Sunday, December 27, 2020

Code Switching and Black Baby Boomers

Recently I came across an article regarding the slang words and phrases we, as baby boomers, used to say as young adults and the fact that these words are no longer spoken by the younger generations.  After reading the article, it occurred to me that many of my black friends and I have been code-switching practically all of our lives (that means at least 50 years).  Now for all of you "educated white folks" reading this post, code-switching is the practice of interacting in different ways depending on what environment we're in.  It's what we do when we are interacting OUTSIDE of our own communities. We change the way we talk when we switch from our world to yours.  Why?  One reason is because we would have no opportunities for growth or advancement in the business world since whiteness is the dominant culture.  Whites, on the other hand, do not see or feel the need to code switch because their way of speaking is considered natural, normal and legitimate.  I could certainly write a whole blog about code-switching but the purpose is to show how different the slang talk was for whites and blacks during my young adult years.

Here are some of the words my generation used:


GAS--something or someone is a lot of fun 

FLIP A WIG--to get very angry or upset 



DROP A DIME--make a phone call 


KICKS--doing something for fun 


Now I will admit I am familiar with all of these words, however, they weren't widely used in my circles.  THREADS was universal for clothes "Those are some nice threads you got on!" and while I heard many of my white friends use the terms SQUARE and DRAG, the only time I really used the word GROOVY was when I was singing lyrics to Groovy Situation by Gene Chandler:

Oh it's a groovy situation

A splendid combination

That we should meet

At a time like this...... 

DROP A DIME may have meant make a phone call but in the black community it meant (and still means) to tell on someone or betray them. (to rat them out)<another slang phrase. 

SCRATCH may have meant money to white baby boomers but we called money BREAD.

KICKS meant some nice shoes

Other words we used that white baby boomers didn't....

FLY--meant good looking or fine

THE MAN--the police (or someone in authority over you like your boss)


RIGHT ON!--to be in agreement with


CRIB--your house

JIVIN' "Stop jivin' around man!" Stop lying or playing around. 

CAN YOU DIG IT?--Do you understand?

If you can dig it, that's outta sight!


1 comment:

Netflix Movie Buff said...

Hi Beverly,
I had to chuckle after reading this post, because as one of those Black Baby Boomers, I have to tell you, the only word I recognize that might have entered my vocabulary is "Groovy" and that's because I thought it such a cool, sexy word coming from Link and Pete on the series Mod Squad!

A true Southern born and bred woman, I think Ebonics is what I heard used by folks during my coming of age experience. I truly advocated for that verbiage when I came to Chicago in 1974. Loved the dialect then but after The Color Purple, think it's a bit exaggerated. Anyhew, great piece.