Phat [was Re: gay/ghey/ghay]

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Wed Jun 2 22:42:36 UTC 2004

Good one! That might actually have happened, given that she was the
daughter of a teacher who was prescriptive to the extent that she tried
to teach us to pronounce "peanut," i.e. "pea nut," as "peenit,"
supposedly more elegant. Not to mention that the family belonged to the
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Gnome sane?

-Wilson Gray

On Jun 2, 2004, at 5:49 PM, Beverly Flanigan wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Beverly Flanigan <flanigan at OHIOU.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Phat [was Re: gay/ghey/ghay]
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> At least she didn't hypercorrect to "lie dead," right?!
> At 10:46 PM 6/1/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>> Thank you for bringing these sites to my attention. The kinds of folk
>> etymologies that you supply are completely foreign to my experience.
>> I've read about them, of course, but I've never heard anything of this
>> type proposed by any black person, with the sole exceptions of
>> "phat(t)" and "mot," meaning "member of the tribe." (I've read
>> somewhere or other that "mot" is also or originally Jewish slang.
>> Interesting.) The closest that I can come to anything like these are
>> locutions like "HNIC" and "HNOD,"which are always spelled out and
>> never
>> pronounced. Their meanings are, respectively, "head nigger in charge"
>> and "head nigger on duty."  And there's also BYB/BYOB, meaning "bring
>> your (own) bottle," and KYPIYP "keep your peter in your pants" and
>> some
>> others. These are likewise always spelled out and never pronounced.
>> Since I first heard these when I was in grade school in the 'Forties
>> and have never in my life met any black person who was unfamiliar with
>> them, I'm probably safe in assuming they are universally known among
>> black Americans. Well, among men, at least. Women, for some reason,
>> never seem to be a source of slang and screw it up when they try to
>> use
>> it. E.g., a girl I knew back in the day would always hypercorrect "lay
>> dead" = "relax/kick back at home by oneself, hang around the house
>> doing nothing in particular," to "play dead."
>> This is just a stab in the dark, but my guess is that, given that all
>> of us blacks know that our dialect is itself non-standard, we have no
>> motivation to perceive non-standardness as something that needs to be
>> dealt with.
>> FWIW, now that I think about it, the hypercorrection of "lay dead" to
>> "play dead" could be understood as an instance of folk etymology.
>> -Wilson Gray

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