Kathleen E. Miller millerk at NYTIMES.COM
Mon Feb 23 18:29:37 UTC 2004

At 09:53 AM 2/23/2004 -0800, you wrote:
>Dear linguists:
>As a superannuated English major I pride myself on keeping at least a
>nodding acquaintance with current slang. However, there is one usage
>that  really confuses me- the use of the word "word." I've seen it it in
>the Beetle Bailey cartoon used by the African-American lieutenant so I
>guess it's mostly a black usage. But it was used in Yesterday's Doonesbury
>strip by a white character  and I've seen it used in an L.A. Times aritcle
>on pop music. I've tried, unsuccessfully,   to understand it from the
>context  of its use. I'd really appreciate it if one of you could cllarify
>this for me.
>Jerome Foster

Cameo's 1986 song Word Up! was my first introduction to it. Shortened from
there to just Word! I always thought it was slang for saying Hi
essentially, like What's up? But I'm about as wonder bread as they come.

"Word up everybody says
When you hear the call you´ve got to get it underway
Word up it´s the code word
No matter where you say it you know that you´ll be heard....."

Kathleen E. Miller
News Assistant
The New York Times

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