Category Archives: Wordcraft

Slang Dictionary

A note from Daniel White Hodge, the editor of this page:

“This dictionary isn’t so you can try to talk like someone you’re not. But it is a good reference for those who are seeking to understand a piece of youth culture today. No … every kid doesn’t use all of these words. But this is a comprehensive list of many of the words you’ll hear, in part. Enjoy!” – Dan

A Few Slang Resources: Before you scroll down and check out our free dictionary below, you’ll want to know about a few great resources available: First, if you are looking for a good resources for TEXT slang (you know… like LOL or WTF), then check out for a great database. Second, if you’re looking to use slang to create conversations with teenagers, then you’ll want to check out this great youth ministry tool, a book called What’s a Fo’ Sheezy. This book is a great resource to anyone who wants to get a better understanding of youth culture and for anyone looking for discussion starters with kids. This book provides over 300 questions from slanguage to get kids talking, laughing, debating and thinking. CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from this book and find out more about where this slang comes from. Thirdly, check out two books written by our slang dictionary editor Daniel White Hodge: Heaven Has A Ghetto: The Missiological Gospel and Theology of Tupac Amaru Shakur (VDM Academic 2010) and The Soul of Hip Hop: Rimbs Timbs & A Cultural Theology (IVP August 2010).

This “slanguage” represents today’s culture and many of the problems that go along with it. Although much of it is humorous, a good portion of it is very offensive. Many of the words are terms for sexual activity and drug use. Many of the examples given are common quotes from youth today- these quotes, although somewhat edited, can be foul or vile (sadly, all the below phrases can be said in a PG movie). I believe this dictionary has educational value in helping youth workers understand teen mentality and culture, but please do use discretion.

‘hood scratch
1. Another way of saying marijuana. “Got any ‘hood scratch Mike?”

1. A person in the ‘hood.

1. n. an alcoholic drink: Petron Tequila. “Blame it on the ‘tron, but I’m catchin’ me a pigeon tonight!” Lyrical reference: JAMIE FOXX – Blame it on the Alcohol Blame it on the Goose
Got you feeling loose
Blame it on the Tron
Got you in a zone
Blame it on the a a a a a alcohol

1. Lesbian activity. “Watch out pardna, yo girl is 06’n with my sista!”

1. v. murder. Derived from the police call sign. This term was popularized in the film Deep Cover in which Dr. Dre produced the soundtrack and introduced a young unknown rapper at the time named Snoop Dogg who wrote the song “1-8-7 on an Undacova cop”.

2 cents
1. advice or opinion. “Ain’t nobody askin’ you for yo 2 cents!”

2 Step
1. n. A dance made popular by the song with the same name by DJ Unk & T-Pain Lyrical reference: DJ UNK/T-PAIN – 2 Step 2 Steppin lemme show you how I do this thang (thang!) Take yo left foot, put it out in the front…

1. The police call sign for a robbery.

211 (two-eleven)
1. a carjacking. Derived from the police call sign.

1. adj. Twenty-four hours a day-seven days a week. “Seven Eleven is open 24-7.”

3 Strikes
1. Highly controversial category of statutes enacted by state governments which require the state courts to hand down a mandatory and extended period of incarceration to persons who have been convicted of a serious criminal offense on three or more separate occasions. These statutes became very popular in the 1990s. “Louie got caught last night w/ some weed so you know he 3 strikes & out.”

1. n. a 304 is another term for a whore, a prostitute, or promiscuous female. It is derived from the numbers upside down on most digital instruments (clocks, calculators, etc.) spelling hoe. “Hey Justin, I saw you was tryin to get with Janet, you know that’s 304 status?”

1. Area code that encompasses most of Detroit. It’s infamous around the U.S. as being a bad area that scares most people. “I represent the 313 sucka!”

3rd base
1. A term for oral copulation on either a male or female or foreplay; sex without sex.

1. n. Information. Derived from the phone number for information. “I need the 411.”

1. see “four-twenty”

5 – 0
1. n. (pronounced “five oh”) A policeman or the police. 5-0 was derived here in Cali with artists like Too $hort, Spice 1, and NWA. It comes from the old school Highway Patrol cars which were 5.0 Mustangs back in the late 80’s and 90’s, hence the term 5-0. It was also coupled with the term used in the television show Hawaii Five-O. “Watch out! 5-0!”

8 ball
1. (n) Malt Liquor or Old English 800, a popular alcoholic drink in the hood. 2. (n) In drug terms, an eighth of an ounce.

a minute
1. A long time. Not just 60 seconds. “Dang! I haven’t seen you in a minute, girl, where you been?”

1. (Pronounced “ite”) All right

Ace Boon Coon
1. A euphemistic way of saying my ni**a or my best friend. Note: because of the use of the word ‘coon’ this is a very explosive word just like the ‘N’ word. African Americans may use it among themselves, but it is rude (and grounds for a beat down in some circles)for someone of another ethnicity to use it. In other words, it’s an ‘off-limits’ word. “Johnny and me been down since we was shorties. You know he my Ace Boon Coon.”

All days
1. 24 inch rims for a car. “Did you see Jr. on them new ‘all-days’ he got?”

all that
1. of a superior nature; wonderful or attractive. “Jaquin think he’s all that.” “That song is all that and a bag a chips!”

all up in my biznezz
1. when someone is meddling in your affairs or dealings. They are “in your business.” “Quit asking about my girl . . . why you all up in my biznezz?”

all up in my grill
1. the act of being in someone’s face. “Yo, you don’t need to be all up in my grill unless you want me to put that smack-a-lack on ya!”

all up in the kool-aid
1. v. in someone’s business. “That’s between me and Brian- don’t be all up in the kool-aid!”

1. Slang for, “You already know”. An acknowledgement like, “True-that” or “You know this” “You goin’ to the party tonight? Already.”

1. Custom made wheels or rims for your car. “I made it big in the rap game & bought a car for my ma; now she sittin’ on 20 inch anchors-readin’ about her boy in the newspapers.”

angel dust/dust
1. n. A term used to refer to PCP (Phenylcyclohexylpiperidine). “Yo, that blunt is sprinled with angel dust son… don’t hit it too hard.”

1. n. Drugs in the form of pills, specifically methamphetamines made with Anhydrous Ammonia. (Any is shortened version of the word Anhydrous.) “Hey lets go down to the mall and see if we can find any.”

1. a “netspeak” term used from one person to another to ask them their “age, sex, and location.” It is usually used in a chatting situation with someone you don’t know.

audi or audi 5.0
1. To leave or depart. Derived from a play on the way ‘outie’ sounds **Also see outie or ‘outie 5000’. “This party is weak-I’m audi 5.0 . . .” Lyrical reference: I’m Only Out for One Thing – FLAVOR FLAV & ICE CUBE

aw yea
1. Oh, yes.

aw naw
1. An expression used to express disagreement or disbelief. As if to say, “Oh, it isn’t so!” “Your man was with Jen last night.” “Aw naw!”

1. ask. “Let me ax you somtin!” Lyrical reference: TWISTA LYRICS – Razzamatazz Never ask, I ax, I get madder than Max Diggem smacks

1. Your homeboy…like a brother. 2. Some youth still use this as a derogatory term for a female, short for bit**

ba dink-a-dink
1. small rear end of a female. opposite of a ba dunk-a-dunk. “She all little, but I’ll hit that ba-dink-a-dink like it was some ba-dunk-a-dunk!”

baby daddy
1. a male, often a boyfriend or an ex-boyfriend. Most often means the father of, or someone who provides for, a female’s child. Derived from “He is my baby’s daddy. When my baby daddy get back, he’ll bust you in your grill!” Lyrical reference: JOE LYRICS – Ain’t Nothin’ Like Me Your man fiance trick ya baby daddy…

back door
1. a term meaning anal sex.

1. n. Socially conscious brother or sister; underground ‘non mainstream rap’ “Don’t bring no Lil’ Wayne to Justin’s house that fool too backpack; he ain’t tryin’ ta hear it!”

1. A term for the police. Derived from the earlier reference to police as “pigs.” “You smell bacon? Oh snap! Here comes 5.0.”

1. n. A large rear end that looks good. **Also see “junk in the trunk” or “donk” Lyrical reference: TWISTA LYRICS – Badunkadunk “All in your face when you’re at the club, Badunkadunk”

1. n. tiny little ziplock bags used to package weed and crystal meth in and distribute.

1. v. To pick up on someone of the opposite sex. “Oh, Sherri baggin’ Mark.” 2. v. To make fun of someone in jest or fun (i.e. playing the dozens, clowning, capping); to ridicule. “Rasheed was baggin’ on Dre’ yesterday so hard that they almost got into a fight.”

1. adj. To describe a location as unsafe, or high profile. Usually refers to the danger of being caught by police. “I ain’t smokin’ here, this place is mad bait.” 2. adj. To describe a person who is too young to date or have sex with. aka: jail bait “Man, you tryin to get with that girl and you know she ain’t nothin but bait'”

1. adj. The effect of smoking a lot of marijuana. To be stoned. “John’s eyes are all bloodshot, I think he got baked at recess.” Lyrical reference: T-PAIN LYRICS – I’m Hi I’m half baked like the guy on the couch…

ball up
1. An exclamation stating the beginning of a basketball game. A statement clarifying that it is time to start or resume playing basketball now that everyone is ready.

1. n. Someone who flaunts money. “Check out that baller over there . . . let’s jack his car!” Lyrical reference: CHAMILLIONAIRE LYRICS – Pimp Mode “Presidential in the Lincoln A Balla in the Beama Man…”

balled up
1. v. To get beat up and discarded like a piece of paper getting balled up and thrown into the trash. “Yo if you don’t get outta’ my grill you gonna be balled up son.”

1. v. To flaunt money. To be noticeably rich. “Yo . . .check out his Mercedes . . . he ballin!”

balls deep
1. v. A vile term that refers to when you’re making a huge commitment to something like a sport or school, or drinking or partying. The term is derived from an obvious explicit sexual description. “That dude is the best at skateboarding. Yeah man, he’s balls deep.”

1. v. to get tricked or decieved. “We’ve been hoodwinked, tricked, bamboozled! We didn’t land on Plymouth rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us!” Lyrical reference: TIMBALAND & MAGOO LYRICS – Deep In Your Memory We been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray,

1. Acronym for “Bad Ass Mutha F***er.”

1. n. The cheaper, brown leaf marijuana. 2. Something or someone who is NOT good or poor quality. Usually in the rural since of the phrase ‘ghetto’. “Man, that CD is bammer!” Lyrical reference: TWIZTID LYRICS – So High “I only smoke bammer if it’s carefully sifted…”

Term also popularized by the group:
R.B.L. POSSE in their song: “Don’t Give No Bammer Weed”

1. n. Any party, but especially a party where promiscuous girls may be present. “Let’s check out that bang at Jo’s crib tonight.” 2. v. to have sex. “Check out that squirrel. Ooooo . . . I’m gonna bang that tonight!” 3. v. to fight.

bang bang
1. n. Fake bootleg clothing, sneakers, jewelry and or gear. “Look at that fool tryin’ floss wit’ them bang bang bapes and monkey jeans, the tag is even upside down!”

