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Graffiti: Writer's Vocabulary

Writer's Vocabulary
The following is provided primarily for the use of people outside the writing community. We hope it clarifies site content.


All-CITY: When a writer or crew bombs all major subway lines.

BEEF: Disagreement or conflict.

BENCH: (n) Subway station where writers congregate and watch trains. Benching (v) The act of watching trains.

BITE: Plagiarism.

BLOCK BUSTER: Wide lettered piece stretching from end to end done below window level on subway car.

BMT:NYC subway division called Brooklyn Manhattan Transit company. Includes J, L, M, N, Q, R, Z subway lines.

BOMB: Prolific writing.

BUFF: Removal of writing/art work.

THE BUFF: The MTA's graffiti removal program.

BURN: 1. To out do the competition. 2. To ware out.

BURNER: A technically and stylistically well-executed wild style piece. Generally done in bright colors.

CAPS: (Fat, skinny, German thin) Interchangeable spray-can nozzles fitted to paint can to vary width of spray.

CLEAN TRAIN: Current term for all New York City Subway cars. They are difficult to hit and rarely go into service with writing on them.

COAL MINE: Older IND and BMT (R1s-R9s) subway cars characterized by a unpainted brown dusty surface. Retired from service in 1976.

CREW: Organized group of writers.

CROSSING OUT: To scribble or write on someone else's name. It is considered highly disrespectful.

DEF: Excellent (derived from definite and death).

DESIGNS: Polka dots, checkers stars swirls are placed over the fill-in to in hence and compliment fill-in . Designs are limited only by an artists imagination and technical ability.

D.G.A.: Don't Get Around.

DING DONG Stainless-steel (R-46)subway car, so named for the bell that rings alerting passengers of closing doors.

DOPE: Excellent, of the highest order.

DOWN: Part of a group or action.

DT: Plain cloths police officer or detective.

5-O: Slang for police. Derived form the television series Hawaii 5-O.

FADE: Graduation of colors.

FAMLIES: Rows of throw ups of the same name.

FLOATERS: Throw ups done on subway car panels at window level.

FREIGHTS: Railroad freight cars.

FLATS: Painted steel subway cars with flat surfaces. (The preferred subway cars of old school writers. During the 1970s the IRT division was composed exclusively of flats).

GETTING UP: When proliferation of name has led to high visibility.

GETTING OVER: Succeeding.

G0ING OVER: Writing over another writers name. It is the ultimate act of disrespect.

FILL-IN: The base colors of a piece, falling within the outline.

HAND STYLE: Handwriting or tagging style.

HEAD BUFF SPOT:The portion of wall panels of the subway car interior above the seats located at passenger's head level. The mild though frequent abrasion from passengers heads eventually buffs (removes) tags on these locations.(It is an undesirable location to tag.)

HENRY SHOTS: Photographic technique developed by Henry Chalfant. The camera remains in one spot with automatic film advance while the subject (train) moves. The end result is a straight forward single image built from several frames providing more detail. Though the term is used infrequently the technique has become one of the standards for photo documentation of trains.

HIT: (n) A tag, throw-up or piece (v) the act of writing.

HOT 110:Synonymous with the term "Toy".

IND:NYC subway division called the Independent. Includes A, B, C, D, E, F, GG subway lines.

INSIDES:Subway car interiors.

INVENT: Shoplifting or stealing. This term was used prior to 1974. The contemporary term is RACK.

IRT:NYC subway division called Interborough Rapid Transit. Includes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 subway lines.

KILL: To bomb excessively.

KING: The most accomplished writer in a given category.

LAY-UP: A single or double track where trains are parked during off-peak hours. Both tunnel and elevated lay-ups exist.

LETTER LINES: The IND and BMT divisions of The New York City Subway.

MARRIED COUPLE: Two subway cars permanently attached which share a motor. Identified by their consecutive numbers. These cars were desirable when art work on connected car was directly relevant.

MOTION TAGGING: Writing on subway cars while they are in service. Also referred to as MOTIONING.

MTA:1. Metropolitan Transit Authority Includes BMT, IND and IRT subway divisions as well as surface transit divisions.
2. Mad Transit Artists Bronx crew from the late 1970s led by CHINO MALO and REE aka OPEL.

NUMBER LINES: The IRT division of The New York City Subway.

NEW SCHOOL: Contemporary writing culture (post 1984).
This date can vary greatly depending upon who you ask.

OLD SCHOOL: The writing culture prior to 1984.
This date can vary greatly depending upon who you ask.

OUTLINE: The skeleton or frame work of a piece FINAL OUTLINE: After fill-in and designs have been applied the outline is re-executed to define the letters.

PANEL PIECE: A painting below the windows and between the doors of a subway car.

PIECE: A writer's painting, short for masterpiece.

PIECING: The execution of a piece.

PIECE BOOK OR BLACK BOOK: A writer's sketch book. Used for personal art development and or the collection of other artists work.

PRODUCTION: Large scale murals with detailed pieces and illustrations. (Contemporary term used mainly for street murals.)

PULL-IN PULL-OUT: This is essentially a five to fifteen minute lay-up. At the end of some subway routes trains park in a tunnel for several minutes before going back into service. During this time the trains are written on. Due to time constraints pull in-pull outs were generally utilized for throw ups. It was one of the more dangerous approaches to writing.

RACKING OR RACKING UP: Shoplifting or stealing.

RACK: A store where shoplifting can be done.

RIDGIE: Subway car with corrugated, stainless-steel sides. An undesirable surface for burners. Ridgies ran on the BMT and IND divisions and were preferred by throw-up artists.
ROLLER LETTERS:Names rendered with bucket paint and rollers.

SCRATCHITI: A media coined term for the scratchings rendered on to the windows of subway cars.

SLANTS: IND R-40 subway cars with slanted face.

STEEL: Any type of train. New school term used to distinguish train and wall work.

THE SYSTEM: The New York City Subway system.

STYLE WARS: 1. Competition between artists to determine superior creative ability.
2. Documentary film on Hip Hop by Henry Chalfant and Tony Silver.Proved to be an extremely inspirational element for the New School.

TAG: (n) A writer's name and signature. (v) The execution of a signature.

TAGGING-UP: The execution of a signature.

THROW-UP: A quickly executed piece consisting of an outline with or without thin layer of spray paint for fill-in .

THROWIE: Contemporary term for throw-up.

TOP-TO-BOTTOM or (T to B): A piece which extends from the top of the subway car to the bottom.

TOY: 1. Inexperienced or incompetent writer.
2. A small felt tip marker.

UP: Describes a writer whose work appears regularly on the trains or through out the city.

WALL PAPER: Repetition of a name written making enough coverage so that a pattern develops, much like wall paper.

WAK: Substandard or incorrect.

WILD STYLE: 1. Bronx crew from the 1970s led by Tracy 168.
2. A complicated construction of interlocking letters.
3. Classic film on Hip Hop culture directed by Charlie Ahearn.

WINDOW DOWN: A piece done below the windows of a subway car.

WORK BUM: New York City Transit Authority track maintenance worker.

WRITER: Practitioner of the art of writing.
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