Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Everyday Speech #1


So this begins, I hope, a series in which I simply record things/sentences/phrases/words that a) I used to hear people say a lot and b) I hear people say a lot. Sometimes its "say" and "write" both, but mostly say. I got the idea when I was reading Philip Whalen's collected poems. He has a series of poems titled "Native Speech," and he records what he was hearing in the 1950s and 1960s and thereabouts.

Of course, this project (that's grandiose) will and should not be confused with something systematic or orderly.

*****

"Well, whaddya know?" I heard this one a lot growing up, less in my 20s, and so on. You can hear a lot in 1940s movies. A version is "Well, whaddya know about that?" The latter has a rhythmic lilt to it. And of course whaddya = what do you

*

"She's a fox." It means, she's sexy/she's beautiful/she's both. Virtually ubiquitous in late 1970s California. Heard much less after 1985, in my opinion. Gendered, I think; that is, it was said of woman by men and women, but not so much of men by anyone. I don't remember hearing gay acquaintances saying it of man, for example.

*

"I know, right?" Seemingly ubiquitous now, at least in my world. I haven't investigated the origin, if there is one. An older version would be, "You bet!" Or "Damn right!" Or "Right on!" Except I think "I know, right?" is more laconic, even slightly ironic, and not usually excited or overly sympathetic. I quite like it, for some reason. I believe a still-current African American version or counterpart is "All right? Mmm-Hmmn!" Heard more from Black women than Black men? I don't know.

Well, that's three or four. If you want to suggest any, go for it. I wonder if "go for it" is going out of fashion.



Post a Comment