DARE would like to celebrate and recognize the contributions, both standard and dialectal, that Black speakers have made to American English. This is just a tiny sample (29 words for each day of Black History Month 2016) of the rich and varied vocabulary spoken originally or primarily by African-American English speakers that is documented in DARE. No doubt some of these are as old-fashioned as a piccolo joint, yet and still they just might get your nose open. Or, they might make you cry “Say what?” from the get-go. Regardless, we hope you find a new word to love or an old favorite to keep alive by using them at your next set. And, if you use these words today or have anything else to add, DARE would love to hear from you!
ace A very close friend. [From ace any person outstandingly good]
banjo A stringed musical instrument. (Standard definition) [Introduced from West Africa in var forms]
ball the jack To perform a particular dance. [Popularized by a dance-song hit of 1913]
call hogs To snore. scattered, but chiefly Sth, S Midl
cooter A turtle. [African, akin to Bambara, Malinké kuta turtle; also Central Afr nkudu]
dap Dapper, well-dressed, good-looking. (also dapped (down), dapt)
element The sky; air; weather. (also plural) chiefly Sth, S Midl
get-go The start, beginning.
gumbo A thick soup or stew of vegetables, meat, or seafood. [Louisiana French, of African origin] chiefly Gulf States, esp LA, but widely recognized elsewhere
happy Overcome with religious enthusiasm—freq in phr get happy. chiefly Sth, S Midl
joan/joaning To engage in a ritualized exchange of insults. (also jone/joning)
jump salty To get angry.
kitchen The nape of the neck; the hair at the nape of the neck.
mojo A charm, amulet, or spell; magic. [Of African origin; cf Gullah moco and Fula moco’o] chiefly Sth
mother wit Natural intelligence; common sense.
nose open, get one’s To be infatuated or in love.
one usu following a pronoun: By oneself; only. Nobody here but me one. (especially Gullah speakers)
piccolo A jukebox. chiefly S Atl; also NYC
pinder A peanut. [Kongo mpinda] chiefly S Atl, Gulf States
quarrel with at or with: to scold, nag, find fault with. People never scolded anybody, they “quarreled at” a person. Sth, S Midl
ready Aware, in tune with advanced taste, “hip.” (also raddy)
say what Used to request the repetition of something improperly heard or understood; also an expression of incredulity.
set A party; a social event.
tea for the fever, not to take Not to put up with any nonsense. Theresa is a woman with a “take no tea for the fever” attitude.
ugly Sin, wickedness—used in phr God don’t love ugly. [This proverb appears to be widespread in the Caribbean.]
vine/vines/vined A suit of clothes, esp a stylish one, usu for a man/clothing, esp one’s best clothes/dressed stylishly.
woof ticket/wolf ticket A lie, bluff, challenge. (usually in phrases sell (or buy) a woof ticket, etc.)
yet in phr yet and still: Nevertheless, however. The warmth in the house invited us in, yet and still Santiaga lit the fireplace. chiefly Sth, S Midl