keep it real

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Tue Jul 15 01:10:01 UTC 2008

"Keeping it real" is apparently sometimes is a cute way of excusing
rudeness and confrontationalism -- it would seem that politeness is
"fake" or something. I remember a video sketch (as opposed to a live
one with the usual cast members -- this used people I hadn't seen
before) on Saturday Night Live from a couple of years ago that played
on this: a woman, faced with choices of being polite or abusive,
chooses at every turn to "keep it real" and as a result ends up in
jail. I haven't been able to find the video; it doesn't seem to be on
the SNL site.

The phrase also brings to mind a splendid screed written by Dave
Eggers in response to an interviewer's question "Are you taking any
steps -- are there any steps to be taken -- to keep shit real?" I
read it in the August 2000 issue of Harper's (starting on page 19),
though the original was run in the Summer (I presume 2000) issue of
The Harvard Advocate. He addresses the interviewer's "keeping shit
real" versus "selling out" schema (and the implication that if you're
really successful you're in imminent danger of not keeping shit real,
therefore selling out). The text is available for viewing at if you subscribe to the magazine.

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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