Browsing the NYT Archives

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 5 15:41:50 UTC 2014

On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 11:11 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> It's the intransitive "represent" that's relevant here, in terms of
> the then-newish slang usage that the 1997 NYT definition is trying to
> convey. OED3 is oddly silent on this, despite the entry for
> "represent" having been revised as recently as 2009. MWCD's def is "to
> perform a task or duty admirably :  serve as an outstanding example,"
> which is getting there.
> We've talked about this sense of "represent" a few times, most
> recently in January:
> In the mid-'90s, when that NYT article came out, "represent" was
> enjoying a vogue in hiphop usage, thanks to songs like "Represent" by
> Nas off his 1994 album "Illmatic." The ngram-style Rap Stats graph on
> Rap Genius demonstrates this nicely (though of course it doesn't
> distinguish transitive from intransitive use):

Even before "Illmatic," intransitive "represent" showed up several
times on two influential albums that came out in late 1993: Wu-Tang
Clan's "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" and A Tribe Called Quest's
"Midnight Marauders." Examples from both (note how it often appears as
an imperative):

"Wu-Tang, yo soooooo, represent." -- Wu-Tang Clan, "Bring Da Ruckus"

"Represent! Chop his head off, kid!" -- Wu-Tang Clan, "Wu-Tang Clan
Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit"

"From the bad lands of the killer, rap fanatic / Representing with the
skill that's iller." -- Wu-Tang Clan, "Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber"

"Linden Boulevard, represent, represent / Tribe Called Quest,
represent, represent." -- A Tribe Called Quest, "Steve Biko (Stir It

"A gritty little something on the New York street / This is how I
represent over this here beat." -- A Tribe Called Quest, "Electric


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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