1. adj.1- to discribe how good or intense a thing is “Yo man that new song by Tha Game is bangin!” 2. verb.-Running with a gang. (gang-banging) “I heard Jr. is bangin’ now since he’s been running with them kids on 81st street.”

1. money. Usually a lot of it. “He got bank!” Lyrical reference: TOO $HORT LYRICS – Sadity “I know you got bank You’re actin rude…”

bapes (Bathing Apes)
1. n. Sneakers designed by a popular Japanese clothing company, very popular in the hip hop community. “I just got back from the mall and I got me some bapes baby!” Lyrical reference: SOULJA BOY – I Got Me Some Bapes (Bathing Apes) Check Out My Bathing Apes
I’m Fresh To Def And You Like Me
Don’t Try To Cop My Style
Mayne Stick To Dem Nikes

1. Derived from “baby.” A term of endearment towards the opposite sex.

1. n. abbreviation for “big beautiful woman.” “Hey dog, I asked Sheila to describe herself and she put ‘bbw’. What does that mean?”

be easy
1. A plead for someone to calm down or relax. “Girl what you trippin for? Be easy!”

1. 1. n. Someone who excels in any area, but used most often used toward someone who dominates on the basketball court. “Shaq is a beast on the court.” Lyrical reference: LIL’ WAYNE LYRICS – I’m A Beast … I’m a beast…

1. Some one who is raw, the best or able to get active when needed. “You can’t get with Jordan on DJ Hero, that fool too beasty!”

1. v. A tern used in reference to having sex. “Aye yo Jonny! Sarah let me beat last night.” 2. n. Violent physical abuse. “If that fool keeps talking all that smack, I’m gonna beat his a**.”

beatin’ dem cakes
1. having sex. “I got with Juana and was beatin’ dem cakes like Betty Crocker!”

1. v. Derived from a song by Plies; becky means, giving oral sex, or “head” “I just got Becky over Dina’s crib this morning…that’s wuts up!”

1. A way of saying the word “bitch.”

1. This term came from the infamous rapper Mac Dre from Vallejo, CA. It pretty much means bitch. “That girl is such a beezy!”

1. money. Usually hundred dollar bills, hence the reference to Benjamin Franklin on the U.S. 100 dollar bill. “It’s all about the benjamins.” Lyrical reference: PUFF DADDY LYRICS – It’s All About The Benjamins “yeah it’s all about the benjamins…”

1. a skewed impression of reality. “You got me bent, I ain’t like that.” 2. to be high or drunk. “Jack got bent last night at that party.” Lyrical reference: ALANIS MORISSETTE LYRICS – Bent 4 U “I have bent for you and I’ve deprived…”

1. n. best friends “Gina and Trina are besties, you can’t pull ’em apart!”

1. n. an old school term for a girl/lady. “Man, look at that fine looking Betty” Lyrical reference: BUBBA SPARXXX LYRICS – Betty Betty “Betty, uh-uh… wassup ladies?”

1. short for Best Friend Forever

1. (Short for bisexual.)Sexual and romantic attraction and activity with individuals of both genders. “I thought Jessica was lesbian, no, she’s bi.”

1. A term used to describe a person of rude behaviour; a word used in place of the word bitch. “Sally is such a bia-tch” Lyrical reference: OBIE TRICE LYRICS – Look In My Eyes “On your bia-tch I done came too far…”

1. Someone who is curiously attracted to members of the same sex. “Sara admitted last night that she is bicurious.”

big body
1. large vehicles such as SUV’s or older model big cars. “Look at the big body caddy.” Lyrical reference: AVANT LYRICS – Six In Da Morning “out the big body SUV’s, blessed boozys…”

big dilly
1. adj. Slang term for ‘big deal’ “So what if you supposed to be holdin’ weight, big dilly; I’m still gonna charge you up next time I see you butt.”

1. Short for a hundred dollars; as in a hundred dollar bill. “Eh Mike, Jay told me he only paid six “Bills” for that car.”

1. A term for a young girl. “Look at that bird over there by the food court…I’ma go and scoop that.” 2. n. A pound of drugs; usually cocaine packaged in the shape of a brick. A brick of cocaine. “Yo, you got that bird on you.”

1. n. Another reference for a gun. (See also hammer and tool.) Lyrical reference: OBIE TRICE LYRICS – Look In My Eyes “We on the corner wit a 40 and a biscuit…”

bitch slap
1. v. to condescend someone by slapping them like a pimp would slap a ho “You better shut up or you’re gonna get bitch slapped!” Lyrical reference: LIL’ WYTE LYRICS – Talkin’ Ain’t Walkin’ “Bitch slap that sucka…”

bite it
1. v. To trip or fall down, usually hurting oneself. “Did you see Bobby bite it when he was trying to hop that rail?”

1. n. One who “bites.” Someone who copies or imitates another; a copycat. “The little biter completely took my saying!”

1. Another word for food. “Hey, let’s go get some bites.” 2. Also see “that bites.”

biting (bite’n)
1. to copy or an attemp to replicate the way another person does something. Also see “Biting Me.” “All the wack rappers on the radio be bite’n my flow.”

biting me
1. (pronounced “bitin’me”) Copying someone. Also see “Biting.” “Man you know I bought this jacket first, why you biting me?”

1. n. Short for business. “You better handle you biz and stop acting like your problems are going to go away.”

