Nouns Black Men Use In Place Of Names To Greet And Acknowledge Each Other, Ranked » VSB

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Nouns Black Men Use In Place Of Names To Greet And Acknowledge Each Other, Ranked



(Couple things before we start)

1. Some words like “man” and “dude” are universal and used by every race/class of American man, so they won’t be included. “Brother” and its derivatives (“bro,” “brah,” bruh,” and “brotha”) is also somewhat universal now. But it has a specific meaning/connection to Black men, so it makes the cut.

2. I’ve never been quite sure how to categorize these words. They’re nouns, of course. But they’re not quite pronouns. Recently, however, I learned they’re nouns used in the vocative case. Colloquial vocatives, specifically. I can rest easy now.

3. Nigga also doesn’t make the cut. Not because I don’t appreciate nigga (I do!) but because it’s too versatile of a word to limit it to a colloquial vocative.

23. Dick

I’ve actually only heard this word used by one person. A college teammate from Harlem who swore that this is what everyone said there. He would be the first (but not the last) person from Harlem I’d grow to hate.

22. Ike

Is a noun specific to the Hill District, a predominately Black section of Pittsburgh, that has been co-opted by people in other parts of the city. Including me, when I went to college, because I was annoyed that all the asshole Harlemites had their own slang, so I started saying “Ike” even though I’m not from The Hill. It wasn’t my finest moment.

21. Kiko

Heard on Mobb Deep albums when I was in high school, so I assumed it was a thing all New Yorkers said. I assumed wrong.

20. Catdaddy

It’s impossible to say the word “Catdaddy” with a frown on your face or hate in your heart. Also, if you do say it, whatever shoes you happen to be wearing will automatically morph into Stacy Adams’s.

19. Pimp

18. Killa

17. Playa

16. Gangsta

We’ve reached the implied criminal activity portion of the list. Also, anyone other than me surprised that “Killa” became a thing but “Robber” never has? Robber just got skipped over, man. If I were Robber, I’d file a grievance with colloquial vocative human resources or something.

15. Homeskillet/Homeslice

Neither of these words make any sense. Which, all things considered, makes perfect sense.

14. Slim

Because irony usually.

13. God

Because more irony. And Wu-Tang.

12. B

Another college-related anecdote about Harlem-related slang: For the first weekend or so on campus, when that aforementioned teammate would refer to me as “B” (“What’s good, B?”), I’d get confused. That either I was hearing him wrong or that he didn’t know my name started with a D, not a B.

11. Bruh/Bro

I actually like Bruh and Bro. But I kinda hate that both seem to be the go-to slang for teenagers, hipsters, and gotdamn millennials today.

10. Money

Is a great word that’s made even better when the first initial of your name is added to it. (Which, related, is how my Ace Boon Goon refers to me.)

9. Yo

This is actually probably the one I use the most in regular conversation. I’ve never actually typed it — or realized how awkward it looks written out — until now though.

8. Son

Last college-related anecdote. Didn’t realize until college that Son was a gender neutral slang in New York City. Not only would guys refer to girls as “Son,” but girls would call each other that. City life is hard, man.

7. Cuz

Along with “bruh,” is one of the words on this list that, depending on how its said, can very, very, very easily be a threat instead of a greeting.

6. Partna

I never liked this word. Feels too try hard and inauthentic. “Partna” is basically the Rita Ora of colloquial vocative.

5. Black

Isn’t used as frequently as some of the others on the list, but it should be. It completely lacks frills, and suggests a latent grown-ass-ness. You’re not gonna hear a silly motherfucker use Black as a greeting. This is reserved for serious niggas talking about serious shit, like getting money and Chipotle orders.

4. Boss

I love this word.

3. Fam

This word too.

2. Homie

Black men who write “Homey” instead of “Homie” are not to be trusted. “Homey” is the colloquial vocative equivalent of a Black man with no facial hair.

