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Monday, 10 September 2012

A Goth by any other name...

Shockingly, the much-misused (ahem) and oft-maligned term 'Goth' is not the only term used for we black-clad lovers of dark music.

Source
There are, of course, a few that we have adopted for ourselves, such as 'darkling' - a term that certainly doesn't appeal to everyone, but some of us use it to show that whilst we have interests in common with the Goth scene 'proper', the term 'Goth' doesn't necessarily apply to us in the very strictest sense. 'Dark alternative', in such a case, would be the longer-winded version of such a term.

Then again, back in the day, many of those in the punk movement who found themselves drawn to the dark music of the Goth rock and post-punk scenes weren't keen on the term 'Goth' being applied to them by the media. In many cases they thought of themselves simply as punks, or if they were more specifically aligned with the darker music groups, perhaps post-punks or even Batcavers (I am also given to understand that 'deathrockers' was originally used as a similar catch-all term for creepy black-clad people in the early days of the USA dark scene). Waver, from New Wave, was another term more popular in the 80s; I have also seen 'darkwaver' used.

A much-maligned term for Goths is the grammatically-mangled 'Gothics', to which the most common response is, "I'm sorry? I'm not a style of architecture..." or similar. Honestly, I thought this wording was the result of overeager youngsters over-employing their ooky-spookiness, but Tumblr blogger audiogruft (whose blog, irriatingly, I now can't find) says, "Look, I don’t know why we Germans took an English adjective and used it as a noun, okay? But it started in the 90s and somehow it stuck. It has by now become an incredibly vague, if not already meaningless term because it got applied to anything looking remotely “dark”, and has been commercialised pretty thoroughly as well. As a result, many German Goths resent and reject being called a “Gothic”."

Audiogruft also presents us with the following, utterly charming German term: "Schwarzkittel (singular and plural, lit. “blackcoats”): a self-chosen label and a rather friendly, slightly self-mocking one at that (a Kittel is rather plain, it can also refer to a lab coat for example)."

German Goths, of course, have their own specific terminology. The term 'grufti' is often used; I am told that this essentially means 'dark person', which is obviously a fairly accurate description. But, I have also read that because the word 'gruft' itself, from which the label is derived, means 'tomb', stereotypes abound regarding graveyards, death and other sorts of spooky nonsense which not every Goth actually wants to be associated with. We don't all take picnics in cemeteries, after all. Therefore, like many of the other terms - for example, babybat - grufti can be a label one uses affectionately for oneself but can also be frowned upon.

Sweden also has its own scene-specific terms. The tag 'synthare' (also spelt syntare) has been popularised by the stunning alt/Goth model Adora BatBrat, who uses the term (as well as 'Goth') to describe herself. However, the term doesn't refer specifically to Goths but to fans of synth and electronic music, the kind of music popular amongst cybergoths. Not all synthares dress in Goth fashion like Adora, but uniforms and military-style clothing are often popular (according to Wikipedia, that is).

The Little Book of Goths by Dan Vice has a handy list of international terminology for the Goth 'species'; some, I feel, may be inaccurate - for example, the term 'cosplayers' is listed under Japan, and whilst you get cosplayers playing Goth characters and Goths who are into cosplay the terms are not actually synonymous. In Japan, however, the 'Goth' label is often applied to Gothic Lolitas rather than Goths specifically, which confuses the issue even further.

Anyway, nitpicking aside, here are some of the terms listed in Dan Vice's Little Book:
  • France: coneille, gothique, corbeau
  • Germany: gotik
  • Holland: gothiek, gootje
  • Japan: gosurori, Yamamba (EDIT: to judge from the comments, sounds like this one is WAY out. Although The Little Book of Goths also lists Iron Maiden as a Goth bands, so I'm not tremendously surprised!)
  • Mexico: darks, gotico, darketo, darky
  • Spain: siniestro, gotico
  • Sweden: got, svartrock
Out of curiosity, can anyone verify the accuracy of these terms? What terms are used for Goth in your country? How do you describe yourself?

37 comments:

Mademoiselle Parapluie said...

Yamamba is actually a style of gyaru-kei which has very little in common with gothic styles-.

