more on prepositions

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 8 15:56:14 UTC 2009

I really doubt that there's any connection whatsoever in BE between
"hit on," approach sexually, and "hate on." It's not even necessary to
give any consideration to this possibility. "Hit on," in that form,
originally meant "to beat." Cf. the early-'Fifties song by Buddy
Johnson and Sister Ella, "Hittin' On Me" (I don't want no man / Always
_hittin' on_ me") - and "hate on." "Hit on" in the sense of "approach
sexually" died back in the 'Sixties. This I first heard from a friend
on furlough from service in the Korean War as "I'm going to hit on her
and see whether she comes in out of the rain." Over the course of time
this was eroded to the point that it fell together with "hit on"
meaning "beat".

However, I have no problem at all believing that "hate on" is
historically, syntactically, and semantically connected to the older
"hit on" meaning "beat." Here, I mean "older" in the sense of, "older
than 'hit on' in the sense of 'approach sexually.'" And, of couse, I'm
well aware that a persson can be hit on for a vast number of favors
other than sexual. Buts things didn't start out that way.

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

On Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 9:25 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      more on prepositions
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> an intransitive "hate", mentioned in a comment on languagehat's blog
> .....
> So what about "hating on"? I have only seen this in intenet use,
> here's three from the same thread:
>   Tweety is the best around because he is cute and addorible no
> matter how big his head may be. Tweety is still very attractive to me.
> So please stop hating on my baby.
>   4 AlL u HaT3Rz Dat r HatIn on Tweety he RoCkZ Hell Y3Ah SO iF u
> HatIN FUK U!!!
>   Why are they hatin on tweety he's so cute and innocent and for all
> yall that be hatin on my favorite cartoon character can go where the
> sun dont shine he might be fake but his character is makin more money
> than his haters…..Love ya Tweety
> I'm not exactly sure what this "hating on" consists of either, since
> no one posted any remark that was even remotely negative about the
> cartoon character. But I fervently hope that a hundred years from now
> this bit of *indefensible slang* is not even a memory.
> Posted by: Nijma at January 6, 2009 05:13 PM
> ....
> then comments suggesting a meaning nuance:
> .....
> I like 'hating on'. I don't think I'd use it, but I like it just fine,
> expressive and not really covered by any other construction AFAIK.
> Posted by: michael farris at January 6, 2009 06:07 PM
> .....
> To hate on: To be envious of someone's style (used in a broad sense)
> and therefore ridicule it.
> I like it a lot myself, and even use it sometimes...
> .....
> Posted by: jamessal at January 6, 2009 06:51 PM
> To me, "hate on" seems to mean active expression of hatred, whereas
> "hate" is a disposition or attitude.
> Posted by: John Emerson at January 6, 2009 07:08 PM
> .....
> and a speculation about its social distribution:
> .....
> For some reason, I ... thought "hating on" was an entirely African
> American expression.
> Posted by: Nijma at January 6, 2009 07:38 PM
> .....
> No one has mentioned it explicitly, maybe because it's obvious, but
> "hate on" is AAVE AFAIK. Earliest usage example I could find was in
> Dr. Dre's "Forgot about Dre", recorded in 1999. It seems basically to
> have originally meant "be jealous of", although I'm sure there's
> nuance I'm missing. (Hard to believe Dre is 43.)
> Posted by: komfo,amonan at January 6, 2009 11:13 PM
> .....
> (also some discussion of "hit on" vs. "hit", suggested by phonological
> similarity to "hate on" vs. "hate" -- though there's no semantic
> relationship.)
> arnold
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