further looking for "biggie" = 'something impressive'

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 15 02:17:01 UTC 2011

On Fri, Aug 29, 2008 at 10:22 AM,  <RonButters at aol.com> wrote:

> Pittsburgh Courier, May 19, 1962, p23: "Bernard Sewell of Wilmington, Del.,=20
> joined the Elite Club of 700 series bowlers ... on Feb. 21. Sewell, a vetera=
> n=20
> of some 15 years on the lanes, turned in his _biggie_ while rolling in the Mon=
> day=20
> Club League. ..." [_This is more in the sense of 'big one' (here, =E2=80=98bi=
> g game=E2=80=99)=20
> than metaphoric 'big deal'_; this, by the way somewhat complicates the=20
> etymological sequence: =E2=80=9Cbiggie=E2=80=9D descends both from the meani=
> ng =E2=80=98big deal, nontrivial=20
> situation=E2=80=99 AND =E2=80=98big something=E2=80=99.]

FWIW, IME, when _biggie_ was being used in BE slang, ca. 1955-65, it
was used strictly negatively, in the form of

"It ain't no big thang"

and the expected variants thereof, including,

"No biggie."

But this was less common than

"No thang,"

Back in the day, had someone said something like

"It's a biggie / a thang,"

that would have been understood to mean something along the lines of

"It's a serious problem."

Hence, I add to Ron's analysis that, in the cite from the Pittsburgh
Courier, the writer, as might be expected, is using the semantics of
sE - a big _deal_; a positive, here, but it could just have easily
been a negative in some other context, as Ron's further cites show.

Some of us may recall the scene from a movie, in which a black
witness, answering the standard legal question, "Do you swear," etc.

"Ain't no thang."

OTOH, in L.A. BE, at least, in the phrase,

"have a thang goin',"

_Thang_ is so positive that, in the more usual - i.g. heard/read in
the media as opposed to heard in the 'hood -

"have a _good_ thing going,"

_good_ has always struck me as totally redundant, revealing the
speaker as a mere poseur and not someone truly "down with the colored
people," to borrow the felicitous phrasing of Chevy Chase - speaking
in the the guise of Ronald Reagan - explaining that "[every now and
then, I like to get] down with the colored people." OTOH, I realize
that, by the time that some bit of blackiana has made it into the
broader media, who's to say that it hasn't already been totally
deracinated, rendering otiose and entirely empty of content the claim
that sE _X_ is "really" BE _Y_? Youneverknow.

This comment is *way* more than a day late and a dollar short. But, WTF?

Ain't no biggie. ;-)

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

Once that we recognize that we do not err out of laziness, stupidity,
or evil intent, we can uncumber ourselves of the impossible burden of
trying to be permanently right. We can take seriously the proposition
that we could be in error, without necessarily deeming ourselves
idiotic or unworthy.
–Kathryn Schulz

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

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