Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang

Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang

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by Clarence Major
     
 

Since the days of slavery, when the conversations of black slaves served as the classic example of a secret tongue, a kind of "home talk" in the sense that it was not meant for listeners beyond the nest, to the 1980s and '90s and the expressions of rap and hip-hop, the evolution of African-American slang from private to public language has irrevocably influenced… See more details below

Overview

Since the days of slavery, when the conversations of black slaves served as the classic example of a secret tongue, a kind of "home talk" in the sense that it was not meant for listeners beyond the nest, to the 1980s and '90s and the expressions of rap and hip-hop, the evolution of African-American slang from private to public language has irrevocably influenced American culture and speech. Illuminating this vibrant language, Juba to Jive offers a comprehensive collection of terms, from the oldest to the most modern, as well as clear straightforward definitions of words, phrases, and expressions, with many examples in context; approximate date of each term's arrival into the language; modifications of meanings as the terms entered the mainstream; cross-references to similar terms; linguistic roots, from onomatopoetic sources to rhyming jargon; and shifts in word forms and grammatical usage. Juba to Jive is the only up-to-date record of this rich, ever-evolving language born in the African-American community and permeating every aspect of our culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Zom Zoms
Slang is a means of distinguishing between us and them--in this case, the "homies" (defined here) and the larger, often unfriendly, world. Although slang is an attempt to separate a group, its terms are picked up by outsiders and altered as needed. Sometimes, as in the case of the term "uptight"--which went from meaning "good sex" to having a "mental or emotional disorder"--it undergoes a complete change of meaning. This dictionary may not make it possible to communicate with today's "gangstas" (a term that does not appear in the book) or "rappers" (which does), but it will assist those who encounter such terms in black authors or on TV. Major is a novelist and poet and the author of "The Dictionary of African-American Slang" (1970), on which this book is based A brief explanatory note describes the entries, the cultures from which they arose, and geographic areas of use, which are coded in the entries. Major lists his sources and uses a simple code in entries to refer back to the source. Thus, the source for "cogs", a 1930s Harlem term for sunglasses, can be traced to two books by Cab Calloway. Sources range from Flexner's "I Hear American Talking" to Zora Neale Hurston's novels, newspaper articles, and the novels of Donald Goines. All entries note the decade in which the word was first used, and most have an example sentence Major's claim for the exclusivity of some of his terms is weak. "Duking" as a term for fist-fighting is not uniquely black. (See Jonathon Green, "The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang", p.83.) "Gaspers" as a synonym for cigarettes appears frequently in P. G. Wodehouse and is cited in "The Oxford English Dictionary" as far back as 1914 This book reflects the varied worlds of black slang from the witty 1940s phrase "straight up six o'clock girl" for a very thin woman to the grim euphemism "dime bag" for $10 worth of marijuana or morphine. There is plenty of prison, drug, and crime slang, with words and phrases to offend every sensibility. This dictionary will be a useful addition to any public or academic library and a necessary purchase for any special collection on African Americans or slang and unconventional English.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670852642
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
02/01/1994
Product dimensions:
1.00(w) x 1.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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