_Splib_ redux

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 13 05:56:51 UTC 2010

Back in the day, there was a brief discussion of _splib_, an old slang
term that I recall from the late '40's on. The first time that I saw
in it print was in TIME, in an article having something to do with
black college students. The reporter asked a random black student what
the meaning of _splib_ and was told by him that it stood for "Society
for Protection & Liberation of Blacks" or some such bullshit, which
the reporter, knowing no better, included in his article as fact. A
lot of the bruz & cuz got a big laugh ought of this.

After coming across in iTunes a side entitled, "Splib's Groove," from,
unfortunately, 1995, I thought, "WTF? Why not?"

A quick look in GB gave

Jet. Feb 9, !967. p.49

Which word is most out of place here?
(a) _Splib_ (b) Blood (c) Grey (d) Spook (e) Black.

For the unhip, the word that is most out of place is _grey_ "white person."

slang-dictionary.com has the following nonsense.


noun American
an Afro-Caribbean person. A racist epithet heard since the 1980s, of
uncertain origin, although it is claimed unconvincingly to be a blend
of spade and ‘liberal’. It is more likely to be a nonsense bebop or
jive-talk coinage.

The UD, astoundingly much less racist than I've come to expect, has,
posted in '06:

splib   43 up, 7 down
At North Texas State University, 1964, splib was the common word for
black African Americans used by the jazz crowd. Gray, or gray dude,
referred to whites on a similar level. These were in common usage
among many civil rights activists as well.

IME, _splib_ had died out in Saint Louis by the '60's, though _grey_
was still being used as late as 1962, the last time, for all practical
purposes, that I was there while I was still young enough to be
interested in hitting the street with my potnaz, checking out all the
former We-Reserve-The-Right-To-Refuse-Service-To-Anyone clubs that had
changed their signage to read "Interracial."

I didn't hear _splib_ used at all while I was in the military,
_hamburger_ "black" vs. _cheeseburger_ "white" being the preferred
neutral terms among us "Bimbos," as black GI's were called by the
local B-girl population. The "real," so to speak, indigenous personnel
*very* occasionally used _Neger_, the stressed /e/ being so tense that
it was extremely difficult for the untrained hamburger ear to
distinguish "Neger" [neg@] from "nigger" [nIg@].

For some reason, the "real" Germans that I came across while boppin'
the stross or waiting in a Bahnhof always asked me, "Sind Sie
Afrikaner?" Given that there were tens of thousands of black GI's
serving in the United Staes Army-Europe, why would the Germans
immediately assume that any black man *not* in a USAREUR uniform was
an African?

Back in the day, the semantic basis of the distinctions, ham- vs.
cheese- was glaringly obvious. Nowadays, I wouldn't be surprised to
discover that it needs explanation, even among blacks of military age.

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

Once that we recognize that we do not err out of laziness, stupidity,
or evil intent, we can uncumber ourselves of the impossible burden of
trying to be permanently right. We can take seriously the proposition
that we could be in error, without necessarily deeming ourselves
idiotic or unworthy.
–Kathryn Schulz

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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