earlier specimen of gank and o.g.

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Tue Aug 1 05:57:58 UTC 2000

The list has seen some discussion of this paragraph, originally in the
Chicago Tribune:

> 1989 _Chicago Tribune_ 19 July (Nexis)  In their
> confession to police, the
> two youths said they would go "make a run" or "gank
> an o.g.," which means
> they would drive around until they spotted an
> elderly woman, usually at a
> bank or shopping center or near a school.

Fred Shapiro commented:

>>     According to Smitherman (_Black Talk_), an "o.g"
>>is  an original gangster, one whose bold actions have
>>earned him respect (props).

Now Larry Horn contributes:

> I'm not sure whether that's the sense of o.g. involved here.  The
> o.g. in the 1989 Trib cite is the gankEE, not the gankER, i.e. the
> object of the verb "gank".  Unless the presumably defenseless
> "elderly woman" is the original gangster, but that seems unlikely.

Citing Smitherman's _Black Talk_ assumes a fact that is not in evidence.
The cited material does not specify the "race" of the two youths.

FWIW, when I saw "gank an o.g." my immediate translation was "rip off an
old girl" . . .  "Old girl" would not be remarkable as a generic for an
elderly woman in Chicago speech, "white" or "black" or European or
African American.  "O.g." is less common, but used often enough that it
seems transparent to people who understand Chicagoese. Its use implies
an attempt to conceal the identity of the referent from chance listeners
(and, indeed, from the Old Girl herself).

I tried to elicit some kind of reaction to "o.g." from my wife, without
using "gank" to avoid one confusing factor. ("Gank" is not part of our
normal use vocaublaries.) Her first response was "old geezer", since I
hadn't specified gender.  Both of us have spent most of our lives in
Greater Chicagoland.

If the youths actually were "black" Chicagoans, "o.g." might have had a
more restricted, specialized meaning which I don't know.  I am not well
acquainted with the everyday speech of people who might be called
"youths". (That goes with my retirement: I don't even see youths in the
classroom nowadays.) I raise the possibility out of much better
knowledge of the speech of older "black" Chicagoans, which is rich in
terms denoting the "race" (and status and gender) of others. A European
American woman of the "white" persuasion might be called a "grey lady",
particularly if she were elderly. (Originally, that was a play on
hospital volunteers called "Grey Ladies".)  I have heard "grey lady"
rendered as "g.l." at times; the abbreviation seems to have the same aim
of concealment as what I have seen of the use of "o.g.".

My use of quotation marks around the words "race" and "black" and
"white" is deliberate and habitual with me.  I do it to emphasize the
extreme difficulties I have with the meaning of these fuzzy, slippery
labels for perceived social groups.  (All I know is that the terms are
NOT based on actual biological differences.)

-- mike salovesh   <salovesh at niu.edu>     PEACE !!!

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