big-up, v.

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jan 18 18:18:01 UTC 2008

A verb on the rise...

StarPulse, July 17, 2007
Pressly explains, "They're purposefully big-upping the ugly fat girl
to make everybody feel great, but it also glamorizes the fact that
people are getting plastic surgery because they can."
Idolator, Dec. 27, 2007
This is actually the second time that Hennessy has been big-upped by
the Idol powers that be ... is big-upping this girl really the best
strategy to boost ratings?
SILive, Jan. 12, 2008
Legit blogs like Brooklyn Vegan and online publications like Pitchfork
and have also big-upped the band.

This can be traced ultimately to the Jamaican expression "big up(s)",
akin to "props". Some references:

_Noises in the Blood_ (1995) by Carolyn Cooper, p. 192
The British-based DJ, Macka B, at the 28 December 1991 'Best of White
River Reggae Bash' concert in Ocho Rios, recognised the achievements
of world-famous Jamaicans who 'big-up' the nation.
[Quoting Macka B:] "Im big-up Jamaica, big-up Rastaman."
_Wake the Town & Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica_ (2000)
by Norman C. Stolzoff, pp. 266-7
To big-up is to achieve a level of personal prominence. The expression
probably derives from the longer phrase "big up yu chest," which means
to "assume an air of importance" (Francis-Jackson 1995). Big-up is
also a greeting of respect. A DJ or selector will often say in the
course of a dance, "now big-up all massive and crew!" On a metaphoric
level, to big-up somebody is to give them social recognition and the
symbolic power that comes with it. In a society characterized by
extreme inequality, bigger is better than smaller, and up is better
than down.
_Caribbean Currents_ (2006) by Peter Manuel et al., pp. 211-2
A dub plate -- also known as a "special" -- is a short recording made
by a deejay (or "artist") in which he sings a few lines, usually to
the tune of a familiar song of his, substituting new verses that "big
up" a particular sound system, which he mentions by name.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list