To be hep on X

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 25 21:30:44 UTC 2005

On 10/25/05, Suzanne Evans Wagner <suzanne at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Suzanne Evans Wagner <suzanne at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      To be hep on X
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I recently heard this expression, which a Google search reveals to be
> marginal but definitely present in colloquial writing, especially blogs and
> discussion groups.
> It most frequently appears to be synonymous with "keen" and collocates, like
> "keen" with "not too" eg.
> "...I'm not too hep on the idea of getting into a long conversation
>  with my mom about the surgery while I'm there..." (
> But it can also be used (like "hip") to mean "well informed, up-to-date" as in
> "Thought I was hep on all the jargon used in The ABERREE, but what in hell is
> mysticology?" (
> Some of the tokens I found suggest it might also be used to mean "worked up
> about [a contentious issue]", "obsessed with" or just "enthusiastic about".
> There's also a "to be hep up on X" variant.
> Does anyone on this list recognize this phrase and know if a) anyone has yet
> written about it in the dialect literature and b) if it's associated with a
> particular region of the US?
> Suzanne Evans Wagner
> University of Pennsylvania

FWIW, I would say, "I'm hip to X" = I understand X, but "I'm hipped on
X" = I really like X. I was ridiculed out of using "hep" back in the
mid-'Forties. I have no idea when "hip" pushed out "hep," but the
latter continued to be used as an exclamation even after "hip" took
over its other uses. Cf. the opening verse of "The Jumping Jive" by
Caleb "Cab" Calloway from 1944.

Jim, jam, jump
The Jumping Jive
Makes you dig your jive
On the mellow side
Hep! Hep!

In fact, in some discographies, "Hep! Hep!" is given as an alternative title.
-Wilson Gray

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