flyting and rap

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 10 22:06:05 UTC 2009

Damn, Jon! You ddone turnt white own me!

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 Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 11:53 AM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: flyting and rap
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Monday I sent the following, which seems to have vanished into cyberspace
> along with a couple of other posts. This is the fourth try. Don't ask me
> why:
> ***
> Playing the "nines"?  That sounds like baseball. "Playing the dozens" is the
> usual idiom.
> Many years before rap there were "toasts."  This should get you started:
> The first academic to publish toasts was Roger Abrahams in _Deep Down in the
> Jungle_  (Phila.: Aldine, 1970).  He collected them in Philadelphia in
> 1958-59. One or two cleaned-up texts appear in Langston Hughes and Arna
> Bontemps, _The Book of Negro Folklore_ (N.Y.: Dodd, Mead, 1958).
> Equally important as Abrahams and Jackson is Dennis Wepman, Ronald B.
> Newman, Murray B. Binderman, _The Life: The Lore and Folk Poetry of the
> Black Hustler_ (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976).
> It is not clear, AFAIK, when the "toast" tradition arose. The material was
> so shocking that it could not have been published legally before the 1960s.
> There seems to be no doubt, however, that toasts were circulating by the
> 1920s or '30s.
> My ultraconservative guess is that one influence behind toasts was the
> (mainly white?) vaudeville tradition of dramatic recitations of "lowbrow"
> poetic ballads by authors like Kipling and Robert Service. But as usual,
> this is merely a guess.
> Perhaps also of interest in this connection is the mostly subliterary genre
> of "slang songs"  documented in England from before 1600 into the mid or
> late 19th C. These employ as much thieves' slang as possible in narrating
> the pleasures of being a crook.
> JL
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