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Pine wood - discarded cutting boards
164cm (h) X 325cm (w)


  • I often visit the granite processing plant of Frans Haarhoff on his farm Boschpoort in the mountains near the town of Belfast, Mpumalanga province. There they cut up many slabs of granite into kitchen and bathroom working surfaces. The granite is laid out on wooden cutting blocks to help them cut through a slab without damaging the floor underneath. In the process the pine planks are scarred in a criss-cross pattern with the marks of grinders and cutting tools. Old cutting blocks are discarded as fire wood. Early in 2007 I took a whole batch of brand new pine planks to Frans and he was glad to swap me for the pile of badly damaged ones he had.


    I kept the cutting blocks in my workshop for a while and the first person to see them, an old friend, thought I had made the patterns on them deliberately. He was really taken with their beauty and exclaimed that these were "fucking beautiful."


    For a while I could not work with the pile of planks because I was afraid that their obvious attractiveness might turn out too kitschy in an artwork. The use of the coprophemism uttered by my friend became the self-referential leading theme in the work and is intended to jolt it out of being innocently and sentimentally pleasant. A blatantly vulgar tone is known as turpiloquence.2


    1. dysphemism The use of unpleasant or derogatory words to express pleasant and agreeable ideas. A dysphemism, also sometimes called a cacophemism or coprophemism, is the opposite of a euphemism. In Greek pheme is 'speaking' and both dys- and kakos denote something as 'bad' or 'evil'. Kopros is 'dung'.1

    Willem Boshoff - Dictionary of Perplexing English (1999)


    Coprophemisms rely heavily on the use of the bigsix, a euphemistic term for the six, four-letter English swear words the media is not allowed to broadcast or print. Editors and reporters always avoid the bigsix: piss, fart, shit, fuck, cock and cunt.


    Other interesting words that begin with copro- are:

    • coprocracy A word invented by Koster for a government that does the most terrible things - a government that no-one can get rid of. He names one Central American country as being coprocratic, oppressed by "the rule of shits."

    • ​coprolalia An insane use of foul language. The coprolalia of some sex crazed lovers is their desire to say the most obscene things whilst making love. Coprolalomania is an inordinate obsession with foul speech.
    • coprolith, coprolite A ball of tremendously hard fæces formed in someone's digestive system. Coprolites are also prehistoric dung-balls that have turned into stone. Bailey once wrote of a "coprolithic mountain of lies."

    • coprology The subject of filth in literature, film or theatre; also, a gathering of real ordure. One favourite coprologous T-shirt from Chicago shows off a collection of splotches, labelled in the names of naughty high-flying birds.

    • copromania An obsession with fæces. Copromaniacs can be committed to an asylum, but coprophiles just love dirt, or, are sexually stimulated by excrement. The most peculiar coprophilia is an attraction to smelly feet.

    • coprophagist Someone who eats dung. In their untrained ignorance, babies can be a little coprophagous. Coprophagy is the eating of dung and a coprophagan is a dungbeetle - it feeds on the dung of animals.

    • coprostasophobia A morbid fear of constipation. An old medical word for a blocked-up digestive system is coprostasis. This archaic misery deserves an archaic cure and a coprophory is just the laxative for it.

    • coprozoic Of special insects that live in dung. The coprozoic stag beetle rolls their ball of dung all over the place, but many other insects are also in the dung removal business. Coprophilous fungi are adapted to grow in dung.

    2. turpiloquence Foul, sordid speech. Turpitude is a baseness of character or a depravity of any social graces. The turpid individual is vulgar and has an inherent vileness or lack of morals. In Latin turpis is 'shameful' 'base' and 'ugly'.

    Willem Boshoff - Dictionary of Perplexing English (1999)

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