Take an everyday word. Like "bad." Now, take it out of Webster's (" -- adj. 1. not good in any manner or degree . . .") and put it in black vocabulary and you've got "baad," -- adj. 1. excellent; superior in quality; the bomb. "Gone With the Wind" was a bomb. Probably the biggest cinematic bomb of all time.
But don't assume that there in a pattern. Black slang is not always using a word's antonym to define the word. It only happens that way for a few of them. A "bomb" is obviously not a dismal failure. It is a triumph. it is serious.
An "serious" is not to imply that something is grave or worrisome, rather that it warrants highest merit. Like you mother's cooking may be baad, but your grandmother's cooking is serious. The kind of cooking that makes you grease ("greez -- vt. 1. eat vigorously).
It is important that one does not grease just anywhere. Neither does one use the language just anywhere.
Black slang developed, and has remained, as a code among friends. In part as a refuge from social impositions, an escape from mainstream overdose, it is a powerfully unifying element in the black community.
Compelled to comply with most proscriptions of Middle American living, black people have preserved a dialect transmitted mostly by rote. What is more, unlike most other dialects, it is not provincial. You will find the same expressions spoken among blacks in most parts of the country.
Which is not to say that non-blacks cannot hang ( -- vt. 1. keep up with; compare), just that they have not been turned on. So, in the interest of bettering community relations, here are some entries for your little black book.
Clean is the alternative to "well dressed." One gets clean for a night out on the turf (n.1. town).
A crib is not for babies only, it is wherever you hang your hat. The Dream is to hang your hat in a crib in Beverly Hills.
A ride is what you do it in. (The other half of the Dream is a ride from the Mercedes showroom.)
Jam comes out of the jar and goes down on the dance floor. You jam at the disco.
Hammer does not refer to hardware, rather to a very soft, sleek lady. Lena Horne is a hammer.
Hollywood came out of California to be pinned on an attitude. People have been known to go Hollywood when they become successful, if you know what I mean; forget their friends, that I kind of thing.
Your tight is your best friend, either your boy or girl.
A set is a group of friends over at the crib to listen to music, rap, get nice, whatever.
Nice is what you are when you have a little wine.
Bent is what you are when you have a little wine.
Funky is the situation when someone shows up with a date and another date is already there waiting.
To hit on is to approach romantically.
Smokin' is looking good; well put together.
A tackhead is an unruly youngster, the kind that breaks your car windows right after you've replaced them from the last time.
As with any colloquialism, the word isn't always enough. A little instinct is necessary when one wants to, say, abbreviate a word or thought. It is all right to use dap for dapper, or 'tude for attitude. You could not say, however, that "John is always per." Or "John has a bad atti." It wouldn't work.
Funny things have happened on the way to translation.
It was at the Scott's house that Mr. Scott and the boys were having their Saturday evening card party. After the dealing was done, Mrs. Scott said to her 10-year-old son, "Go downstairs and see if your father is all right. The last time I looked, he was really bent."
After a quick minute the youngster Scott ran back upstairs to give the report: He's not bent any more, Mommy," he said. "He's lying straight out on the floor."
Here's an example of usage:
It was a winter night in New York when the tall dark stranger walked into the bar, pulled up a chair and invited himself to sit at the lady's table. He said he liked the way she looked and that his name was "Sledge." She asked him to leave and said Good night, Mr. Hammer," "Do you know why they call me Hammer?" he asked. "No, she purred, "but I know why they call me hammer." Along with instinct, emphasic can determine the meaning of a word. The phrase out there does not indicate georgraphic direction. It indicates personality direction. Kind of wild and crazy. Out there and the emphasis is on out. Getting off is not in reference to the time one leaves the job. It indicates vigor, enthusiasm. It is hard to imagine Earth, Wind and Fire in concert not getting off. The emphasis is on off.
Degree of emphasis can drastically change the meaning of the same word. Stuff could be a favorite pass-time ("music is John's stuff' or an admired attribute ("John's eyes are his stuff" or reference to a spouse or loveer ("Mike's wife is John's stuff.")
The idea is that is more. With the right combination of tone, gesture, spontaneity and words, you can cut a day's worth of shop talk right down to shop. If the next time you ask someone "how's it going?" and they reply, "it's your world," just chalk it up to a 15 minute speech about how the bills are piling up; overworked and underpaid; no time for fun.You've heard the story. Now you can tell it in three easy words. 'It's your world."
At a loss for words of praise?Try "all the way live." If a phrase could make a thesaurus obsolete, all-the-way-live is the one. It is the all-inclusive compliment, from an all-inclusive language. Black slang could probably make speaking standard English completely unnecessary. But it would never happen, and that's good. Because at the end of a long, hard day full of proper nouns and pretentious predicates, it's nice to know you can always call home again.