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Hip-Hop Flip-Flop

19 January, 2012

Big storm in a small teacup last week, based on a hip-hop clue in the New York Times crossword. The setter in question was Joe Krozel, overseen by editor Will Shortz. The clue was 28-Down in the Saturday puzzle: Wack, in hip-hop.

The answer was ILLIN, which was news to me, and news to Julieanne Smolinski too, a freelance journo in hier 20s who’d only known ILLIN to mean cool, or menacing. Whereas wack means crazy, or stupid. Like going into KFC and orderin' a Big Mac, according to Run DMC – that’s illin'.

The ruckus magnified into rumpus – or maybe the other way around. But hip-hop can do that, or slang in general. Just like wicked, or gay, or bad…street words have a habit of reversing direction. They mutate in your grasp. Part of me sides with Shortz, defending his clue from a dated dictionary, just as I get Smolinski’s POV. Words change. Both parties are right – with one party more current than the other.

What other words have done a U-turn in our lifetime? I like how swipe has gone from meaning to steal, as well as to use a credit card. Or yo-yo has gone from toy to biscuit to a pair of homeboys passing in da street. That’s illin'. Any others?

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Text-speak is creeping into Scrabble. Where do you sit?
OBVS I'm fine with it
Entrenched stuff - like LOL and OMG - but no more.
Words With Friends, maybe. Scrabble, no
Let the 'real' dictionaries decide first
Just the handy stuff, like FAQ and EUW
I mean, WTF?! No way
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