1. Code word for “bitch” and/or a female with a bad attitude. “Shelia a straight biznatch; she never give my play.”

1. A term for a water pipe. 2. Also the name for the member of the rap group Bone Thugz & Harmony.

1. v. to confront someone in the public, to openly shame somone “What’s up with Janet, she was yellin’ at me and puttin’ me on blast in 2nd period!” 2. To shoot a gun; usually in an attemp to murder someone. “Oh, boy keep talkin’ and I’m a blast at him.”

1. v. lighting up Marijuana. “See those fellas over there? They were blazin- hope they don’t get caught!” 2. Very attractive. More than “hot.” “Did you see her? man she was BLAZIN!” Lyrical reference: T.I. LYRICS – Limelight “Love to keep the reefa blazin…”

1. A term used when saying goodbye, feeling good about a friend, and or a term used to part company with someone considered family. “I’m heading out now folks…bless!”

bling or “bling-bling”
1. (sometimes pronounced “Blang-Blang”) Used to be jewelry such as silver, platinum, or diamonds and sometimes gold. Now the word expands to describe extremely expensive style of clothes, cars and general life-style. “Did you see Donald Trump’s house in The Apprentice- I’ve never seen so much bling bling!” or “Jose’s blinging it!” Lyrical reference: BIRDMAN, LIL’ WAYNE LYRICS – Over Here Hustlin’ “Bling bling king nigga, money ain’t a thing…”

1. Shining because you are wearing so much jewelry. “Check you out David, you blingin tonight.”

block baller
1. Big time dealer.

block head
1. Adj/V. A person, typically a female, who performs oral sex with almost everyone on a particular city block. “Yo man, Tina is our block head round here.”

1. A person you “chill wit.” 2. A gangsta dressed in the color red.

1. n. refers to cocaine. 2. adj. very bad. Although used as a verb, it is an adjective. Similar to “it sucks.”

blowin’ up
1. Calling someone on their phone, making it ring, (usually a cell phone). This term mostly means the ringing of the phone. “John keeps blowin’ up my phone.” 2. A term used to refer to one’s growth in fame and/or fortune. Lyrical reference: ICE CUBE LYRICS – Today Was A Good Day “My pager still blowin’ up…”

1. To be high or intoxicated when smoking marijuana. “Joey’s been getting blown all day.”

1. n. usually a cigar filled with Marijuana. Sometimes just a large “joint.” “Let’s go smoke a blunt!” Lyrical reference: DR DRE LYRICS – Blunt Time Blunt time-pull out your philly…”

1. v. Used in reference to being high or intoxicated from smoking marijuana usually in the form of a blunt (marijuana packed cigar). “Yo Son! I can’t go to work today. I’m straight up blunted.”

bobble head
1. A female who likes to give oral sex on a regular. “Man, that girl was a bobble head last night.”

Bobby Brown
1. Marijuana/weed that is not very potent or preferably good; usually brown in color, hence the term Bobby Brown. “You wanna get high Johnny? I got some Bobby Brown.”

1. adj. Something that is fake/not genuine or is bootleg. “That chain you got is bobo.”

1. v. to hog or refuse to share a joint, but keep it in your hand or hang from your mouth. From actor Humphrey Bogart’s trademark cigarettes, held in lips or hand, but rarely actually smoked. Usually associated with anything that someone hogs that is supposed to be shared. “Don’t bogart that joint dog, puff puff pass!”

1. see “da bomb.”

bomb, the
1. see “da bomb”

1. (verb) the act of a male having sex with someone. “Did Steve bone that girl?”

1. money. “Nah man, that’s bootleg. I can’t go to the movies, I ain’t got no bones.” 2. n. dominos – refers to the color and original dominos material (i.e. ivory or actual animal bone) 3. n. dice.

1. a marijuana smoking utensil. Lyrical reference: AFROMAN LYRICS – Crazy Rap “Stop and hit the bong like Cheech and Chong…”

1. wild or crazy. “She was so drunk last night she was acting completely bonkers.”

1. Your boyfriend/girlfriend. “Dat’s my boo your messin’ wit!” Lyrical reference: CAM’RON LYRICS – Me and My Boo “The figgas wit you boo, screw…”

boo boo
1. see “bootsie.”

1. An over abundance. A whole lot. Bookoo originated from the french word ‘beaucoup’ which means much or many. “Jason got bookoo beats on his website”

boom bap
1. n. A style of hip hop signified by a hard bass drum and snapping snare that is often EQed to the forefront of the beat. “I’m skilled in the trade of that old boom bap.”

boom ting
1. adj. Something or someone who is amazing, fine, cool… the best. “Did you see the VMA’s last night, it was boring till JayZ got up and boom ting!”

1. v. to steal. “I boosted these sneakers. ”

1. n. someone’s posterior. 2. see “bootsie.” Lyrical reference: GERI HALLIWELL LYRICS “Shake your bootie cutie calling feels like sex…”

1. adj./adv. Something undesirable. An inopportune or unfair situation, event, or thing. “Man, that teacher is bootsie” “Did you see his pants? Bootsie!”

booty call
1. v. to call someone on the phone and arrange a sexual liaison, usually late night, like 1:00 to 3:00 a.m. Lyrical reference: 2PAC LYRICS – F**k Friendz “I got em ready for a booty call…”

1. When one’s stomach sticks out further than their butt. “Girl, see those heffas at the Gramblin game, they all have bootydoo.”

1. adj. sexually attractive. 2. adj. voluptuous. Not too skinny– looking very attractive with plenty of “booty.” “Beyonce looked bootylicious in that outfit!”

