reet (was Re: Flamboozled, etc.)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Feb 7 22:10:12 UTC 2005

On Mon, 7 Feb 2005 10:21:58 -0500, Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:

>On Feb 7, 2005, at 1:59 AM, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
>> ...
>> 15 March 1942, DOWN BEAT, pg. 12, col. 4:
>> _Pot Wants an "Au Reet" Zoot Suit_
>"Au Reet" is probably eye-dialect for "all reet," a term still popular
>down to the early '50's, like the phrase, "[she's] reet, petite, and
>gone," i.e. "very attractive."

"Reet, Petite, and Gone" (the Louis Jordan song and the movie of the same
name) didn't appear until 1947.  More likely, the Down Beat article was
referencing Cab Calloway's 1941 song "Are You All Reet?", a compendium of
hep-cat slang: <>.

Did the popularity of "reet" really die out in the early '50s?  So when
Jackie Wilson sang "Reet Petite" in 1957, was he reviving an obsolescent
term?  (I believe "reet" also appeared in "ABC Boogie" by Bill Haley in

Even after the '50s, "reet" continued an underground existence,
occasionally bubbling up in pop-culture references.  It often appeared in
R. Crumb's "Zap Comics" in the '60s.  In the '70s it appeared in some
songs paying nostalgic tribute to the '50s (e.g., Van Morrison's "Jackie
Wilson Said" and Ian Dury's "Sweet Gene Vincent").  And in 1980, Chrissie
Hynde memorably used the word in The Pretenders' hit single "Brass in

     I got rhythm
     I can't miss a beat
     I got new skank
     So reet.

Hynde said in an interview that her usage of "reet" was inspired by Zap
Comics: <>.

--Ben Zimmer

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