1. Brotha

Nothing beats brotha. Has the most staying power, is attached to the title of the most underrated Marvin Gaye song, and Angie Stone’s “Brotha” just wouldn’t feel the same if it was titled “Homeslice” instead.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • NomadaNare

    How you got d!ck but forgot whats good blood/young blood

    • Junegirl627

      lil homie

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    • Madame Zenobia

      I’m saying. Major deduction for missing youngblood.

    • Damon Young

      youngblood is only used by n*ggas older than 79 to address n*ggas younger than 37. and i’ve never once heard anyone use “blood” as a greeting. not saying it doesn’t happen. just that i’ve never heard it.

      • Junegirl627

        Come to Brooklyn lol

        • @bakari_pace

          What about “Beloved” – all these New York dudes be calling each other that. Also “Mo” which is a BX thing

          • Junegirl627

            I ain’t never heard Beloved said by anybody but beyonce when she talking about Jay.

            and mo is a newbie.

      • RaeNBow

        my cousin uses ‘blood’ ALL THE TIME & is the only person i’v ever heard use it in normal convo…. he also spent the last 5 out of 7 years in prison so…. idk

      • catgee12

        You don’t get to NYC much then …

      • I’ve heard blood some as well. Not that common, but not unheard-of.

      • NomadaNare

        But you heard one dude call another d!ck and decided to go with it

        As far as Im concerned if I call you blood right now the dataset is comparable

        Also I am just mad you came for folks with no facial hair (even though I have eyebrows)

      • E_Deshon

        My cousins use it all the time…i think its a West coast thing…well that or an actual gang member…in which don’t say that you don’t want those problems

      • panamajackson

        Ive definitely heard “blood” used many many times. In non-gang related situations as well.

        • SororSalsa

          When I hear “blood”, it’s generally coming from a man who is actually an uncle and/or is working the grill at a cookout.

      • J David Page

        They greet blood in the bay area. Which I found curious as I ain’t even saying that word anywhere on the west coast.

      • Hilary B.

        lol I hope no one in Los Angeles county is walking around greeting people with ‘blood’ or ‘cuz’ without knowing them. Nobody got time to be getting shot with a rusty pistol in a shopping plaza that with a church’s chicken & metro PCS near them

    • Val

      So calling a dude ‘d!ck’ isn’t fighting words, interesting. Lol

      • Kas

        Not sure where they do dat at.

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      I’ve never heard dick…and I’ve spent time in the DMV.

  • Junegirl627

    Brooklyn Girl here and I say son all the time, and my tone of voice will let you know exactly whats up lol…… I never noticed the gender neutrality of “Son” until I read this, lol.

    • Son is a universal NYC word.

    • I have yet to hear a woman say son, and be serious. That shid would make my day.
      “You callin me out my name son?!”
      Cool points if she says it high pitch or gruff as heII.

      • Junegirl627

        “Son!…….SON!!!!!…… Did you just peep that?!!!” <– This is a real statement I make at least once every sunday during football season.

        Son! you will never believe what your mother did (talking to my brother about our mother)

        yo Son! YO YO SON! SON!!!! You got one more muthafockin time to_________ before I ___________. <—- all of my goon voice is used to say this sentence.

        • Simms~

          Brooklyn baybee!

        • Lmao!
          I can’t even imagine, lol

        • Jae Starz

          There is WAY too much truth in these statements! LOL

          • Junegirl627

            especially the last one because you got someone hemmed up or about to hem somebody up against a wall preferably brick as you say this

    • Mochasister

      I have also used son on occasion.

  • Negro Libre
    • World famous.

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      Just to be clear…this is pronounced …mah or ma.

  • People from Little Rock know I’m not from the state because “son” has never left my vocab.

    My students are youngbloods when they are on my good side, and their full government names- middle name included- when they aren’t meeting my expectations.

    • Damon Young

      so basically you’re uncle drew?

      • Only in the weight room. My preferred humbling method is to make kids max out on squats and then hit their 1 rep max for twenty or so reps.

        Or if they really piss me off, overhead press their max.

