Punk was back in the news recently when Joe Corre, the son of Malcolm McLaren, the late manager of the Punk rock group, the Sex Pistols, announced he was going to burn punk memorabilia worth an estimated £5 million, rather than auction it or give it away. This caused considerable dismay in many music, art, fashion and collector circles.
Punk music – a loud, fast-moving and aggressive form of rock –was popular in the late 1970s. The best known group was the Sex Pistols and the group was into shocking, challenging and upsetting people. So Corre’s decision, far from being eccentric, would seem to be in keeping with the spirit of his father’s group.
Punk from the 70s is not just the music. Although the movement spawned hundreds of other groups determined to cause public outrage, if only with their names – The Snivelling Shits, Southern Death Cult, The Wailing Cocks (nope, I hadn’t heard of them before, either), it influenced a whole range of other activities: hairstyles, fashion, art, and dance. Corre’s mother is the funky-punky fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.
The word still has a contemporary feel, and not a particularly polite one either. In fact most uses of the term beyond the music and fashion etc. are derogatory or slang (and many are North American in origin). As a noun it can be used to denote a:
- Worthless person
- Criminal or thug
- Passive male homosexual
- Inexperienced – ‘[he was] a punk kid starting out.’
As a verb, ‘To punk’ can mean ‘to trick,’ or ‘to defeat.’
But in reality punk is not a new word. It goes at least as far back as Shakespeare and with more extensive, largely sexual, connotations. For example, when Lucio, in Measure for Measure, is ordered to marry a prostitute he has made pregnant he is appalled:
“Marrying a punk, my lord, is [worse than] pressing to death, whipping and hanging.”
I’m not sure the Sex Pistols and their followers appreciated that the term had quite such literate and high-brow antecedents when they started out. But at least they can console themselves that it was definitely a term of abuse even over 400 years ago.
Staying with the ‘high-brow’, I have written a number of short stories based on Shakespeare’s heroines: A Midsummer Day’s Dream, The Ghost Queen, Journey to the Fair Mountain, Chains of Magic, are the ones that have been published so far. No punks of any description feature in these stories, I’m afraid, but more information and the purchase links are on the Published Work Page of this blog.
Or you can go to my Amazon author page: