"laid" and other random BE slang in the HDAS

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Mon Jul 26 18:57:42 UTC 2004

On Jul 25, 2004, at 12:11 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "laid" and other random BE slang in the HDAS
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> "Slave" = ordinary job has been around for a while, but I have not
> encountered it with "cut."  Any related terms?
>   JL

Weirdly enough, though I did try using "slave" as meaning "ordinary
job" - I gotta go to my slave v. I gotta go cut the slave - it didn't
catch on and I've never heard anyone else say other than "cut the ..."
The only bell that this has ever rung with me is the "cut" in "can't
cut it" = "can't do it." But I doubt any connection. "Can't cut it," to
my mind, implies "tried [one's best] and failed [anyway]" and "can cut
it" has, for me, only the literal meaning involving the use of some
edged instrument.  "Cut out" = "leave" isn't relevant. "Cut the slave"
is simply "work at an ordinary job" and nothing else.

-Wilson Gray

> Wilson Gray <hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Wilson Gray
> Subject: "laid" and other random BE slang in the HDAS
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> I was pleasantly surprised to see the definitions "well-dressed" and
> "stylishly dressed" for "laid" in the HDAS, since my impression
> heretofore had been that this was a local meaning peculiar to black
> Saint Louis, where the phrase "get laid" is - or, at least, was; I
> first heard it in 1949 - merely another way to say "jump sharp" (= get
> dressed up for public display, as at a house party or at a nightclub).
> On the other hand, "jump sharp" itself, which I've always considered to
> be - in olden times, at least - in universal use, appears to be
> missing. I say "appears" because it's dark and I'm working without my
> reading lamp. If I turn it on, one of our cats will come and stretch
> out on top of the HDAS in order to catch some rays.
> The HDAS has "break bad," but not the far hipper "break nasty," which
> has exactly the same meaning and may be slightly older. I first heard
> "break nasty" some time ca.1965, but I heard "break bad" so soon
> thereafter that the sequence may be only coincidental.
> "Nigger box," used by whites in the Greater Boston Area instead of
> "ghetto box/blaster" since ca.1980, also appears to be missing.
> "Mother for you" [muthuhFUHyuh is only trivially distinct from
> muthuhFUHkuh] and "My Friend" (because of initial "M" & "F") are other
> euphemisms for "motherfucker" and at least as old as the song, "Bad
> Mother For You" by Dirty Red.
> In BE, "ignorant stick" means "pushbroom."
> "Cut the slave," meaning to "work at a regular, legal job" is missing.
> -Wilson Gray
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