1. An exclamation used in celebrating a victory. “Boo-Yah! I whooped you in dat basketball game!” 2. an expression added at the end of a short, insulting speech. Used like “So, there!”

1. A name to call a female who has a reputation for giving oral sex. “That girl is a bop.”

1. A female that sleeps with a lot of other girls boy friends.

boss up
1. n. to attempt to intimidate someone. “Hey dog, don’t try to come up on my block and boss up. Fool, I’m running these streets!”

1. To be in control with an attitude. Demanding and highly opinionated. Generally used for females. “Watch out for old girl, cause she’s bossy.”

1. Stuck up, high class, too good “Sarah acts bougie because her family has money.”

1. To depart or leave. “Hey Chase, this party is weak. We bout ta bounce.” Lyrical reference: TARKAN LYRICS – Bounce “Let me see you bounce…”

1. A person who often stinks, possibly with hygene issues. Derived from a creature that is known to inhabit sewage and have a frightening odor because it uses its own feces to disguise itself. “Yo son! Our room always smells like crap because we got a straight up Bowen in our class.” 2. To pass out after consuming little alcohol.

1. A term used in reference to the chamber of a pipe that holds the contents being smoked. “Aye, I’m a smoke a bowl of this herb before I head into the club.” Lyrical reference: WYCLEF JEAN LYRICS – Something About Mary “Daddy can I get a bowl? He looked at me, he says, Son, man, you’re too young…”

1. n. Your friend or some one you admire. “Yo, I’m chillin’ with my boys tonight” or “Shaq is your boy right? He got lit up in last night’s game.”

1. friend. Derived from “brother” or “bro” “What’s up brah?”

1. a term used to signify oral sex; synonymous with getting “Head”. “Felecia gonna catch something if she keeps giving brain to all these fools.”

1. n. (derived from brotha or brother) a friend or close acquaintance. “Whasup braw?”

1. n. A term in reference to money or cash. “I stay on my grind…I gotta make that bread…you know.”

breakin’ bread
1. v. Getting some food/eating. “Ay dawg, I’m bout to go break some bread, I’ll catch you on the west side at 30″.”

1. n. A female or a girlfriend. “Check out that breezy over there.” 2. n. A combination of the words broad (an offensive slang term for a woman) and easy (one who is quick to have sex with another person). The term can also be used to refer to a sexy woman who is easy to get into bed. “Nah, I aint going with ya’ll tonight. I’m chillin’ here with my breezy.” Lyrical reference: NICK CANNON LYRICS – My Rib “My misses, my world my breezy, she need me”

1. cold; as in temperature. “Turn up the heat, it’s brick in here.” 2. A term used to define a pound or kilogram worth of any drug, usually packaged in the shape of a brick. “Once I sell this brick, I’m be ballin.”

1. n. A close guy friend or relative. short for brother.

1. (Often Offensive Slang.) A woman or girl.

1. n. a close relationship between two men. Not sexual or romantic.

brown frown
1. bad weed/marijuana.

bruh bruh
1. n. A friendly exciting greeting for your close friends, hommies or brothers “Ah watz up bruh bruh bruh bruh!”

1. An accronym popularly used in texting, meaning “By The Way.” “BTW I saw your brother at the club last night with Sara.”

1. A term used in reference to the escalating excitement and or quality and quantity of something. Usually increasing the stature and or worth of that person, or item. “My album sales are about to bubble.”

bubble gum
1. n. A strain (flavor) of marijuana that actually tastes like bubble gum, very expensive. “You gone’ have to put 15 on this bubble gum or we ain’t getting’ high cause this weed is too high!” 2. n. another word for oral sex or vagina. “Jessica got that good bubble gum dog, I’m a try to chew on that!”

bubble pop
1. n. When somebody interrupts you or invades your personal space “Say dog, don’t be comin over here bubble poppin’ cause I’m a bust yo bubble!”

1. marijuana. “Let’s go smoke some bud.” Lyrical reference: THREE 6 MAFIE LYRICS – Liquor and Dat Bud “Wit that liquor and dat bud…”

1. Messed up or whacked. “Man I can’t believe she broke up with you. That’s bugged!”

1. acting strange. “Why you buggin?” Lyrical reference: TRICK DADDY LYRICS – Hold On “Hearin nothin, stayin rich but buggin…”

1. adj. really bad or aggravating. “Dad told me to go to my room. he’s so bunk!” 2. adj. something bad, boring, stupid, etc. “This town is bunk, there’s nothing to do.” 3. untrue. “He said he didn’t boost my kicks! That’s bunk!”

1. The ability to jump high, vertical abilities, up’s “Jamal gots them bunnies like LaBron.”

1. n. A popular brand of clothing, often bootlegged in the streets. “Salina look so cute with her new Burberry purse, shoes and hat that match. I’m going to the swap meet to get me some of dat tomorrow.” Lyrical reference: JAY Z – La la la Album: Bad Boys II – The Soundtrack (2005) I show you how to do this son
young don’t mess with chicks in Burberry patterns
fake Manolo boots straight from Steve Madden

burn or burned
1. To be thoroughly humiliated or insulted to the point where you cannot return with a comeback. “Fred was “burned” by his friends for admitting to liking Limp Bizkit.”

bush league
1. Someone who is below average. “Mike is so bush league.”

bust a cap
1. v. To shoot someone. **See “I’ll bust a cap . . .” Lyrical reference: 2 PAC LYRICS – Runnin On E “Shoulda seen it bust a cap and freak with…”

bust a grape
1. v. The popping of one’s testicle. “Dang, that fool just bust a grape, that’s why I don’t mess with that X-Game sh*t!”

bust down (B.D.)
1. n. A male or female (Primarily associated with Females) who will have sex with any individual regardless of attraction or that individual’s background. “Hey Jay, you better hook up with her, that’s an easy Bust Down (BD).”

bust yo grill!
1. v. To bust someone’s ‘grill’ means to hit them in the mouth or beat them up.

