[Ads-l] zwilling plane; ghetto

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 1 20:57:49 UTC 2021

Green's Dictionary of Slang has "ghetto" meaning "second-rate,
old-fashioned, inferior, badly made [negative connotations]" from 1995,
citing Connie Eble's UNC-Chapel Hill campus slang lists.

1995 [US] Eble Campus Sl. Apr. 5: ghetto -- not cleanly done, sketchy:
'That last pool shot I made was so ghetto.' Not properly put together or
built: 'The parts of my bike don’t even fit right. It looks ghetto.' Dirty,
in shambles: 'I feel ghetto this morning.'

GDoS is currently offline due to technical difficulties, but the entry
would normally be found here:


On Mon, Mar 1, 2021 at 3:19 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>

> In 2002 "Vibe" published a piece pushing back against the pejorative
> use of “ghetto”. Several meanings were listed in the article for
> “ghetto” including “poor quality”.
> Date: November 2002
> Periodical: Vibe
> Article: Hood Winked
> Author: Justin "Soul One" Bedford
> Quote Page 72
> https://books.google.com/books?id=uSUEAAAAMBAJ&q=%22low+quality%22#v=snippet&
> [Begin filtered excerpt; follow link to see full text]
> As a black person, every time I hear someone say, “That’s so ghetto,”
> I can’t help but hear “n_____-ish.” Because when people say “ghetto”
> nowadays, they’re usually referring to something or someone they see
> as inferior, ignorant, ridiculous, disgusting, of poor quality or bad
> taste, or just hopelessly, irredeemably black. And I find that
> disturbing
> [End filtered excerpt]
> The author proposed an alternative interpretation for "ghetto".
> [Begin excerpt; follow link to see full text]
> But, if we insist on using the term, maybe we should consider these
> adaptations: “You know you’re ghetto when...you’re afraid to fight for
> the betterment of your people.” Or, “You know you’re ghetto
> when...you’re so selfish that you glorify the negative aspects of your
> community for your own gain-without giving anything back.” Now that’s
> worth rapping about.
> [End filtered excerpt]
> Below is a 1997 citation with two instances of the construct "You know
> you're ghetto when" which is mentioned in the 2002 article.
> Date: 1997 Copyright; 2001 Ebook Edition
> Book Title: One Better
> Author: Rosalyn McMillan
> Unnumbered Page
> Publisher: Warner Books: A Time Warner Company
> Database: Google Books Preview
> [Begin excerpt]
> “You know you're ghetto when the rims on your ride cost more than your
> car,” said the deejay, reading a fax from a listener.
> The two women laughed together as the deejay put another caller on the air.
> “You know you're ghetto when you cut off Barbie's hair and use it as
> bangs for your weave." Even the deejay was howling in response to the
> joke.
> [End excerpt]
> There is a different construct "You Might Be a Redneck If …" that
> shares some points of similarity, e.g., class-based detraction. This
> template was popularized by comedian Jeff Foxworthy who used the
> expression as the title of a 1989 book from Longstreet Press of
> Marietta, Georgia.
> [Begin excerpt]
> You might be a redneck if . . .
> Your high school annual is now a mug shot book for the police department.
> You consider a six pack of beer and a bug-zapper quality entertainment.
> [End excerpt]
> I am uncertain about the chronology of these items, so I'll refrain
> from speculating about their evolution.
> On Mon, Mar 1, 2021 at 1:18 PM Colin Morris <colin at cs.toronto.edu> wrote:
> >
> > (I joined the list after Jonathan sent his message, so please forgive the
> > *ghetto* reply, lacking a reply-to header)
> >
> > This is a sense that's been around for a while - I'm sure I would have
> > heard it and used it when I was in high school in the mid-2000's. I
> found a
> > couple instances indexed by COCA circa 2010:
> >
> > 2010: "they don’t have to worry about whether 3rd party apps will support
> > Twitter image hosting vs. Twitpic versus rolling their own ghetto
> > solution." (
> >
> http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog/CommentView.aspx?guid=a7dabc88-96a2-46f1-b1d7-91de7528389a
> > )
> >
> > 2012: "Even if you want to be pedantic, and suggest that people actually
> > can memorize that crap and not need a ghetto DNS in the form of writing
> > down the IPs and keeping a piece of paper beside their computer," (
> >
> https://tech.slashdot.org/story/12/07/17/1621211/the-web-is-not-the-internet
> > )
> >
> > Also, in 2010 a writer in the magazine Food & Drink talks about making a
> > "ghetto version" of a recipe:
> > https://books.google.ca/books?id=llwsAQAAMAAJ&q=%22ghetto+version%22
> >
> > The earliest relevant example I could find was a 2003 episode of Survivor
> > (again, indexed by COCA). A team receives a prize of middling quality.
> One
> > of the contestants says "I'd call it a ghetto Christmas. It's like asking
> > for an Incredible Hulk doll and... and getting your sister's Ken doll
> > painted green." Here ghetto seems to mostly carry the meaning of "low
> > quality", but the analogy tacked on seems to show the
> > "makeshift/jury-rigged" sense creeping in. (Also, FWIW, the contestant
> here
> > is Jonny Fairplay, a white man who, based on his Wikipedia page, probably
> > had little first-hand experience of the ghetto.)
> >

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

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