Shannon Rutherford said...

In Italy people just say "darks". Again, using an adjective as a noun. Like "s/he's a dark". Since people usually don't know the first thing about the subculture, they call that anyone who's dressed in black (except for emos and metalheads, most people can tell them apart).

Anonymous said...

Personally, i just refer to myself as a goth, even though ''dark alternative'' is more accurate because i love the term. In finland, where i live goth is called gootti, but i have also come across the term synkiö, which pretty much means darkling or gloomy person. I don't know of any other terms though i don't doubt that there are more.

akumaxkami said...

Yamamba is definitely not a "goth" term. It's actually used to describe the more radical version of Ganguro.

See: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/186/405831411_9d29696776.jpg

Alexandriaweb said...

Not sure why you included Yamamba on the list for Japan, Yamamba means "mountain Witch" which sounds very Gothic but refers to the ultra tanned Gyarus with the white streaks down their noses (pretty much the exact opposite of goths) when referring to street fashions rather than legends.

dollsahoy said...

Oh, wow, he's calling yamanba (mis-spelling is understandable, 'nb' isn't a sound found much in English) a form of Goth style? Yamanba is an offshoot of ganguro, which is basically attempting to look like a stereotypically tanned blonde California Girl--to be yamanba, white lipstick and eye make up are added. Since that's even farther from Goth than gosurori, I'm curious to see how accurate his other terms are. (If there's already a similar comment in the queue, feel free to ignore me!)

Mostly, though--Thank you! I've hesitated to call myself Goth, because I'm not much into the proper kind of music, so having the term Darkling is nice.

Anonymous said...

Yamamba is not a gothic style in Japan - its kind of out of fashion now, and was always alternative, but probably not how we think of alt styles! It uses very heavy tan and makeup, designed to imitate the deep tans of California girls - and generally yamamba girls (or ganguro girls, who are similar) dress in very bright, sporty clothes, have bleached blonde hair, or with neon colours, at least a couple ounds of accessories...check it out, its an awesome example of an "alternative" style that's not at all dark! :)

Laura Morrigan said...

I love this list! I think Darkling would be my favourite.

I now refer to myself as Neo-Victorian, since I discovered the term, which suits my gothic Victorian and steampunk tastes and clothing styles and my love of a more elegant time.

I am obsessed with all things Victorian and steampunk as well as the gothic literature that initially influenced me. I would still say I was gothic though, but although I like the 80s music, etc. I still feel I come from a more Victorian angle of the scene.

TheBabybatMemoirs said...

As for Sweden, I haven't heard much except got, though as far as I know it's pelled with an h. The pronunciation however is rather Swedish and simply does not give sound to the h. However, I have also heard a lot of people use the English pronunciation of it, especially the ones of my young, ever media saturated generation.

Amy Asphodel said...

Alexandriaweb - "Not sure why you included Yamamba on the list for Japan" - because the list at the bottom of the post there isn't 'my' list of terms, it's quoted from Dan Vice's book.

The HouseCat said...

Aww, but I want to be a style of architecture!

morawintersoul said...

In Serbia, we use the term "gotičari", which is pretty much an adaptadion of "goths", although there are some terms, slightly phonetically different, mostly older people use for the same subculture and they just end up being funny, like "gothics" in English. We also use the term "darkeri", you can guess where that came from :)

Inga said...

In Sweden, the most common word in my opinion is either "gothare" (as in "synthare"), "goth" (most often without the "th" sound) or, as you wrote, svartrockare. Svartrock is a Swedish word for gothic rock, direct translation being "black rock". But that is mainly used by older people.

I think I identify as a goth, mainly victorian, but I also dress in quite a vintage style, and occasional lolita, so it's really hard to use one "label". But, if I had to, it'd be "goth".

Love from Sweden,
Inga

(PS. You really are a beautiful and clever girl. Don't forget that.)

gothified said...

