hip hop music

April 26, 2003

Bling Etymology

Someone should forward this article to the NY Times critic Ann Powers, who hilariously asserted that "bling-bling" was the slang term for shooting a gun:

It's all about the bling-bling

Elizabeth Taylor dripped it, and Liberace flaunted it. Carmela Soprano's a walking advertisement, and P. Diddy's real-life poster boy.

This year's Oscars consciously toned it down, while the "Ab Fab" girls giddily talked it up.

Now the Oxford English Dictionary is about to officially induct it into the lexicon.

"Bling-bling" -- America's latest verbal fling.

Unless you've been vacationing in Tibet, you've probably heard it a lot lately. The hip-hop expression bling-bling, or sometimes just bling, has been popping up everywhere -- television, radio, and newspapers -- spoken and written by folks who are several steps removed from pop culture's cutting edge.

Coined in 1999 in a same-named song by a New Orleans rapper named B.G., bling-bling applies to big showy jewelry -- the kind typified by razzle-dazzle designer Chris Aire that gets Lil' Kim's heart racing, sets off alarms at airports, and goes bling when it collides with other bling (hence the name).

"Bling-bling really became popular with me when Shaq and the Lakers were using the term for their championship rings" in 2001, says Californian Jeffrey "Halfshaq" Marino, who sells lots of bling online at www.pimphats.com -- one of several Web sites that revel in metallic excess. (Another, MrBling.com, for example, sells custom-made teeth in yellow gold, white gold, and platinum.)

If the sports world was quick to embrace the word, all of television is on a bling bender. CNN Headline News has been using "bling-bling" and other hip-hop terms in its headlines and graphics as part of what the network's general manager has called an aggressive attempt to stay "relevant, smarter and cooler" to a younger audience.

The cooler-than-thou term has clearly exploded into the unhip mainstream -- which is why it's headed for the dictionary.

"We're going to draft an entry, which we'll probably publish soon," says Jesse Sheidlower, principal editor of the OED's North American Editorial Unit, who says it will be added online (as all new entries are) and will probably include several senses of bling-bling as a verb, noun, and adjective. "We decide based on currency. In a case like bling-bling, it's very widespread..."

Although it is usually credited to BG, and he certainly popularized it and established its current meaning, I will point out that the phrase "bling bling" was heard long before his record came out. The first time I remember was Jesse West a.k.a. 3rd Eye, on Supercat's "Dolly My Baby" remix in 1993: "Bling, bling! yo who's that with Supercat..."

Posted by jsmooth995 at April 26, 2003 2:50 PM

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