1. n. someone who acts thugish but is not. “Get out of my grill. You’se a busta!”

1. v. (derived from “busting”) executing an action, usually flawlessly, that takes skill. “Check out Dominic. He’s bustin’ some phatty moves!” 2. v. to make fun of them or insult them. “Yo Tisha, why you always bustin on me?”

butt hurt
1. adj. to be hypersensitive or over offended over a prank or joke. “Jenna got all butt hurt when Ray fronted on her in front of everybody at lunch today.”

butt pirate
1. n. A crude term that indicates a gay man; derived from gay sexual relations. “I don’t know about you John… you’re straight up acting like a Butt Pirate.”

1. adj. to be of good or smooth quality; like butter. “Now that’s the butta!”

1. adj. A term used when describing a girl who has an attractive body, but an unattractive face. “Ayo, Mailissa is a buttaface… everything look good but her face.”

1. n. A great looking woman who has a great body. “Yo you see that girl over there man? She is a straight C-4!”

1. Money. “If I can’t bake cake, then I’ll take cake.” 2. A large amount of cocaine, usually a kilogram worth. “I’m about to come up on cheese as soon as I’m done slangen this cake.” Lyrical reference: LIL MAMMA LYRICS – G-Slide (Tour Bus) “Shorty got cake like uh Duncan Hines”

1. A female that has a large and voluptuous backside. “Oh, girl right there got cakes!”

1. Trying to get at or “mack” someone. “Casey is always cakin on girls.”

1. A code word for sex. “I went to Jaquilla’s house last night and she gave me some of dat candy” 2. A code word for the club drug known as ecstacy. “Where did you buy that candy that you had at the rave last night?”

candy paint
1. n. The colorful shiny/glossy coated paint job on a car (usually metallic). “My ride got that brand new candy paint on it.”

1. v. To insult or make fun of.(-cappin’, -capped) “Why you always cappin’ on me? Don’t make me open up a can on you!” 2. n. To shoot someone, To put a cap in ones posterior. “I’m going to cap your [email protected]#”

1. N. A person who is subject to someone else. “Yo Man, Larry is a total cappy to John John.” 2. Someone who is a total loser. “Man that substitute was a cappy!”

cashed or cashed out
1. When you are out of money. “I’m all cashed out brah.” 2. When something is empty. “Hey, put some more weed in this bowl . . . this is cashed!” 3. when someone is high on drugs. “Yo Willy . . . I’m cashed out son.”

1. n. money. Now also a record label “Cash Money Records.” ““Why you dealing?” “Cash-money baby!””

1. A person (usually a male) “What up with that cat? He think he got luv up in here?”

catch a fade
1. To want to fight. To insinuate that a person is going to be harmed. To physically hurt or harm an individual. “Yo son, I heard you been talking a lot of smack. You ready to catch a fade?!”

1. To engage in any unlawful activities requiring legal prosecution. It is often used in reference to hurting another individual and obtaining murder charges. “I just saw my wifey with another dude and I’m about to catch-a-case after I’m through with her.”

1. Any of the wide variety of flavored coffee drinks offered at convenience stores such as Circle K or 7 Eleven that can be purchased for less than half the price of a Starbucks cappuccino. “Hey Man, I’m straight broke. Let’s hit up AM/PM and get us some cheappuccinos.”

1. marijuana Lyrical reference: PROJECT PAT LYRICS – Up There “I’m restin to dis non cheba bullashit you stressin tellin me to quit smokin dis”

1. To correct or reprehend someone. “Look brah, you need to check yo homeboy b’fore I check him!”

Check up on it
1. to jirate or press up on a female usually while dancing. “Last night at the prom, Kiesha finally let me check up on it.”

checkin out
1. going home. 2. dying. “That fool is goin’ to be checkin’ out tonight.” 3. to look at someone of the opposite sex in interest. “Check out that shorty over there.”

1. n. money “He got phat cheddar.” Lyrical reference: 50 CENT LYRICS – After My Cheddar “You’re after my cheddar (ha ha) and your friends they see it too (c’mon)…”

1. see “cheddar.” 2. Also see *sniffing cheese

1. n. a flamboyantly gay male (reference to the flaming hot Cheeto chip) “Candy, you better be careful w/ ol’ Rico Suave, he look like a cheetoh.”

1. v. smiling. “why you cheezin so big?”

1. n. getting high or drunk. “We got chewed last night, what did y’all do?” 2. adj. Someone or something that is very ugly. “Monica’s blind date was so chewed that she promised never ever ever to go on a blind date again.”

1. v. Marajuana mixed with cocaine. Smoked by way of various means, usually a blunt. “I can’t stand hanging wit’ Joey, he always smoked out on that chewy!”

chicken head
1. n. A girl, often ugly, that no guy wants. “I know you don’t like Nancy, she a chicken head fa sho.” 2. Derived from a very vile or derogatory term for a female insinuating that they give oral sex. Lyrical reference: G-UNIT LYRICS – Wanna Get to Know You “Think I’m a be chasin the checken head you own somethin. Your toes painted, hair fixed all the time…”

1. Hanging out (chillin) and relaxing! “I was just chillaxin with TJ and Brian.”

1. v. to simply “hang out” with no purpose or reason. “I’m just chillin wit my friends.” Lyrical reference: CRASH TEST DUMMIES LYRICS – Just Chillin’ “… I said I don’t like to chat. You said you smoked the big kahunas. I said I’m not like that, I’m just chillin'”

1. n. money. “Chris is stackin’ mad chips now since he got that job at the warehouse.” Lyrical reference: MYSTIKAL LYRICS – Stack Yo Chips “Mystikal Lyrics stack yo chips” (ughhhh) Stack you chips…”

1. see “chillin.”

