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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Azizi BS: Euphemistic US Usages (116* d) RE: BS: Euphemistic US Usages 14 Dec 11

With regard to the phrase "nitty gritty", I very much agree with the comments that that phrase has NOTHING to do with enslaved Africans or with lice.

After reading those comments on this thread and elsewhere online, I was motivated to write a post on my cultural blog about that phrase. That post includes an excerpt that traces the erroneous but oft repeated claim about "nitty gritty & the African slave trade. That post also includes information on the earliest documented use of "nitty gritty" (a 1937 record entitled The Nitty Gritty Dance), and of course includes references to the three 1960s African American Rock & Roll/R&B songs that popularized that phrase (two by Shirley Ellis and one by Gladys Knight & The Pips). I also embedded two videos of that song in that post -sound files of the hit song by Shirley Ellis, and the Gladys Knight and the Pips song.

Here is part of my comment about what "nitty gritty" means in the context of those records:

"In the context of dancing, "gettin right down to the real nitty gritty" means more than "getting to the heart of the matter or the basic essentials". When it comes to dancing, "gettin down to the real nitty gritty" means to dance REAL GOOD. It also means to be real in the way that you dance - to put aside fake societals notions of being stiff, or refined, or too controlled in the way you move. Gettin down to the real nitty gritty means to get FUNKY. "Funky" means to be hip, cool, hot, smokin, ace, fly, dynomite, the bomb, off the hook, off the chain, the shizzle, the sh*t, ill, sick, and any other superlative descriptor that originated or will originate from African Americans. creativity. But a person is funky on the dance floor because they have allowed themselves to be real (to get down to their basic essence) and not worried about them working up a sweat and stanking up the place. ("Stanking" here is purposeful Black talk which means "really stinking"). People who are funky dancers don't smell good but they don't worry about that because their focus is gettin down on the dance floor (with "getting down" meaning to move down low, but also to work the dance - to show off, to out dance other people)."

That blog post can be found at

Best wishes,

Azizi Powell

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