Colonel Hellstache — Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality is here! To celebrate, we'll be running sneak-peeks at the book and its author, Bill Peters, over the next couple of weeks. Here's part 1 of the Black Balloon interview, in which Peters sets the record straight on regional piss-beer and generally proves to be the funniest guy we've met in ages.
Your protagonist, Nate, is a wayward teenager whose slang-loaded vocabulary is almost like another language. How did you keep track of all those terms and expressions (check out all 146 of them in the Maverick Jetpants glossary)?
Keeping track of the terminology was somehow never a problem. I never kept a list with definitions. Although I did make a list of maybe 50 different terms for sex.
In the book, Nate talks about words that he finds inherently funny, like "pants" and "cheese." Is there a flipside? Are there words that you and/or your characters find repugnant?
Most corporate concept-reduction and noun-verbing is a bit like accidentally brushing your teeth with Bengay. The most recent word that has aggravated me is "onpass." As in, "to pass on." As in: “Would you onpass this item to Terrence?” The word is amazing in its total pointless efficiency. As if anyone has so little time that you could begin to tell them “I’m passing this on” and they would cut you off, throw their hands up and say “WHOA! GET TO THE POINT ‘WAR AND PEACE!’” I hope "onpass" represents some endpoint to brevity-worship, but it probably doesn’t.
You grew up in Rochester, which is also the setting of your book. But now you live in Gainesville, FL, where I imagine Genesee is hard to come by. What do you drink down there?
I have no problem whatsoever with cheap beer — I often prefer it. But sadly, and with utmost Whole-Foodsy whiteness, when I moved to Gainesville, I worried: would I get my Saison Dupont? My Reissdorf Kolsch? The answer: Yes, Bill, you will get your Saison Dupont and your Reissdorf Kolsch. Gainesville has lots to drink. There’s been no change. And looking at the country with red state / blue state anxiety? That’s no way to live.
Have you picked up any Gainesville slang?
In terms of local-speak — and I’ve only heard this within my friends — the blocks of bars and restaurants along University that are east of 13th Street have been referred to, half-seriously, as "Downtown." Downtown has more shows, more elven indie-rock beards, more tattoos, more sustainable-type things — Dwight Garner in a New York Times book review last year called these folks “Bleu collar.” Just getting that out there.
The other Gainesville slang I know relates to school spirit. Gainesville’s population is roughly 125,000, and Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where the Florida Gators play, seats almost 90,000. "Tebowing" is the most obvious slang, although the phrase wasn’t coined, I don’t think, until after Tim Tebow left UF. Another term might be "jorts." That is, jean shorts. The term, according to at least one Gator sports website, is rooted in the Florida / Georgia rivalry, and supposedly became popular after a Georgia fan, desperate for a good insult, yelled to a Gator fan: “Gator fans wear jeans shorts!”