As you observed correctly "Grufti" (in German all names and nouns are capitalised) is currently the most common term in Germany and has replaced nearly all other terms with the exception of "Gothics", but the latter one is usally only used by outsiders (especially the media). Sometimes also "Goths" can be heard, but for Germans that don't speak English that well the "th" is hard to pronounce and thus often avoided.
You are also right with "Grufti" being derived from "Gruft" (tomb). Originally it actually was a derisive term but as seen so often (just like "punk" or "rocker") it has been integrated into the language of the people that were the targets of those terms.
"Gotik" actually refers to the architectural period and is nowadays only used as part of the name for the famous festival (Wave Gotik Treffen), a remnant of the early days of the scene in Germany. Back in the day when the term "Schwarze Szene" was still unknown, mostly the names of the different sub-subcultures were used ("Wavers", "Batcavers" , "Dark Romatics") along with "Grufti". In former Eastern Germany also terms like Ghouls or "Krähen" (crows) were quite common.
Still, many members of the Schwarze Szene will avoid categorising themselves and avoid using any of the mentioned terms.

VelvetBat said...

Wow, that Yamanba is way off! O_o

And in Holland/the Netherlands, gothiek is the translation for the gothic architecture style.
And gootje... I've never heard anyone saying that. Also, with the 'je' it would mean something like "little gothling", but not suitable for older ones.

In the Netherlands you mostly have goth, and a lot of (nongoth) people wrongly calling them 'gothics', or even with a different pronounciation which makes it sound like 'gottiks'/'kottiks'.

I've heard a few oldschool goths referring to themselves as 'vleermuis' (=bat). But very rare.

And personally I am fine with the term goth. So I use that if I need to label myself or explain my style & music taste to someone.

Ashe said...

I actually prefer the term "goth" for its simplicity. Admittedly, I'm not the epitome of one in terms of clothing--living in Southern California, sometimes jean shorts and a light-colored hoodie just seem more practical to wear to buy deodorant and tampons than my black military stilletos.

However, the term "goth" aligns me with people who are of the same mindset as myself. I feel comfort around others who use the term "goth", because I know that we're most likely to have similar tastes in terms of music, art, humor and philosophy.
It's important for people to keep in mind that the goth movement was originally centered around three key values: self-reflection, introspective music and unrestricted artistic expression.

Sub-genres aside, I personally feel its nice to have one common term that unites us all. Technically speaking, "dark alternative" is probably the most accurate term for the casualness of my own lifestyle...but it saddens me to use it when "goths" as a whole, whether they're darkwavers, deathrockers or steampunks, are all people who I know I could sit down for a beer with and feel comfortable in my own skin.

John Dee said...

I use the term Darkling, because it is half affectionate for me (sounds vaguely like how you would imagine Darling said by Dracula) I also use the term Dark Romantic which is the American answer when it comes to Gothic literature. But most of the time it's plain old Goth or Gothic, including if I am feeling humorous Goff and Goffik

Eric said...

For much of the past 10 years, it wasn't cool to call oneself goth in this area. Hollywood goths are pretentious. So there have been a bunch of terms I've heard, my favorite is "gloom cookie".

Most popular was to deny that you are goth, to the point that we'd say the best way to spot a true goth is if they denied it.

Thankfully people are starting to accept the term goth around here again, although there is still a stigma attached.

Morcega said...

In Portugal, we have the term "gótico" (plural: góticos). If we are refering to a woman, like saying that she is a goth, instead of "gótico", we use "gótica". Other expression used is "dark".

Anonymous said...

For France, gothique and corbeau are accurate. I'm not sure about corneille though. I've never heard it used, but I wouldn't be surprised if people did actually use it since it's similar to corbeau ( Corneille: crow. Corbeau: raven). We also use the term goth.

Becci F.S said...

I'm happy with being named after architecture. The Gothic castles in France are beautiful.

linnea-maria said...

I can admit that it has been very confusing and annoying when people who listen to Depeche Mode, Alphaville and other synt-pop bands call themselves goth. Adora Bat brat is noth goth, she's a "Synthare" and hates music with guitars :P.

Severe Minx said...

Oh dear! I have not once heard anyone name a Goth 'gootje' in the Netherlands.
The literal translation for 'gootje' by the way, is little gutter...
In the Netherlands a Goth is referred to as, well, a Goth.
But I'm afraid the adjective is used more commonly, so Gothic (pronounced got-tik).
The words 'Gothiek' or 'Gotisch' are used to describe the architectural style or literature.

