papa; also: flashy looking

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 1 20:35:59 UTC 2010

Interdating for 2:

I'm gettin' sick and tired
Of the way you do
Good, kind _papa_ [the singer here refers to himself in the 3P; = "I,
who (am) a ... gon' ..."]
Put a spell on you

Willie Manon: I Don't Know. Chess Records. Chicago, 1952


On Mon, May 31, 2010 at 11:48 PM, George Thompson
<george.thompson at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      papa; also: flashy looking
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        A flashy looking young woman, walked into the Police Office, yesterday, in a state of gross intoxication.  Her first exclamation on entering, was directed to Mr. Hopson, who sat on the bench.  "He is my husband," said she with an accompanying hiccup, "my own husband."  "Well," said the Magistrate, "he has a drunken wife, who ever he is."  "Me drunk," replied she, "not I, papa, but it's a miracle that I'm not, for I have been drinking gin all day."  The husband here entered and begged the Magistrate to confine her until she should become somber, which was accordingly done.
>        Morning Courier & New-York Enquirer, October 22, 1831, p. 2, col. 2
> For "papa", the OED has, of course, "father", but also:
>    2. a. U.S. slang (chiefly in African-American usage). A male lover; a husband.
> 1896 G. ADE Artie i. 5 He was the real papa the hit o' the piece. One [girl] on each arm, see? 1904 ‘NO. 1500’ Life in Sing Sing 261, I blew out and rung in with a couple of penny-weighters. A Tommy and his papa... I left them and went with two expert thieves who make it a practice to rob jewelers, a woman and her lover. 1926 L. HUGHES in New Republic 14 Apr. 223/2, I met a yellow papa, He took my last thin dime... I give it to him cause I loved him But I'll have more sense next time. 1942 L. HUGHES Shakespeare in Harlem 107 That's one time, pretty papa, You'll sure stay in your place. You was a mighty lover and you Ruled me many years. 1969 E. SACKHEIM Blues Line 78 Peach orchard mama, don't turn your papa down.
>    b. U.S. (chiefly in African-American usage) and Caribbean. A male person; a fellow. Freq. as a form of address.
> 1903 G. ADE People you Know 166 She used to write to Harry and tell him about her callers and what Chumps they were, and let him draw his own conclusions as to who was the real white-haired Papa. 1926 M. WEST Sex in Three Plays (1997) 57 Well, if it isn't the loud-speaking papa. 1931 G. SCHUYLER Black No More 117 Believe it or not, papa, it's what God loves. 1956 S. SELVON Lonely Londoners (1995) 77 It had a continental shop in one of the back streets in Soho, and that was the only place in the whole of London that you could..pick up a piece of fish. By now, papa! 1982 B. DOWNEY Uncle Sam must be losing War 99 ‘Learning, Papa,’ his name for everyone, ‘is like living better.’
> This passage seems more to reflect "In extended use as a form of address to (or informal title for) any older man."  (OED, under "pop"); if referred to #2b, then a considerable antedating.
> I was going to say that "flashy" was an old word, as indeed it is, but I notice that the OED gives "flashy looking" a separate sub-entry:
> 7. Comb., as flashy-looking adj.
> 1852 EARP Gold Col. Australia 72 That flashy-looking man in a tandem was transported for bank robbery. 1880 MARG. LONSDALE Sister Dora viii. 209 A flashy-looking man, with conspicuous rings and watch-chain.
> I would have referred this to  def. #5. Showy, fine-looking; gaudy, glaring, from 1801; or #3c. fig. Of persons and immaterial things: Trifling, destitute of solidity or purpose, from 1597-98 & 1679 (as applied to a person).
> HDAS regards "flashy" as standard English.
> George A. Thompson
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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