'Rock' meaning 'wear' or 'sport'

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Tue Sep 9 03:11:25 UTC 2008

An advertisement on TV tonight set off my "once is weird, twice is queer"
sensors, when it used the word 'rock' to mean "wear", which I'd briefly
noted a few weeks ago somewhere.

I haven't found anything on this topic on the ADS archives or in
alt.usage.english. I have checked Davies's Corpus of Contemporary American,
with the string "[rock].[vv*] [at1]", and so far have an earliest
attestation from 2003:
2003  MAG  Essence     texture. For additional lift, try Prive Root
Amplifier Herbal Blend #37. Rock a short crop. There is nothing sexier or
more enticing than a woman who

It's the only hit from 2003; there's also only one from 2004, again talking
about a hairstyle:
2004  SPOK  PBS_Tavis     you doing?  I'm doing great.  You're rocking a
Mohawk again.  Yeah, yeah, it's serious.

One hit from 2005, then three each for 2006 and 2007, now with looks or
clothes as the rocked item, as well as facial hair (a goatee).

Anyone have earlier attestations, or ideas how this meaning developed? I
find an interesting in-between use of 'rock' in this 2007 example from the
movie _Juno_:
2007 FIC Mov:Juno   liked Gibson better than Fender. MARK What do you play?
JUNO I rock a Harmony. MARK (holding back a chuckle) Oh. JUNO What?

Here, 'rock' could have both its sense of "violently move something" and its
sense of something you wear, assuming she's using a guitar strap. I imagine
the "wear" sense extending from here to more ordinary things that you wear,
but this is speculation.


Neal Whitman
Email: nwhitman at ameritech.net
Blog: http://literalminded.wordpress.com

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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