Erawiel said...

You almost got the first French word, there is just one little tiny typo, it's corneile*. : ) You just forgot one R but otherwise, quite accurate. ^^

Elenor said...

Highlighting the fourth paragraph, I think the mother had tried to dress up or at least do things like what Goths do, but turned out to be a traumatic experience due to (maybe) receiving a negative reaction from public or even to her parents. This is just a common reaction of parents to protect their kids from experiencing the same way they had in the past. It is psychological.

The kid does have a right to talk to her mother in the best manner she could and ask why can't she be one? The fact that it is every youth's freedom to express their ways and know why her mother is keeping her from doing things she wanted. A good communication between the mother (parents) and the child could be the way to make things clear.

Rannei said...

In Norway the norwegian version "goter" van be heard, more often than goth I believe.

Sassy said...

In Italy we say Dark instead of Goth. I call myself in both ways here but abroad I say 'Goth' :D

ggdawnofthedead said...

Hi Ms. Ashopel, great post ! What did you think of Dan Vice's little book of goths?

Anonymous said...

My Philosophy teacher said that in Queensland goths are
nicknamed "Swampy's"

Amy Asphodel said...

Inga - awww, thanks hunny! <3

ggdawnofthedead - hello yourself :-) I thought it was quite funny!

The HouseCat - you can be whatever you want to be, grrl! XD

Kuroloki Roku said...

This is so interesting! I love learning words in different languages, so thanks for this!

Japanese goth can be kind of confusing...the best way I can describe it is that mainstream, non-goth Japanese people think of the stereotypical Gothic Lolita when they hear the term "goth" (pronounced "gosu" over there), but "Real" Japanese goths absolutely hate being associated with Gothloli or Visual-kei music. I think most people are more open-minded, and who can or cannot be considered "goth" is sort of a blur, the same way it is here and everywhere else. It seems to depend on the person.

Those in the subculture would also say that someone was "cyber" (saibaa) if they wore cybergoth. I don't think I know any other identification terms...I stopped researching Japanese subcultures awhile ago ;_;

Yamamba is not misspelled, it's romanized. Most people probably realize that there are different romanization methods, I hope. It definitely has nothing to do with goth, though...I'm not sure how this guy would have thought to connect the two.

Max Corvus Tenebrus said...

In Croatia we are named "gotičari" (plural) A gotičar (gotichar) is a term for a goth, but we also use "darkeri" I prefer Gotičar.

Corin said...

In Holland, we only say 'gotiek' (not spelled 'gothiek') to describe a certain style in architecture. When we say someone is a goth, we sometimes say 'goth' (using the English term). Most people that aren't goths however, tend to say 'he/she is a gothic', not realizing that the word gothic is an adjective and not a noun. This is annoying many of the Dutch goths a LOT. :)
The term 'gootje' is a deliberately funny version of the word 'goth' and sounds rather cute. It's gothic slang, only used by goths. :)

Oana Olea said...

In Romania we're all rockers for the maistream. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would beg to differ, but "roacheri" is the general term for metalheads, goths, punks, opera-goers, bikers and the occasional young person in mourning.

david smith said...

Refering to end of third paragraph..lotuseaters-firstpictureofyou(uploader:mandaluyongboy)Uploaders statement box refers to song as new wave(in context of mainstream pop of new wave era circa 1980-1984)Song released '83.Sisters of Mercy and others evolving in same early 80's era.'Darkwave'name sounds better,relates to goth.
Commentor linnea-maria might like THE BATCAVE ARMY playlist:-no synthy 'popster' shit!





linnea-maria

batcavearmyplaylist

david smith said...

*woops-ah-daisy*..Forgot to mention there's a link to The Gothic Preservationist Society therein.

Pixie said...

Svartrock was an old term, somewhat similar to the old term positive punk which was used in English to describe certain bands. Depprock is also used sometimes, it literally means depressing rock, such as The Cure's Pornography. The Swedish useage of the word synthare is a special subculture, for instance we call Skinny Puppy a synth group here while you might call them industrial. Basically it boils down to what different music magazines and radio shows and such used to call these bands.

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