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Graffiti Lingo 101 – A User’s Guide to Talking Street

Graffiti art has been evolving and will continue to flourish, regardless of any acceptance by art institutions or not. As graffiti is slowly embraced by more conventional art venues and publications, it becomes imperative to promote a better understanding of what graffiti is and where it comes from. This is a look inside its underground lingo and its meaning:

All-City: To go all over the city. The effort to cover the most, with the best.

Bite:To copy another style, to take a writer’s style and claim it as your own.

Black Book: A writers sketchbook, sometimes referred to as a piece book.

Blockbuster: Huge block letters that take up an enormous amount of space. Larger than throw-ups and used many times to cover up another writers work.

Bomb: The action of doing graffiti. Painting or marking surfaces with ink and/or paint. Putting up your tag. ie “Jimmy is going to bomb that wall.” In these politically charged days, this can take on a whole new meaning.

Bombing: To go out and write graffiti art. ex: “Jimmy is bombing that wall.” Again in these days be very careful who hears you speaking like this.

Bubble Letters: Balloon styled letters, easily rendered, very basic. Often used for throw-ups.

Burner: A full fledged piece. Fully rendered letters with multiple color fills and backgrounds, characters,etc.

Fill-in: A throw up with a filled in center, or simply thought of as the colored areas inside of letter patterns.

Getting up: The action of going out and tagging.

Going Over: Crossing out someone else’s work with your own,with the idea that your work is better.

King: The highest compliment given to a graffiti writer. A person who has mastered the form and established his dominance.

Mad: Crazy, very advanced styles or lots…ex: “Jimmy has mad styles.” or “Jimmy has mad spray cans at the crib.”

Rack: To steal.

Sick: Very, very good at technique and has great individual style. Usually pronounced as “siiiick!” ex: Johnny has sick style. Meaning Johnny is very good.

Tag: A writers signature, his “nom de plume”. For example “Scape” is my tag.

Throw up: Your name in big bubble letters. Done VERY quickly…Used primarily to simply cover space and grab attention. Done in no more than three minutes. Proving you were there.

Toy: An inexperienced writer, or a writer that has not progressed. A term of disrespect.

Up: A writer that is active and has a lot of work in circulation.

Westside: A common phrase shouted from many a parking lot, designating an affiliation or allegiance to The West Coast of the US. Was formerly a calling for and by gangs of the westside of Los Angeles. Made popular by rap records and now tends to lean on an affiliation of all things West Coast Hip Hop.

Window-Down: A piece that only goes from the windows down on a subway car.

Whole Car: A train car that is painted from top to bottom, and end to end. Covering all available surfaces, windows, etc.

Writer: Someone who practices the art of graffiti.