"on the D.L."

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Mon May 6 01:33:20 UTC 2002

I was reading it as "blues on the disabled list." For a minute I thought we
had another jazz-baseball connection.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Mark A Mandel
> Sent: Sunday, May 05, 2002 6:07 PM
> Subject: "on the D.L."
> This is probably in the usual slang references, none of which
> I have on
> hand, but in case not...
> I am listening to a jazz program on WGBH radio -- I think it's "Jazz
> from Studio Four" with Steve Schwartz -- and just now, about
> 8:50 pm, in
> reading the names of the selections he had just played, he mentioned
> that a listener had called in an explanation of this term. Apparently
> the album was called _Blues on the D.L._, and in introducing it he had
> said he didn't know what "on the D.L." meant.
> A listener named ['vi:d@] called in and said that it is
> African-American
> prison slang, short for "down low" meaning 'hush-hush': if you tell
> someone something "on the D.L.", it is to be kept quiet.  Exactly
> equivalent, then, to the obsolete(?) "on the Q.T.", which I
> have always
> supposed came from the first and last letters of "quiet".
> -- Mark A. Mandel
>    Linguist at Large

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