down with action (1943)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 29 03:55:31 UTC 2005

Here are a couple of examples from the early '50's, one a verse from a blues
and the other a formerly-hip bit of phraseology. I can't remember either the
title or the singer of the song. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I remember
these only because they didn't make any sense at the time. In the St. Louis
of my youth, "down" had only its negative connotations. Note also what is,
in my experience, a *very* late, ca.1953, use of "jitterbug," which I knew
mainly from having heard my parents use it. The writer probably used it only
because s/he needed a rhyme.

I [a woman] got me a eighteen-year-old jitterbug
And they all get jealous when they see us hug.
Looking at me with their faces frown[ed],
I can't help it if they just ain't _down_ !

I'm _down_ wit' it
And just can't quit it!

On 12/28/05, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      down with action (1943)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Under the def. for "down" meaning 'most enjoyable, excellent', HDAS
> has a 1946 cite from _Really the Blues_ by Mezz Mezzrow & Bernard
> Wolfe: "_Down with it_: Top-notch, superlative." This 1943 cite for
> "down with action" has roughly the same sense:
> 1943 _Chicago Defender_ 13 Feb. 4/3 How do they like the islands? In
> general, almost everything is "down with action" (OK).
> [HNP Doc ID 740832942]
> --Ben Zimmer

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