floss and ghetto

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Thu Nov 2 14:28:07 UTC 2000

> Two queries.  Someone asked about the meaning of ghetto, as in "that was
> ghetto."  It must be fairly new; it's not in the HDAS.  My son uses it but
> isn't a great definer so wasn't really helpful.  What's its earliest date?

I don't think this is slang; it's just something like 'characteristic of
or suitable for inner-city life'. A more common noun-to-adjective shift
is _street_ in a similar sense. An example from a rap magazine:

1997 _Source_ Oct. 146/3, I was so ghetto, threatening the crowd, talking
about if anybody takes it, I'ma see you.

> I recently attended an Afrocentric poetry reading in which two of
> the poets used the word "floss" in their poems.  It seemed, from the
> context of both poems, to be a pejorative reference to an
> undesirable trait/behavior in African Americans. In one poem the
> subject was a woman, and the other, a male "type". I think they both
> used the term as a verb.

This seems to be a relatively recent addition to the lexicon, but
I've come across numerous examples in the last few months. Sample:

2000 W. Shaw _Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood_ 218
'Flossin'' is pretending to be something that you aren't. Archetypally,
hip-hoppers are accused of flossin' when they pretend to be affiliated
with gangs, when in fact very few are.

The earliest example I have right at hand is from 1995, but I don't
have any likely earlier sources.

Jesse Sheidlower

More information about the Ads-l mailing list