I recently saw the phrase "Favorite things to do" concerning
a highschool student. The answer was pimping. Is this a new slang word?
What does it mean ? The highschool is predominantly black, if this helps
in the search. Thank you for any help in finding an answer.
Ah, the Internet
Public Library. Where else can you answer some of the more bizarre,
inane, and vexing reference questions ever posed? Despite my considerable
reference and library experience, I was not prepared for some of the
challenges I met when forced
errrr, I mean granted the extreme
to answer IPL questions for LIS 521.
Many of the questions posed to IPL appear to be questions that couldn't
be answered elsewhere, as evidenced by the field that allows those submitting
questions to indicate sources already consulted. Some librarians even
post questions -- both "cognito" and incognito -- perhaps
out of a genuine need for an answer or, more probable, out of a genuine
need to test the skills of someone else. On top of it all, the IPL strongly
encourages those of us answering questions to focus on information available
for free of charge on the Web. This means no subscriber databases (this
violates certain licensing agreements) and no websites that charge for
access. Consulting with other people and with print resources are acceptable,
but again the focus is on finding online information available for free.
While the questions
I answered tended to be fairly straight-forward (for IPL questions,
that is), I did answer a couple of questions that required me to make
a few phone calls or, in the case of the question above, rely on someone's
personal website for an answer.
I could see the
hair stand up on the backs of some people's necks as they read that
last paragraph, by the way. As information professionals, we're constantly
warned to pay close attention to "authority" when consulting
sources on the Web. Because anyone can publish anything on the Web,
we've found ourselves needing to be more skeptical than usual when searching
for, finding, and utilizing information on the Web. And rightly so!
However, some questions
just can't be answered by an "official" source. Consider the
article that the New York Times printed several years ago, titled "Lexicon
of Grunge," about the "official" grunge lingo used throughout
the glory years of the Seattle music scene. It was all made up. The
Times had called Seattle's Sub Pop Records and talked to the label's
publicist, Megan Jasper (herself in a small Seattle band at the time),
who -- in her own words -- "simply felt like f*cking with them."
This was quite embarrassing for the New York Times, the United States'
so-called "newspaper of record."
But it does bring
up the interesting concept of "Authority
by Community," which guided me throughout my search for an
answer to the elusive "pimping" question. Some of my friends
and colleagues have told me they would have avoided this question because
they were concerned about constructing a response that wouldn't come
across as slightly racist. For me, it was this clue ("The highschool
is predominantly black, if this helps in the search.") that helped
me identify the most appropriate answer. And let's face it
you're talking about our ever-evolving English language -- especially
slang -- who would know better than someone involved in the same type
of community as the person who used the phrase? Yes, we all run the
risk of finding someone who simply feels like "f*cking with us,"
but isn't that what slang does to the English language anyway?
At this point,
anything I say here would be redundant. My response to the question
reproduced at the beginning of this article appears below. The number
and diversity of definitions I encountered for "pimping" while
researching this question is both fascinating and hilarious! And, as
stated in my response, answering this question has certainly given me
a greater appreciation for the word and its many uses. How many of these
are you guilty of?
from the Internet Public Library!
Thank you for
your question about the meaning of the word, "pimping." This
was certainly a fun question to look into, and I found many different
definitions of this term, which I will share with you. I suspect the
appropriate definition, in the context you described, is the following:
cool. To be flashy and popular with women. Pimp doesn't usually refer
to the classic definition of pimp as a manager of prostitutes. In Hip-Hop
slang, to say 'you're a pimp' is to pay a guy a complement. A friend
of mine overheard a kid say 'Winston Churchill was a pimp,' meaning
that Churchill was an awesome personality."
I found this
definition on someone's personal website:
The same site
also contains a definition for an interesting term called, "Pimp
or someone everybody wants. If someone says, 'Hey, Pimpjuice, whatcha
doing?' they are saying you are important. You're what it's all about.
Attributed to Nelly."
Most of the
slang dictionaries on the Web did not have this definition, so I decided
to use a different approach your question. Often, specific ethnic, cultural,
and specialized communities develop their own vocabularies, making these
groups of people the most qualified authorities on their own slang.
I used this concept, called "Authority by Community," to guide
me in my search for an answer. This is why I chose the definition that
I found on someone's personal website who belongs to a similar ethnic
and cultural community as the young man that you heard use the phrase.
This person has compiled quite an extensive slang dictionary, and obviously
puts a lot of work into it.
I found this
site by conducting searches for "black slang" and "African
American slang" on several search engines. I had the best luck
with a search engine called WiseNut:
Let me share
some of the other definitions I came across over the course of my search.
The Urban Dictionary provides two definitions: "To try to kill
someone on stage" and "To strongly promote and support a certain
Student Dictionary defines pimping as: "The act whereby students
are quizzed on minutiae and medical trivia during rounds or class (i.e.
'Which 19th Century Prussian scientist discovered?'). This activity
is usually reserved for the Attending or residents and fellows with
The entry in
Nooch's College Fantasy Football Dictionary is as follows: "v.
1) To have sexual control over a 'ho' for the purpose of receiving street
valuables. 2) When Mike the Shy 'Pimp' gets aroused by reading Jon's
E-mails 3) Continuously losing NCFF games."
defines pimping as, "Instant messaging more than one person at
The Office of
National Drug Control Policy's Street Terms of Drugs and the Drug Trade
defines pimp as "Cocaine" and the term, "Pimp your pipe,"
as "Lending or renting crack pipe or stem."
English Dictionary-Thesaurus defines pimping as "Insignificant
search on the meaning of the word "pimping" would be complete
without a look at some "official" dictionary definitions.
Merriam-Webster Online defines pimping as: "1. Petty, insignificant;
2. Puny, sickly."
offers the most traditional definition: "To serve as a procurer
I hope this
has satisfied your curiosity. It certainly has given me a greater appreciation
for the word. Thank you for using the Internet Public Library, and be
sure to keep us in mind for your future information needs.