Name play in Basingstoke

From my English correspondent RJP, this tradeperson’s van, photographed on the street:


Flat Boy Skim is a bit of complex name play on Fatboy Slim. Well, you have to know who Fatboy Slim is, something many people do not. And then: what might Flat Boy Skim have to do with plastering? For that, you have to know something about the technical jargon of plastering (which I did not, until I looked it up; well, I correctly noted that a good plastering job should be flat — smooth — and I assumed that boy was just there for the name play, but skim was a mystery).

Fatboy Slim. From Wikipedia:

Norman Quentin Cook (born Quentin Leo Cook on 31 July 1963), also known by his stage name Fatboy Slim, is an English DJ, musician and record producer/mixer.

… Cook adopted the Fatboy Slim moniker in 1996 and released Better Living Through Chemistry to critical acclaim [that year].


The man in 2004

We can speculate about where the name came from (and maybe Cook has said somewhere, but I haven’t seen it): my guess is a combination of Memphis Slim and the names of the two US atomic bombs (Little Boy at Hiroshima, Fat Man at Nagasaki). On Memphis Slim, from Wikipedia:

Memphis Slim (September 3, 1915 – February 24, 1988) was an American blues pianist, singer, and composer. He led a series of bands that, reflecting the popular appeal of jump blues, included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano. A song he first cut in 1947, “Every Day I Have the Blues”, has become a blues standard, recorded by many other artists.

Skim coat plastering. That’s the plasterers’ jargon skim coat, which has been around for over a hundred years:

OED2 draft addition 1993, under n. skim, related to v. skim ‘to cover with a thin layer’: Plastering = setting coat (a thin finishing coat of plaster), attested from 1895 on

Here’s US tv handyman Bob Vila on some of the technical details: “Learn everything you need to know about skim-coating a plaster wall”:

Traditional plastering consists of three separate coats of plaster. The first two, called the brown and scratch coats, are coarse, often with sand, horsehair, and other binders added to the mix. The third or finish coat is a smoother blend, made of water and finely ground lime and plaster.

The three-coat method, which requires strips of wood or metal lath for reinforcement, is relatively rare today. The advantages remain, as it’s durable, adds significantly to soundproofing, and, in the opinion of many people, has more character. Yet because it is both labor- and material-intensive, it can be prohibitively expensive.

There is, however, a middle ground between three-coat plastering and simply taping and coating the seams between sheets of wallboard. The skim-coat approach, which involves the application of a single, eighth-inch-thick layer of plaster over the entire wall or ceiling surface, is a compromise, offering something of the character and quality of real plaster with the economy and speed of wallboard.

Skim coating requires some skill with a trowel

In any case, the point is to end up with a flat, smooth surface. So a guy who plasters for a living can advertise himself as Flat Boy Skim — as this fellow in Basingstoke, Hampshire, does.


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