        • Kas

          Don’t nobody want to hear you train with 3 plates 3x a week. And by nobody I mean my hate’n azz self. I can’t even say there was a time when I could do that. Sorry for the rant, but sitting here with my patella tendon aching.

          • Damon should let make a fitness post. I’ve gotten many a friend permanently in shape by coaching them on habits.

            Patella tendon? Knee pain? Did you have a previous injury?

            • Kas

              Lots of basketball and sloppy form on squats and leg sled in my youth. I am now paying the price. Been experimenting with width of stance and foot positioning. I think I have figured it out, but it’s a slightly wider stance than what I like.

              • I’d have to see photos and video. But if the knee pain is that bad, then front squats on the Smith machine may be all you can do.

                • Kas

                  I’ll eventually figure something out. I’m usually training with one or two minor injuries. At some point, I may even get my ego out of it and train/rest responsibily.

    • BmoreLikeLA

      I went to school in Maumelle with this guy who was born in LA but moved to Arkansas by the age of 3. However, he liked heavily rep that he was from the Coast, so insisted everyone call him LA rather than his government. But it was always soooo confusing bc he always said “son” and “yo” as his proof that he’s from Cali. Me and my besty (we both have east coast roots) ROUTINELY called him out on his shananigans, but he held on strong. Still does actually…and my dislike for his person does as well.

      • I live right outside of Maumelle. Beautiful houses. No places to eat. Traffic is crappy at rush hour.

        He just needs to embrace his southern roots and say “bruh.”

        • BmoreLikeLA

          Morgan side or LR side? Either way, though, yea, traffic sucks. I forgot about that when I was home and went to see my girlfriend and her kids around rush hour…it was crazy

          • Morgan side

            • BmoreLikeLA

              yep…just a KFC, gas station and liquor store

        • Mochasister

          I like bruh. I resent that so many non Blacks are using that term. Even my fifth grade ELL Latino students use it.

  • HoobaStankyLeg

    I remember there was a time when everyone called each other ‘Joe’. Still don’t know why.

    • Brass Tacks

      Joe?! Were you in the DMV?

      • HoobaStankyLeg

        This was like early 2000’s. When I was in Boot Camp. I thought it was a Carolina thing. *Shrugs*

        • Brass Tacks

          I didn’t hear it till I moved to the DMV. People would be like, JOE! or Moe! Which makes no sense at all…

    • Damon Young

      i remember joe too. it would end up just sounding like “yo” though

      • HoobaStankyLeg

        Ok. I thought maybe it was just me. Kinda glad that one went extinct.

    • Julian Green

      That’s a Chicagoan thing.

      • HoobaStankyLeg

        Ah! I see. I’ve never been to Chicago. So technically, it may not have went extinct, I am just not in the native land of its usage.

      • Blueberry01

        And an old school DMV thing…

  • KingsCounty

    -mobb deep’s kiko never caught on, not in queens, not in NYC, nowhere.
    Now Dunn Dunn…that was a moment.

    -u got Cuz, but no Blood?
    -lil dudes always call me Big man, I don’t like it. I’m only 6’1.
    – your “partna” has a hard R and I find it problematic

    -And out of all your NYC influence and hatred, no love for “DUKE, slime, or 5” ???

    The word of choice in Brooklyn and most of NYC is now “boy”

    As in “what’s goody boy?” ” be safe boy” “youse a wild boy boy”

    • Damon Young

      I forgot about duke and dunn.

      • @bakari_pace


    • And to think! I really thought he liked Big L.

      • Denise Johnson

        Preciates the PSA.

    • Duke seems to be a Brooklyn thing. Dun is definitely a thing though.

    • Both Big Pun and the Beatnuts both famously used the term “kiko” in songs during the late 90s. I had a group of friends that used the term regularly, and I’m sure they got it from those songs (“Still Not a Player” and “Watch Out Now,” respectively), but it was very much a thing, at least on the western edges of Queens (Woodside, Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, QB, L.I.C., Astoria, etc..

