Billy the Kid", both had a (passing) effect on my colloquial - Tarzan bandoloo! Or a lot of comic book Texan grammar. But I belong to a deveolping species, and therefore ...
                          Liked "Archie" a lot for some time, but then I found teenagers to be quite different when I breached that age group, so those comics were obviously pre Beatles, Stones and Santana.

                          @Wanderlust: the border is open today, no more passport controls between France and Germany. And Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Austria and others.
                          Google ergo sum

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by L'Etranger View Post
                            @Wanderlust: the border is open today, no more passport controls between France and Germany. And Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Austria and others.
                            This much I was aware of, and I wished to hades it was this way back in '76.
                            Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

                            ~Henry David Thoreau

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
                              Originally posted by In_Loos_Ptokai View Post
                              ... amongst them was a very Cockney comic book/magazine the name of which I have forgotten, that had, instead of the usual granite-jawed superhero and supervillain of the American tradition, a pack of rosy- and chubby-cheeked Upper-crust Brits, whose chief preoccupation in life was to liquidate their finances.
                              That would have been The Bumpkin Billionaires, which ran in first Whoopee! before transferring to Whizzer & Chips both published by Fleetway Publications (formerly the employer of one M.J. Moorcock, Esq.).

                              Before the Lottery, we had the Pools. And most folks could only dream of winning that £1m prize. But Ma and Pa Bumpkin and the kids, Billy and Daisy, won a whole lot more than a £1m. They won billions, and their winnings took them out of their ramshackle cottage and into the mansion of their dreams...

                              Or nightmares, even.

                              You see, money simply couldn't buy happiness for the Bumpkins. The foursome were driven to distraction by the trappings of their winnings. And their Bank Manager suffered too, because, each strip the family would scheme up extravagant ways to dispose of their fortune - much to his exasperation. They'd fling, lose, gamble, invest, and hand over great bundles of cash, shovel-loads of gem stones and piles of gold bullion before driving into the sunset in the Bumpkin jalopy, believing themselves to be halfway to penniless bliss...
                              They were, as the title 'Bumpkin' suggests (think 'Hillbilly'), less 'Cockney' (let alone 'Upper-crust') and more of a rural Somerset-type family. Furthermore, I suspect Fleetway (formerly Amalgamated Press, later IPC Media) wasn't really much of a 'Cockney' company since they had their headquaters in the evocatively titled King's Reach Tower* situated in SE1 (Southwark), not traditionally part of the 'Cockney area' (although the precise area is disputed). However, it's possible that I'm nit-picking over your use of the term 'Cockney' in your question.

                              *Supposedly, King's Reach Tower was the cunning disguise of 2000AD's Tharg the Mighty's spaceship in which he had arrived on Earth from the planet Betelgeuse but since it was also where such magazines as Woman's Own and Woman's Weekly were published I suspect this was a big fib!
                              Ah yes, the Bumpkin Billionaires - that's very much the one I was thinking about.

                              And you are right about my misunderstanding/misuse of the term "Cockney" - but then, it's not a subject I know much about, and so I tend to throw most low-brow vaguely Londonish stuff into the "Cockney" basket, irrespective of where it originates.

                              Still, I have never seen a US comic magazine based on the same premise, that money can't buy happiness, let alone take pains in making a joke out of it. Ashleigh Brilliant can joke about it in his famous one-liners, but then, he's a transplanted Brit anyway! (Though American Beauty did show a corporate drone taking stock and liquidating his presence in the company that had employed him, just to break out of the soul-destroying environment ... that's one thing I didn't think an American film could ever do. It was an unusual film, one which I thoroughly enjoyed.)
                              sigpic Myself as Mephistopheles (Karen Koed's painting of me, 9 Nov 2008, U of Canterbury, CHCH, NZ)

                              Gold is the power of a man with a man
                              And incense the power of man with God
                              But myrrh is the bitter taste of death
                              And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod,

                              Nativity,
                              by Peter Cape

                              Comment

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