Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Lifetime Of A Word

I just overheard a middle-aged dude in my office say "Oh, we're just rappin' about a few things." I gave the TJ eye-roll, naturally. Then I thought about that Brady Bunch episode, probably from around 1970, where Greg starts to "grow up" and "learn new 60s terms." He casually mentions to mom and dad that he was "rapping" with a "groovy chick," I think. After he leaves the room, we listen to Greg's bewildered parents as they comically review what they'd just heard. At one point, Carol says (and I can't believe this hasn't been sampled by a rapper), "I wonder if that's against the law...'rapping'."

So what have I learned? That the verb "to rap," meaning to talk to your suburban, white friends, was born, has grown up with, and may very well die with one generation. This guy at my office probably had the same experience as Greg did in the sixties. In the 70s, he "rapped" with other couples that he swung with. In the 80's, he "rapped" with his coke-sniffin' buddies. In the nineties, he "rapped" with his kids about not making the same mistakes he made. And today, well, you know, he's just "rappin'" about whatever.

Some terms cut across generations. "Cool" will probably always be at least pretty cool. Others might slip in and out of the lexicon. But some just don't make it out alive.

This thread is completely FAR OUT! You are one Swinging Cat, Jere!
The phrase "that's bad" (meaning "that's good") quietly became extinct. I think it started at some point in the 70s and made it all the way into the late 80s. Maybe Michael Jackson finally did it in.

In eastern Mass and RI, "that's bad" was usually said: "that's wicked bad." I sense that "wicked" will leap from generation to generation with no problem whasoever.
Yeah, wicked's a weird one, because it's regional, yet ubiquitous within its region. It will always be around up there.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States