1. v. to fall short of an intended win or goal. “Did you see Wade choke on that game last night? I just knew they were gonna win.”

1. n. Mexican gangster’s who are usually depicted by his or her (Chola) style of dress: Khaki pants, muscle shirts, flannel shirts, thick. “Hey, Mike look at all of those wanna-be cholos over there.” 2. A Hispanic gangster style of dress. “Hey Phil, why are you wearing those pants. Are you going Cholo on me?”

chop it up
1. Have a conversation “Aaight, get at me tomorrow and we can chop it up.”

1. n. To be high on drugs or drunk. “I was so chopped last night I didn’t even know that girl’s name I went home with.”

1. n. candy coated rims. “Deedee told me he ran into somebody at the swap meet selling those new choppers for $200.00… anotha’ tale from the crackside!”

1. v. When a car’s spinners (rims that keep spinning while the car is not moving)are moving very fast “I gots to get me some dubs’ cause they be choppin’ the longest when you stop at a light.” 2. v. preparing drugs. “E’ was in the bathroom choppin’ up and baggin’ up that Oooweee.” 3. Having sex often. “Come on, you really be choppin Tanisha.”

1. Selling drugs. “Dan got caught up chopping yesterday.”

1. Tight, cool, awesome, etc. “Last night I met this girl and she waz the Chron.”

1. n. Marijuana. potent, green, homegrown skunk-style bud. (as apposed to “bammer” bammer is mostly dry old leaf from lower strength imported commercial marijuana) “Yo, hook me up with some of that chronic!” 2. The state of being so addicted to marijuana, that only the “chronic” has any effect anymore. Bammer no longer gives a “high.” “Billy is out thievin again cuz he’s chronic!” Lyrical reference: DR DRE LYRICS – The Chronic “I’m blowin’ dank chronic smell comin’ out of my mouth…”

1. A phrase used as a generalized term of approval for something. Derived from Snoop Dogg. “Show up or ho’ up.” “Church.”

1. A positive response to a question; yes. “Do you like the 49ers? Chyea!”

1. Another term for the sexually transmitted disease Gonorrhea or VD. “I just heard that Marlene got’s the clap.” 2. To kill someone by intentionally shooting them. “Yo, I heard Mt. Vernon gang is gonna clap Marlene’s man.”

1. adj. Somehting that looks nice, cool, or is tight. “Did you check out that low-rider? Yo, it was clean!” 2. adj. Having stopped using drugs, or music that contains sexual or vulgar language.

1. adj./n. Tacky, country or considered backward. “What’s up Cletus?”

1. v. to hit someone, usually knocking them in the head. “Brian you betta chill wit’ that or I’m going to straight up clock you in your grill!”

clock or clocked
1. To get hit by someone. “Dude got clocked!”

1. v. to make fun of someone. “Man, you tryin to clown on me?”

1. A cocaine addict. Old school term from old N.W.A song.

1. v. to be able to perform under extreme pressure. “Did you see LaBron hit that winning shot in the last second? Fool that was so clutch!”

1. Describing a $100 bill. “I’ll give you a c-note for that iPod.”

cocaine (or crack)
1. A drug extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. A potent brain stimulant and one of the most powerfully addictive drugs. Distributed on the street in two main forms: a white crystalline powder or as “crack” – cocaine hydrochloride that has been processed with ammonia or baking soda and water into a freebase cocaine, chips, chunks or rocks. Other slang names used are: Blow, Coke, Nose Candy, Snow, Rock, Flake, Big C, Freebase, Lady.

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

cock block
1. n. a term often used as a label for a person who gets in the way of a person who was about to make progress with someone of the opposite sex. “Why did you have to be such a cock block and interupt us yesterday! I was about to get her number!” 2. v. to interupt when someone is “spitting game” with the opposite sex

coke bottle
1. A really nice woman’s body; voluptuous. “Wow! She has a body like a coke bottle.”

come thru
1. to go to someone’s house or pass through their turf. “Yo, me and my boys are gonna come thru later.”

1. n. the bowl of a bong where marijuana is placed in to smoke. “All I need is a cone and I’ll be stress free for the rest of the night.”

1. cool.

1. n. as spoon or bottle cap used to cook down drugs like: meth, coke, or heroin. 2. n. a person who cooks down the drugs.

1. if you don’t know what this means, please exit now.

cool wit dat
1. I’m o.k. with that.

1. n. slang for jail. “Jason was slippin in the game and gotta go to the cooler for a minute.”

1. relaxing. see *chillin’

1. n. A term used to refer to something that is cool, tight; typicaly used as a one word response and not in the course of a sentence.
“Aye Jake, did you peep his car…?” “Yeah…” “Coolio.”

1. v. To obtain or acquire something. “I need to cop that new Kanye West CD.”

crack (or cocaine)
1. A drug extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. A potent brain stimulant and one of the most powerfully addictive drugs. Distributed on the street in two main forms: a white crystalline powder or as “crack” – cocaine hydrochloride that has been processed with ammonia or baking soda and water into a freebase cocaine, chips, chunks or rocks. Other slang names used are: Blow, Coke, Nose Candy, Snow, Rock, Flake, Big C, Freebase, Lady.

