January 31, 2018

Jay-Z snags his fifth Oxford English Dictionary citation


The American Rapper, Sean Carter

Every three months, the Oxford English Dictionary gets a pretty serious update to include “revised versions of existing entries (which replace the older versions), and new words and senses both within the alphabetical sequence of revised entries and also across the whole A to Z range.”

A huge part of that job involves a practice known to lexicographers as “keeping up with what the kids are saying.” And it’d be hard to imagine a better way to determine what the kids are saying than by looking to what Jay-Z is saying. And sure enough, Hova now has five citations in the UED — the most recent coming in the OED’s 1,100-word January 2018 update. According to the OED’s gatekeepers:

A new entry has been added for swag ,n.2, derived from swagger, and used in slang to denote ‘bold self-assurance in style or manner’, or ‘an air of great self-confidence or superiority’. The OED’s first citation for this particular sense comes from the track ‘December 4th’ on Jay-Z’s The Black Album (2003): ‘My self-esteem went through the roof, man. I got my swag.’ This is the fifth OED citation attributed to Jay-Z. A glossarial example of the word from the previous year, in a self-described dictionary of hip-hop terminology, defined swag as simply ‘walk’.

Alongside Jiggyman’s “swag,” some other much-used coinages finally getting their OED due include “normie,” “me time,” “mansplaining,” and “hangry.”

In a related story, Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren continues to be hangry (assuming she’s also hungry, which we can’t know but it could maybe explain much of her behavior) about Jay-Z.  Her latest grievance against the rapper (they have a history, and she’s made a career of bad takes on hip-hop, which Noisey’s Dan Ozzi has helpfully catalogued here) stems from another of Lucky Lefty’s poetic flourishes: calling the Trump administration a “superbug” on CNN’s “Van Jones Show” this past weekend.

But before devoting too much of your precious mortal time to Tomi Lahren’s Twitter battles with the world’s best diss-track-craftsmen, perhaps turn instead to the terribly charming—bobowler to tommyknocker—complete list of this quarter’s new additions to the OED.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.