_Splib_ redux

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 13 16:02:37 UTC 2010

Wilson's flypaper memory does it again. HDAS could trace "splib" only to
1966, with no indication that it was likely to be much older.

Origin unknown, natch, but Herbert Simmons's 1962 novel, _Man Walking on
Eggshells_ (set in St. Louis) has the unique "splibbed" meaning "stoned."

In fact, Simmons also says, "They started calling him Splib because he
stayed laid [i.e., high] all the time."  The novel, by an African-American
author, is set in St. Louis.

I don't even try to figure these things out any more.

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 12:56 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      _Splib_ redux
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> splib
> Definition
> 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.
> --
> -Wilson
> –––
> 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

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list