Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

It’s A Black Thing?: What Had Happened Was…

obamaHello.

I have a question. Like a real one too.

I’m going to ask this for education purposes, intellectual reasons, and overall curiosity satisfaction. Creep with me:

Has anybody ever heard a non-Black person say, “what had happened was…”?

I’m serious. Kind of. I mean, I’m sure somebody else has said it. And by somebody else I mean a person who doesn’t celebrate Black History Month. Like Don Lemon. But is there any more statement that is so “Black” in nature? Like, short of my personal favorite, “I wish a motherf*cker WOULD do xyz…”

Quick aside: I actually do be wishing motherf*ckers would do such ‘n such. Like I have sat in my bed at home before, eyes clenched holding my comforter tight, asking and hoping somehow someway could it be arranged for X person to do Y thing JUST so I could act a complete donkey. I try not to pray about it because that just seems wrong. Then again, since I’m not praying, it rarely, if ever, comes to fruition because, well won’t he do it. God be knowin’ y’all or nah?

I still be wishing a motherf*cker would though; I can’t stress that enough.

Back to the lecture at hand though. While I can’t say that I know as many non-Black folks as others, and all of those that I do know have spent considerable time around The Blacks, I do wonder if that’s just a…ya know Black thing (and you wouldn’t understand).

Let me take a quick step back here. I’m fascinated by the evolution of language. For instance, I don’t know if you people realize this – I’m sure you do but why would you ever think about it – but we went as a species from communicating by saying “uggggggghghgh” to words like “onomatopoeia”. Do you realize how much occurred to get from one point to the other? Like, why is a door a “door”? These things keep me up at night. Language if fascinating. It’s also why I take such issue with other folks issues with words like “conversate” and “irregardless”, etc, two words that I’m fairly certain are considered uniquely Black though it is completely understandable how any one might arrive at both word usages. I’m not here to argue for them since I’ve already done that in a previous post.

People get very dogmatic about which words aren’t appropriate, whereas I couldn’t care less. I’m a creative…new words are what’s hot in these streets. Especially if you manage to put 3 or more words together to make an even more awesomer word like travashamockery. <— not a real word, but you understand exactly what’s being said there. Genius.

I’ve meandered and veered clean off the path I was heading down. That yellow brick road? Full of redbones. Bong bong. Das racist.

Back again to the lecture at hand. So words and phrases are created and divied up at the Ethnic Word Convention and it seems that Black folks ended up with “what had happened was…” It’s almost a rite of passage. Even the most bougie (“r” or no “r”) has likely uttered this.

I heard a coworker sound like he was going to give it a run one day but he left out the most crucial word in the statement. Buddy of the caucasian persuasion left out the “had”. He, trying to be funny, merely said, “what happened was…” and other coworkers laughed like I’ve laughed when somebody has lobbed out the infamous “what had happened was…” which makes me believe that while the sentiment is the same, there really is a “Black” way to say that thus making it a “Black” statement.

Granted, this all matters not in the grand scheme of things and a brother was pontificating this evening while looking at the moon when something happened that caused me to say, to another soul, that what had happened was…

Well this really all got me to thinking of what are statements that are uniquely Black, white, or other (Father forgive me for being too lazy to list out every other ethnicity like Aleutian Eskimo, etc). I presume that certain statements like, “I’d like a loan for $50,000 unsecured, right now” would be, ya know, white, but I’m sleep.

So what do you smart people have on my gas money? First, have you ever heard anybody non-Negro say “what had happened was…”? And further, what are some uniquely ethnic phrases across the board. And yes Puerto Ricans, the whistle counts.

Help me with my curiosity. PJ out.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. SAY HEFFA SAY WHAT?! aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

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Damon Young

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

  • MALynn

    Non-blacks always forget the crucial “had”

    Never heard a non- black person in my surroundings say:
    “Ain’t this some $hit?!
    “Ain’t this a bish?!”

    • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

      or its cousin, which i love, “Ain’t this about a bish?!” (never figured out why the ‘about’ got thrown in there lol)

      • MALynn

        Yeah, I never got to know either but it’s hella funny so I’m going to keep it! Lol!

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        Sometimes its not a whole b tch, just about one lol

      • panamajackson

        “ain’t this about a b*tch” is definitely up there in terms of significantly Black statements.

