Wednesday, January 10, 1996


THERE is a strong temptation to see the popularity of the word "sorted" as related to the rise of what was has been called Estuary English. This popular southern English dialect, a kind of slurred, neo cockney hailstorm of glottal stops, was popularised nationally in the early 1990s by such media intellectuals as Danny Baker, endorsed southern based footballers, and later spoken by the cast of Hollyoaks.

In particular, players from London based football clubs have done much to help "sorted" on its journey from local vocal tick, to national crie de guerre in 1989, Spurs captain Gary Mabbutt defended his then team mate, Paul Gascoigne, against charges of immaturity and irresponsibility. "To his credit he has done brilliantly," Mabbutt told a London Times sports writer, "even though he is always being sorted out by opponents because he is a quality player. Even given Gazza's hell raising reputation, it seems likely that his fellow footballers were on these occasions offering the star knees to the groin rather than tributes of illicit narcotics.

Until Pulp lead singer and TOTP star Jarvis Cocker jammed a crowbar between "sorted" and "out", however, the word's associations with drug culture remained a secrets shared by about three million people. Cocker has suggested that when he co opted the word into the title of his 1995 hit, Sorted for E's and Win, he was using a phrase suggested by a woman encountered in a Sheffield nightclub.

Cocker's correspondent, in her turn, claimed to have carried the runes from an even more powerful site of authenticity than Sheffield. At Spike island, Manchester, in May 1991 the time and place of an epoch making Stone Roses gig barkers were reported to have wandered through the crowd, solicitously inquiring whether people were amply equipped in terms of amphetamine derivatives.

Somewhere between Spike Island and Jarvis Cocker, several other people caught on to the word. One appropriation suggests that advertising runs a little ahead of popular culture. In its series of commercials for Audi, London firm Bartle, Bogle, Hegarty climaxed a VO monologue on the beauties of Vienna with a simple tag line that did far more for the product's credibility than an hour of Freudian photography "Sorted," decides the thoroughly decent but fund a mentally funky oink at the wheel.

Once "sorted" had taken the term to the upper reaches of the Gallup charts, it would be easy to imagine that the word would soon lose its popularity. In fact, quite the opposite happened propriety over the word merely changed hands. After the death of Leah Betts, ad agency Knight Leach Delaney and "youth marketing specialists" FFI came together to create an anti Ecstasy poster for use across Britain. The image featured a Sun style image of Betts in extremis with one word overprinted in roaring type, turning sorted into the revolting, gleeful "gotcha" of the 1990s.


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