      • KingsCounty

        You know what I do remember the Beatnuts using it.
        I shouldn’t be acting like I’m an expert on queens lingo. My Bad.

  • thamonsta

    Don’t be out here saying Fam or Cuz on the west coast to the wrong cat. They might ask you where you from. Then they might ask you where your Grandma stay at!

    • Damon Young

      fam would?

      • thamonsta

        Yeah oddly enough. When you hear Fam in some places out back home (I’m originally from South Central or South L.A. as the white folk like to call it) that’s a Blood thing. I’ve never heard a blood say cuz now that I think about it. Pretty much just Fam.

        • Kas

          Bloods didnt use cuz where I grew up. Saying cuz around bloods was at a minimum a fight with a good chance of gunplay.

          • Blueberry01

            Or anywhere….

          • Blueberry01

            Kas, did you say you grew up in South Central? I forgot where.

            • Kas

              Pomona, CA

              • Mochasister

                I didn’t know you were from Cali.

                • Kas


                  • Mochasister

                    Lol! I’m not from Cali; I just live here.

        • E_Deshon

          Is it a reference to bgf?

          • thamonsta

            No, but maybe that’s where it comes from. I never thought about that. I’ll have to ask around. I have some boys who used to bang and Fam was always how they addressed each other…Crips I knew would always kinda look at you sideways if you said Fam so that’s why I was always just like what up bruh…lol.

    • Laughing at the K.Dot reference.

  • Maestro G

    Good list, Damon, What about ‘young buck’? ‘Chief’? I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be exhaustive, though. And you are definitely right about #7.

    • Damon Young

      chief could have made the cut too.

      • My pop’s generation calls people chief. Normally to a person who is providing a service- chefs, cab drivers, dude’s behind the counter at the bodega.

    • King Beauregard

      True story: back when Marvel Comics was trying out someone new in the role of Captain America, they made his partner a black man called “Bucky”. They didn’t realize that “buck” can be a derogative term for a black man. For this and other reasons, they had the character change his name to “Battlestar”, which is kind of dumb but at least doesn’t smash directly into racial slurs.

      • BmoreLikeLA

        I learned something today! My dad and younger/only brother connect over comics and gen nerd ish, and I always try to insert myself where no one asked for me, by proving that I, too, can blerd. This is a great fast fact.TY

        • King Beauregard

          To Marvel’s credit, they didn’t shy away from the mistake at all. In fact, they had a character in the comic articulate the points that the reader had made in their letter. More info and some scans (about a third of the page down):

          The other year, Marvel Comics promoted the Falcon to being the new Captain America, and a lot of readers had a problem with that. I was one of them — because I felt that, if anyone deserved the promotion, it was poor forgotten Lemar Hoskins. Dude has been trained for the role since the 1980s and has never received his due, but they give the job to the Falcon just because people know him from the movies? #LemarOrGTFO

    • Amen

      Every time i’ve heard someone called/been called chief, it’s been in a slightly derogatory sense.

  • Julian Green

    I think the only somewhat unique colloquialism we had in the Carolinas is “folk”.
    I noticed that Chicagoans had a weird habit of taking otherwise normal phrases and altering them slightly for no apparent reason (i.e. Fam -> Fam-O, Bruh -> Bruh-Bruh).

    • Helga G.Pataki

      Ohioans love “folk”.

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        Word? Never heard this, though I spent on a short period of time there and little in the skreets.

      • Mochasister

        Lol! I do use that term and I am originally from Ohio.

  • Ben in LA

    I say “potna” instead of “partna”. Some folks also use “kid”. Any word on E-40’s “sahob”?

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      ^dats my potna dem

    • KingsCounty

      I’m more of a “patna” I imagine I’m that guy that got type cast as a west coast villain in set it off and menace.
      As in “BRAKE YO SELF PATNA!”

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        Menace is how it caught on with my crew, probably the world over

    • Brother Mouzone

      My Brooklyn homie calls me Kid so much, I thought it was a universal NYC thang.

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