      • WIP

        I think “about” is akin to “close to” or “almost” in this context. Still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense…

        • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

          it really doesn’t, which makes it even better to say lol

  • camilleblue

    Never heard a non black say it.

    Few of the things I have heard said and may or may not have said myself as a member of ‘the blacks’:

    Bag back
    What you was doin’
    My mama n’dem
    Niqqa please
    You be trippin

    Edit: I can’t forget skinned pronounced as ‘skinded’….as in light- skinded or dark-skinded.

    • CrayolaGirl

      Curious: what is bag back?

      • camilleblue

        Lol…to back up. Like, I have a friend that says it all the time… “I had to tell him to bag back….or I had to get in my car and bag back”

        • Val

          “Bag back” is kind of a regional thing, right? I’ve never heard it.

          • Epsilonicus

            M neither

      • Abu Husain

        Back away from me.

      • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

        My husband says that! It’s what his dad says to him if he’s directing my husband in which way to back the car up.

        It’s really “baaaaack back, baaaack back” lol. But now it just sounds like bag back.

        • panamajackson

          Right. I’m sure this is a southern thing b/c I’ve heard and said this numerous times.

          Folks get up in your space, its lke, “yoooooooooo…baaaaack back n*gga!!!!!! Seriously!

    • http://www.facebook.com/MentalMass MENTAL MASTURBATION

      Nooo!!! It’s “Back Back… Gimme 50 Feet!” HA HA!!

      Peep the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tObtKQ52vTk

    • http://twitter.com/itsmrlittle ItsMrLittle

      Yep. “Bag back” instead of just “back up” is definitely a thing. LOL

  • CrayolaGirl

    My 64 year old Asian coworker used “what had happened….” a few weeks back. I smiled and thought hmmm, black folks aren’t the only people who say it. To be honest, I chuckle to myself when I hear black people say it.

  • MALynn

    Only black people say ” I’m sleep tho”

    • http://TheNewEve.com/ Bunni

      and “or nah”

    • panamajackson

      I love saying, “But I’m sleep.” It’s seriously one of my favorite sayings. I NEVER miss an opportunity to say it.

      • MALynn

        Took me a minute to figure out what folks on the twitter meant by that…

        • Kema

          What does it mean?

          • MALynn

            From what I gather it can mean:
            I am sleepy
            sarcastically saying “don’t mind me, I’m dumb” to an obnoxious person

          • Vonna

            It’s basically saying “but yall don’t hear me, tho” after you’ve spoken some “slept on” truth

  • helga_g

    So in line with this post… do non-Blacks eat Flamin Hots? I really need to know others thoughts on this.

    • anon in CA

      Yes! It’s a mexican thing out in SoCal

    • nillalatte

      My son LOVES them!

  • anon in CA

    I’ve never heard “others” use the word “fisten or fittna” in a sentence.

    • CrayolaGirl

      In the south, everybody use those words or versions of them.

      • JayIzUrGod

        I agree. Same thing with talmbout (talking about)

        • nillalatte

          I agree. Southerner’s can slaughter some English. I think half my family speaks like they graduated from 8th grade. lol

          • panamajackson

            I don’t know if its slaughter though. It’s really beautiful. Then again, I love language and dialects and sh*t. It definitely has its time and place.

          • JayIzUrGod

            Aye I’m a New Yorker and sometimes i speak like i graduated 5th gtsde twice somewhere in Arkansas

          • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

            Actually, Southerners are more on par with “The Queen’s English” than the rest of the country.

        • LMNOP

          Talmbout is how pretty much everyone pronounces talking about. That’s not a southern thing.

    • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

      Originally, it’s fixing/fixin’ to.

    • panamajackson

      I’ve never heard “fisten”. Now, “fittin’ to” “fixin’ to” or “fitna” yes. Definitely words I grew up with. Though I suppose “fisten” could mean “fixin’”

    • Brother Mouzone

      In the south, 2520′s say fixin’ to

  • JayIzUrGod

    No one ever uses the term “keep it real” quite like a Black person. Nor does anyone quite use the word mother fu ck er quite like Black folks because we are angry enough to eliminate two letters, add a vowel, and then say it with emphasis.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      John McClane might’ve used our beloved portmanteau with an a, that’s about it

    • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

      Bobby Seale gives the etymology of muhhfukka at the end of his memoir, Seize the Time. it blew my mind.

      • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

        oh see, now i have to read that.

        • Freebird

          you read Assata?

          • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

            I haven’t! I am woefully behind on reading the bios of Black Power Mvmt people.

            • Freebird

              The only one ive read. She provides incredible insights, and real solutions. No wonder the gubment still trying to get her….

              • Val

                Check out Elaine Brown’s autobio. It’s great.

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        I met Bobby Seale in college…in an auditorium a third empty and with a crowd that skewed White. (It also shows what a bunch of ninjas that attended my alma mater at the time. You mean to tell me you can get raw facts from a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and you’d rather get high and get some head? Ninja please!) Most compelling speaker I’ve ever met face to face, and that’s a pretty deep list. I hope he’s doing well.

        • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

          i saw him speak at Cooper Union when Stephen Shames released his book Black Panthers with Aperture, and i picked up Seize the Time and i was like … …. ….

          i got to interview him, and i have republished that piece countless times. it was awe inspiring to listen to the way he reveals his mind ~*~ http://missrosen.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/bobby-seale-all-power-to-the-people/

  • nillalatte

    LOL… PJ, you know I’m all up in it when it comes to slang and over all bad use of the English language (Arabic too, but we’ll just side bar that for now). It’s amazing I’m considered a ‘professional’ (hush) when I can go from proper white woman to something that gets me side eyed a lot. GIRL, please. I is who I is. ROTFLMAO… I D.I.E.D. when you know who said that. I wanted to slap her into next week if truth be known. But, I meditated and found peace with ignorance. Ain’t nothin’ but a G thang.

    • panamajackson

      You might as well go on ahead and upload it. LOL.

  • Val

    What I find just as interesting as words and phrases only Black people say is how quickly those words and phrases are co-opted by other folks and become mainstream. I mean news anchors say “bling” now. Old white folks say “my bad”. I heard a 50 something White woman on the bus say “hella” the other day.

    And, just as interesting, is how quickly words and phrases fall out of favor with us when the mainstream accepts them into the American lexicon.

    • http://www.facebook.com/MentalMass MENTAL MASTURBATION

      I’m still shocked every time I hear white newscasters use the term “twerk” after Miley’s MTV performance last-year. White people are always late to the party when it comes to black slang because Southern Knee-Grows have been saying “twerk something” since the mid-90s.

      Did it really take 20 years for that term to go mainstream?

      Now, why did it take “twerk”(twurk in some circles) 20 years to go mainstream(read: adopted by white people) and it only took ‘bling’ a good 3-5 years to be adopted by white culture? I wonder….

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        Cuz white people like shiny things?

      • Tentpole

        Because they don’t want to give credit where credit is due. We are the cradle of civilization and they stole that from us too. This is how it goes. We invent it get tired of it and they find it in the trash and run with it like this sentence.

      • cornichon

        because white people can’t twerk

      • ri067953

        The word “twerk” has been around for 20 years? I had always known it a booty poppin’ or pu$$y poppin’ never did I hear twerk until the last 2 years or so.

    • http://trulytafakari.com/ dtafakari

      I’ve always used and heard “what had happened was” in a comedic way, never seriously. lol

      • Val

        I think comedians have used it so much now that Black folks in general use it in a comedic way now too.

    • http://twitter.com/itsmrlittle ItsMrLittle

      I agree. I watch a lot of Sportscenter…sometimes it seems like half of what those anchors say was “Black slang” at some point but it’s so prevalent that it’s a part of the mainstream American lexicon now lol.

      • WIP

        Sports Center is surprisingly enjoyable and the white anchors stay catching me off guard with their hip-hop references/slang references.

        • panamajackson

          Jay Bilas KILLS me with his love for Black pop culture. Makes TV worth watching when he references Jeezy.

          • TheInvisibleEnigma

            I think he posts a Jeezy line on Twitter like every morning and it’s hilarious.

            • Epsilonicus

              He definitely does. I love it.

            • Epsilonicus

              I also love that he will pick obscure Jeezy quotes, not just something he hears on the radio.

        • http://twitter.com/itsmrlittle ItsMrLittle

          Absolutely! The slang references & random nods to Black pop culture have helped make it both informative sports-wise and entertaining, even when they’re talking about sports that you couldn’t care less about.

