MILLBURN, New Jersey (AP)—When fourteen year old Madison Flanders uttered the phrase “Fo’ shizzle, my nizzle” to a group of friends in the suburban Short Hills Mall, she had no idea that she was making linguistic history. Lexicographers at the American Heritage Dictionary have officially identified this statement as the one millionth time that whites have totally usurped a word from black slang into their own idiom.
“Young Madison may not fully realize its implications, but her light-hearted quip authoritatively tipped the scales of ‘fo’ shizzle, my nizzle’ in favor of Caucasian, as opposed to African-American, usage,” said Dr. William DeWitt, editor-in-chief of the dictionary. “Besides the obvious milestone this case presents, it is also noteworthy for being the fastest such appropriation we have yet recorded. The time between when blacks first used this unique phrase and whites totally coopted it is a record seven and a half months. Just for some historical perspective, it took forty-nine years for whites to put their definitive stamp on the word ‘cool.’”
If past usage trends are any indication, “Fo’ shizzle, my nizzle,” which roughly translates as “for sure, my acquaintance,” will abruptly decline in use among young blacks as new slang terms are created to take its place. However, all evidence indicates that this cycle will endlessly repeat itself, as these same novel expressions will once again fall into mainstream white usage, thus necessitating another round of linguistic invention.
“African-American teens have been the ‘R&D lab’ for new slang in the U.S. for the past hundred years,” stated Dr. DeWitt. “Ever since whites started using the word ‘hunky-dory’ around the turn of the century, this pattern has consistently recurred. However, despite the symbolic significance of cracking one million, a disturbing trend is developing. We’ve observed that the gap between when blacks first coin a new slang word and whites steal it is decreasing at a nearly exponential rate. Our current projections indicate that by 2015 the majority of whites will be using new black slang just twenty-one seconds after creation.”
Dr. DeWitt continued: “No one really knows what will happen once the black-invention-towhite-vernacular interval hits zero. Some speculate that it could be akin to entering a black hole—the everyday laws of linguistics that we live by may no longer apply. A few experts have even gone so far to say that at that point—and I know that this is hard to believe—whites may even start to invent slang for themselves, which will in turn be picked up by blacks. I can’t even imagine what such a nightmarish linguistic terrain would look like.”
Asked for comment on the “slang meltdown” described by Dr. DeWitt, Madison Flanders commented that it was “totally wack.”
—Originally written for The Yale Record in 2003