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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Neither of these words make any sense. Which, all things considered, makes perfect sense.
Because irony usually.
Because more irony. And Wu-Tang.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
I never liked this word. Feels too try hard and inauthentic. “Partna” is basically the Rita Ora of colloquial vocative.
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.
This word too.
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.
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.