      • Val

        The lingo is the best part of SportsCenter. Lol

        • http://twitter.com/itsmrlittle ItsMrLittle

          agreed lol

    • panamajackson

      That’s the nature of the beast though right? That which is cool eventually finds its way to the mainstream and then the cool move onto the next thing. I just take it on the chin and say, “we’re just a cool race”.

      • Val

        True, sometimes it happens naturally. But, sometimes things are stolen for profit. Like “24/7″ is part of the business lexicon now. That was us and we get zero credit.

        • panamajackson

          How does one exactly give us credit for that? Like, every time it gets used, the Black Community gets a bitcoin? LOL

          • Val

            Yes, we should definitely get royalties. Lol

          • tamrachelle

            LOL I was thinking the exact same thing. What do people want white people to do, say *Hey everybody, I’m about to say something that is primarily used by black people and is not owned by me or whites in any way shape or form, My bad*.

    • Sahel

      Valentina’s pet peeves lol

    • Sahel

      Valentina’s pet peeves lol

    • Sahel

      Valentina’s pet peeves lol

      • Val

        two comments and zero votes? Who are you and what have you done with Sahel?

        • Sahel

          Gotta cover my tracks

    • Brother Mouzone

      Old white folks say “my bad”.
      —————————————
      It’s funny that you mention that term and talk about whites co-opting our phrases. Many people don’t realize it, but the ACTUAL phrase is my BAG with a G. Talk to any brotha over 35 and they’ll tell you that this was used in sports, especially the b-ball courts in the hood and it’s short for sandbag. I can remember hearing the older guys saying this on the courts when I was a kid and it was used when you made a mistake or you “sandbagged”(which was slang for a fck-up). It then morphed into everyday life like bumping into someone…”my bag bruh”. White basketball reporters at courtside would hear this and assume they were saying “bad”…Mistake=bad, that was their logic. What kills me is that we took their WRONG phrasing and started using it as if it’s correct. I can remember watching Martin and hearing him say “my bad” and thinking, now he KNOWS that ain’t the right way. At this point, It’s become so ingrained in the lexicon in the incorrect form, even the people who KNOW still use the wrong phrasing.

    • Brother Mouzone

      Old white folks say “my bad”.
      —————————————
      It’s funny that you mention that term and talk about whites co-opting our phrases. Many people don’t realize it, but the ACTUAL phrase is my BAG with a G. Talk to any brotha over 35 and they’ll tell you that this was used in sports, especially the b-ball courts in the hood and it’s short for sandbag. I can remember hearing the older guys saying this on the courts when I was a kid and it was used when you made a mistake or you “sandbagged”(which was slang for a fck-up). It then morphed into everyday life like bumping into someone…”my bag bruh”. White basketball reporters at courtside would hear this and assume they were saying “bad”…Mistake=bad, that was their logic. What kills me is that we took their WRONG phrasing and started using it as if it’s correct. I can remember watching Martin and hearing him say “my bad” and thinking, now he KNOWS that ain’t the right way. At this point, It’s become so ingrained in the lexicon in the incorrect form, even the people who KNOW still use the wrong phrasing.

      • ForeverCC

        that’s interesting. i love hearing theories/stories about where phrases come from. when i first read this i was really confused though because i use the term “sandbagged” to mean you held back something (usually info)

      • Val

        That is very interesting. I had no idea of the background of the phrase. That sort of reminds me of the word, “Wilding” or “Wilding out”. Which came to be because a cop misunderstood something one of the kids who were wrongly convicted in the Central Park Rape case in NYC. The kid never said wilding out but it was reported in the media as if the kid had. And some people still use the word and phrase.

  • TheInvisibleEnigma

    I’m reminded of the time where one of my friends wouldn’t be able to complete a task on time and said she was “just gonna have to take an L on that,” and all the white folks at the table (which was everyone other than me and my friend) were just like “what’s an ‘L?’” And I don’t mean “were just like” in the sense that they looked puzzled, I mean “were just like” in the sense that that question was literally asked out loud.

    I don’t know if that’s such a uniquely Black thing like “what had happened was…” is, but my friend and I still laugh about it to this day.

    • WIP

      I’m surprised the white folks didn’t know taking an “L”. Didn’t they start “taking one for the team?”

    • panamajackson

      Yeah, I kind of assumed rabid sports fans would have started that. Though let’s be real, that probably started in Harlem. lol