It’s common knowledge that African American vernacular has influenced the culture on a global scale, so much so that it even led to a “digital blackface” controversy on the Internet not too long ago.
Assigned to officially keep the world up on how the English language is developing, the Oxford University Press will soon recognize the influence of AAVE with a “first-of-its-kind” African American English Dictionary set to be released in 2025.
As previewed in an exclusive profile by The New York Times (seen above), the first 10 words have already been announced that will be included when the dictionary officially hits shelves. In its June 2022 press release, Oxford confirmed the Black dictionary was developed as a “three-year research project,” with those closely attached already having selected 100 words by that point.
Get a preview of the first 10 words in the African American English Dictionary below:
- bussin (adjective and participle): 1. Especially describing food: tasty, delicious. Also more generally: impressive, excellent. 2. Describing a party, event, etc.: busy, crowded, lively. (Variant forms: bussing, bussin’.)
- grill (noun): A removable or permanent dental overlay, typically made of silver, gold or another metal and often inset with gemstones, which is worn as jewelry.
- Promised Land (n.): A place perceived to be where enslaved people and, later, African Americans more generally, can find refuge and live in freedom. (Etymology: A reference to the biblical story of Jewish people seeking freedom from Egyptian bondage.)
- chitterlings (n. plural): A dish made from pig intestines that are typically boiled, fried or stuffed with other ingredients. Occasionally also pig intestines as an ingredient. (Variant forms: chitlins, chittlins, chitlings, chitterlins.)
- kitchen (n.): The hair at the nape of the neck, which is typically shorter, kinkier and considered more difficult to style.
- cakewalk (n.): 1. A contest in which Black people would perform a stylized walk in pairs, typically judged by a plantation owner. The winner would receive some type of cake. 2. Something that is considered easily done, as in This job is a cakewalk.
- old school (adj.): Characteristic of early hip-hop or rap music that emerged in New York City between the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, which often includes the use of couplets, funk and disco samples, and playful lyrics. Also used to describe the music and artists of that style and time period. (Variant form: old skool.)
- pat (verb): 1. transitive. To tap (the foot) in rhythm with music, sometimes as an indication of participation in religious worship. 2. intransitive. Usually of a person’s foot: to tap in rhythm with music, sometimes to demonstrate participation in religious worship.
- Aunt Hagar’s children (n.): A reference to Black people collectively. (Etymology: Probably a reference to Hagar in the Bible, who, with her son, Ishmael, was cast out by Sarah and Abraham [Ishmael’s father], and became, among some Black communities, the symbolic mother of all Africans and African Americans and of Black womanhood.)
- ring shout (n.): A spiritual ritual involving a dance where participants follow one another in a ring shape, shuffling their feet and clapping their hands to accompany chanting and singing. The dancing and chanting gradually intensify and often conclude with participants exhibiting a state of spiritual ecstasy.
Adding even more incentive for the public to get in on the publication, anyone can submit suggestions on the official ODAAE web portal by filling out a questionnaire.
Of course, many had a few words themselves when discussing the subject on social media, particularly whether this honors Black culture or simply gives away our juice on a silver platter at Barnes & Noble — at worst, on the novelty rack at Urban Outfitters.
Take a look below at some reactions to the soon-arriving Oxford African American English Dictionary, and let us know if you think it’s bussin’ or not:
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1. There’s an African American dictionary now? I thought we were gatekeeping not giving away the code? Please tell me this is at least part of an effort to PROTECT not just document AAVE?
2. So they released this dictionary of African American slang/vernacular and I instantly thought of this South Park episode.
3. This is wonderful, and it’s even more wonderful because it’s being led by Dr. @HenryLouisGates .
4. There is an African American dictionary to be released and, honestly, I feel indifferent about it. It just feels “for profit” and unnecessary. The black community has been exploited enough.
5. The forthcoming African American Dictionary presents lots of questions. Who benefits from it financially and otherwise? Who is the intended user? Why now? There is protection in codeswitching, how will native speakers be affected?
6. If you think an African American English dictionary is divisive – it’s you; you’re the problem. First, Black people do not dictate whether America is divided; we don’t have that power. Second, it is solely up to YOU to come together or drift apart from others. Lastly, ethnolect has been around for centuries – why is it only harmful when it stems from Black culture?
7. CTFU @ you 😂 Chitterlings need to be in the African American dictionary? Seriously? Cause we’re the only folks who eat them? LOL SMH Anywhoo, I didn’t even know this was in the works and truthfully, I am unsure how I feel about it.
8. Shout out to the most impressive Dr. @HenryLouisGates Jr. I love that you’re editing the African-American dictionary. Respect and admiration.
9. I just read there’s an African American word Dictionary. Bussin, means something good, usually relating to food, but I hear “it’s fire!” for something really good. So I think that should be up for admission. Also I know boo, in LA it’s Creole French Patois for Beau: boyfriend.
10. This is exciting. Looking forward to having a copy.