Monday, July 9, 2007

Word Salad Surgery

I used to love hip-hop, and I still have a great deal of fondness for the decade 1985-1994 when hip-hop albums still ran the gamut from cheeky party music (Slick Rick, Biz Markie (whom we also have to thank for the exclamation "Oh Snap!")) to philosophizin' booty-shakers (Public Enemy, De La Soul) to simply the illest (Paris, Eric B & Rakim). For an already-devoted reader, obsessive music fan, and fledgling writer, that period's liner notes provided a wealth of lyrical inspiration... a new album could take the whole afternoon to listen to properly.

"steadily the melody plays"

People have been frontin' that they're hard and/or down for as long as hip-hop has existed, and though I never (OK, rarely) perpetrated that I was from the mean streets, I did adopt many words into my personal lexicon taken from the lyrics and worldview of my preferred era of hip-hop.

A personal favorite that I still use today (and may or may not earn me snickers behind my back) is "word". Word is such a malleable word, and with the proper inflection it can be used in many situations when belaboring the point just isn't the right call.

Here's a decent definition stitched together from multiple entries at

A versatile declaration, originating (more or less) in hip-hop culture. "Word" has no single meaning, but is used to convey a casual sense of affirmation, acknowledgement, agreement, or to indicate that something has impressed you favorably. "Word" is the shortened form of the phrase: "my word is my bond" which was originated by inmates in U.S. prisons. The longer phrase was shortened to "word is bond" before becoming "word," which is most commonly used. It basically means "truth." Or "to speak the truth." Can also be used as a question, meaning "really?"


I'm down with Cameo, but I prefer dropping the "up"

Word can also be a surprisingly evocative modifier, as these medical terminology uses attest:

word salad : noun : a confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases, specifically • (in psychiatry) as a form of speech indicative of advanced schizophrenia. • as a means of bypassing a spam filter for e-mail.

word blindness : noun : less technical term for alexia , or (less accurately) for dyslexia .

word deafness : noun : an inability to identify spoken words, resulting from a brain defect such as Wernicke's aphasia.

Here's one you don't hear often but that I nominate for reconsideration:

wordage: noun : words collectively • quantity or amount of words • verbiage, wordiness

please don't get me this for my birthday

Which of course makes us appreciate the awkward (awkword?) word "wordiness" and makes me start humming Tom Tom Club's oft-sampled 1981 namechecker "Wordy Rappinghood".

You know what I like about blogging? Stream of consciousness writing. Faulkner would have been a helluva blogger.

The list of phrases that word is used in is too long to even consider playing favorites with, but if I must I'd pick "have a word with". Has anything pleasant ever resulted in a conversation that opens with "Can I have a word with you?"

I'm just trying to keep the "Word" in The Word Player. Knowhaimsayin'?

My Grandfather "Big Bill" was a veritable fountain of words to the wise, and one of my favorites was what he called "The Three B's of Public Speaking":

"Be Brief, Baby."

It doesn't get much briefer than "Word".


daniel said...

Somewhat akin to the Italian-American favorite 'Forget about it!' (Fuget-abowdit!) As explained by Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco:

"Forget about it is like if you agree with someone, you know, like Raquel Welch is one great piece of ass, 'Forget about it!' But then, if you disagree, like 'A Lincoln is better than a Cadillac? Forget about it!' you know? But then, it's also like if something's the greatest thing in the world, like 'Mingia peppers? Forget about it.' But it's also like saying 'Go to hell!' too. Like, you know, like 'Hey Paulie, you got a one inch pecker?' and Paulie says 'Forget about it!' And sometimes it just means 'Forget about it.'

Me, I like 'Word' for everyday use and 'Word is bond' for those extra-special occasions.

knowhereman said...

word to your mother. word to my mother. word to our mother.