Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Legice? Seriously? I Know Right.

A little while ago I posted a list of slang compiled from one of my classes and vowed that one day I would return to it for a little analysis provided by me, unqualified person extraordinaire. That day has come, and its time to address a few words or definitions that seem problematic:

BISCUIT -- deny one’s own accomplishments, be falsely modest. Allusion to the practice of old Southern women who make delicious biscuits from scratch and then apologize for them. X: “This is a terrible poem I wrote. It’s not my best work.” Y: “Stop biscuiting!”

DURB -- From Dick Durbin, Democratic Senator from Illinois. Fellatio.

I KNOW RIGHT -- I agree completely: X: “What were they doing cancelling the study group?” Y: “I know, right.” Popularized by the film Mean Girls.

LEGICE -- /ləĵaysə/ legitimate + scheisse (German ‘shit’) Positive, agreeable, excellent

SERIOUSLY -- expression of shock, surprise, or indignation: “He doesn’t call for two weeks. But he thinks he can call tonight and I’ll go over to study? Seriously? Seriously!” Popularized by television series Grey’s Anatomy.

The biggest problem about the formation of this list, in my opinion, was the mindset of a lot of contributors. While ostensibly people were documenting words they used or had heard, some of the words on the list are extremely marginal at best, or were just outright made-up for purposes of submission, as I happen to know a few of the words were. Which means that some of these words are probably just theoretical slang: someone could use newly coined term X, but no one actually has or does.

How can I tell if a word is actually being used? Well, I can always Google it. The problem being that if it is a word like BISCUIT, there will be lots of hits, just not in the sense I am looking for (even the form BISCUITING can’t be used because apparently it’s a woodworking term). So I check one of the most thorough locations for slang on the net: Urban Dictionary. Urban Dictionary is incredibly exhaustive, so I usually get skeptical if a word doesn’t show up. BISCUIT exists as a slang word with all sorts of definitions, but none even approaching the definition that was given on the list I have.

Does this mean it’s not a “real” slang word? Not necessarily. If it’s not a sort of experimental/theoretical slang word such as I described above, it could just be used solely by one small group. The folk story and complicated (for slang) allusion to old Southern women’s habits makes me think that this is probably a case of theoretical slang.

LEGICE seems to be a similar case. A half-foreign blend of the relatively common phrase “legitimate shit” or “legit shit” seems to be a very possible mutation. However, Google and Urban Dictionary turn up nothing in English, even with a variety of alternate spellings. This word, if actually used, is apparently rare. I am inclined to believe that this is one of those words that someone thought up to put on the list, though in my opinion it’s catchy enough to eventually gain some steam.

The other tricky thing about some of these entries is their supposed source or method of popularization. For example, Urban Dictionary verifies that DURB means fellatio and I found a few mentions in other sources, but I can find no connection or mention of its connection to the Senator from Illinois, Durbin. Because I didn’t find it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or isn’t true (especially considering such successful senatorial eponyms as santorum), but if such a connection was real, my hunch is that it would be all over the Internet (Wonkette alone would have about ten posts on it, I would think). To me, the connection to the word DURB seems to be a folk etymology derived after the fact.

Likewise, it’s hard to say that SERIOUSLY and I KNOW RIGHT were actually popularized by Grey’s Anatomy and Mean Girls. I know that SERIOUSLY with the listed usage was in relatively wide use before Grey’s Anatomy and the claim that term was popularized by the show is pretty much impossible to prove or disprove as it might have been if the listing claimed that it originated on the show. Granted, it’s a hit with plenty of influence (I’m actually surprised that MCDREAMY wasn’t submitted) and the popularization claim could very well be true, but the idea that it is the cause of the wide usage of a particular term should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

It seems more likely that a group of friends first encountered the use from one of these sources and assumed that since that particular source was the source of the term’s local popularity it must be the source of its universal popularity. Again, this is all but impossible to prove or disprove.

Anyway, I promised a little bit of analysis and you got it, so I am considering my shit legice.


Anonymous b said...

I know the kids at St. A's use the term biscuit by that definition, although the origin they gave was probably bullshit.

Do you ever wonder what will happen to you is Google ever disappears? Do you think you would implode? I want to watch...

7:10 PM  
Blogger Kellen said...

I would, in fact, explode without Google.

There was at least one St. A's kid in the class (your old roomie, I think), and a few of the terms (FIVES NO UNCLE RAYRAY) seem to clearly be some of their stuff.

11:50 PM  
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