"dig" probably not from Wolof

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Dec 10 03:28:46 UTC 2004

  I'd be cautious about deriving slang "dig" (= like; understand) from Wolof. The term seems perfectly explainable within English. Besides meaning "to understand, appreciate"  it has also had the meaning "(of a male) have sex." The imagery is obvious.

   So, if a man is having sex regularly with his woman, he presumably likes/appreciates her. And if he like/appreciates jazz, for example, he presumably understands it--at least more than someone who doesn't listen to it much, if at all.

    As for the sexual use of "dig," cf. the blues song ""You'll Never Miss Your Jelly," by Lil Johnson:
  "If you don't like my sweet potato,
        What made you dig so deep
Dig my potato field
           three or four times a week. ..."

For anyone interested in this general topic, see my article: "Sexual Terms and Metaphors in th Blues, part 1", in: _Studies in Slang, Part V_, (book edited by Gerald Leonard Cohen), (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang), 1997, pp.73-126. The quote from the Lil Johnson song appears on p. 88.

Gerald Cohen

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