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

1. happening; been going on. “Hey dude, what’s crackalackin’?”

1. n. A white person

1. n. Crystal Methaphetamine low in purtiy and crushed into a powder, lacking potency. “Nobody buys from Rick cause he be serving that cheap ish; that crank.”

1. To act or be completely crazy. Or an object or thing that is crazy. “Trevor was cray-cray last night. He scared the heck out of me!”

1. n. cash, or money; a term made popular by Method Man and the Wu Tang Clan. “Don’t trip son, I got that cream.” Lyrical reference: Cream – WU-TANG CLAN/METHOD MAN Cash rules everything around me,
Get the Money Dolla Dolla bill yall.

1. v. When a person is “sneaking around”, cheating on his or her boy/girlfriend. See “trifflin”

1. n. a house. “Let’s go back to my crib, I got a lil’ sum- summ’m for you.”

1. adj. References new or current clothing. “My man just got the crispy Lebron James sneakers.”

1. “see krunk.”

crush (ing)
1. n. a term used to describe someone finding another person very attractive and desiring to be with them. “Aye yo, Johnny has been crushing on oh girl from the mall all week.”

1. adj. Ugly, gross or nasty. “I can’t stand it when people come to school with a cold, lookin’ all crusty and mess.”

crystal meth
1. a very pure, smokeable form of methamphetamine. A powerful and extremely addictive man-made stimulant. It is similar in appearance to ice or glass chunks. It is colorless and odorless. Is usually smoked but can sometimes be snorted or injected. Slang term sometimes used: “ice”

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

1. n. To be in a serious relationship, or to be committed to. “What up wit Brenda, you cuffin that chick?”

cup cakin’
1. v. To flirt with or to display ‘puppy love’. “Now since Gerrid is in the 5th grade he always cup cakin’ with Trina.”

Cupid Shuffle
1. n. A song and type of two step dance. This song and dance craze was founded in 2006 in Lafayette, Louisiana by an artist by the name of Cupid. “Let’s get on the floor and do the Cupid Shuffle.” Lyrical reference: CUPID – Cupid Shuffle come on, and do the Cupid Shuffle

1. n. A song on a record. “Hear that song by 50 Cent?” “That’s the cut!” 2. n. A place in the hood. “Where you at? Chillaxin in the cut.” 3. v. To put down or insult. “Don’t cut me or I’ll steel you in da grill!” 4. Having well defined muscles.

1. v. having sex.

cuttin’ up
1. To make fun of someone in a fun manner.

1. a title for a friend or family member. “Michael is my cuz.” 2. a gang term for Crips “Whut up cuz?”

d’ oh
1. An exclamation one uses to comment on foolish action.

1. Dayton Rims. Expensive custom rims for cars. “I just got a new cadillac and I think that I’m going to throw some d’s on it.”

1. male genitalia. derived from “di#@”

1. short for down low. See “down low.”

da ‘hood
1. The “neighboorbood” or refering to a certain side of town. “Meet me in da ‘hood at 7.”

da bomb
1. n. A mid nineties term for the best. A great thing or situation. “That CD is the bomb!” “His corvette is the bomb!” “This place is the bomb!” Lyrical reference: DMX LYRICS “Shorty was da bomb…”

1. n. Good marijuana or weed. “Let’s go smoke some dank.” 2. adj. very good. “That’s some dank weed.”

1. that.

dat go
1. Slang for “that’s really cool” or really nice. Also see “go hard.” “Hey, dat car go!”

1. n. a title for your friends, see “homie.” 2. a guy who goes with all the girls, even if he has a girlfriend. A tramp. “Jimmy’s such a dawg! Look at him over there with those hoochies.”

dead presidents
1. money. “Ever since I started workin this job I’ve had mad dead presidents to spend.”

1. to steal. See “jack.” Derived from the character in the movie “Friday”, who steals from all of the neighborhood people. “I’m gonna deebo Mom’s credit card.”

1. A term used to refer to a large group of people in a specific location. “Yo everyone wants to roll tonight… we’re gonna be like 30 deep when we dip to that party.”

1. a slang word for a guy receiving oral sex. “All I wanted was to smoke that herb and get the derb.”

1. n. A general term used to refer to a guy that a female views as extremly attractive and is constantly thinking about. “I can’t stop thinking about that guy we met at the mall… he’s a total derek.”

Dick Cheney
1. v. to look out for ones own interest at the expense of others; to selfishly prioritze ones own gain despite the possible consequences. “Yo, don’t do buisness with Mark… He be Dick Cheneying fools.”

1. Someone’s phone number. “Aye Shorty, let me get your digits.”

1. What’s the deal or What’s up? “Yo son, what the dillio?”

1. A bag of marijuana, usually worth ten dollars. (A ten dollar bag of drugs was called a “dime sack.” Five dollars is a “nickel bag.” “Dub sack” is used for $20.00 bags. 2. A good looking female. Also see “dime-piece.” “On a scale from 1-10 she is a dime.”

1. n. a good looking female. **See “shorty.”

dip out
1. v. to leave. “Hey Bobby, I’m gonna dip out.” or “Man, he dipped out of there FAST!”

dip set
1. n. A nasty girl. “Gina don’t think about nothin’ but how many boys she can jump. She ain’t nothin’ but a ‘dip-set’.”

dirty brown
1. bad weed/marijuana.

dirty Sprite
1. n. A drink, which is made from Sprite, candy, and prescription medications such as cough syrup with codeine, or even crushed pain killers, is used by many teenagers to get high.

1. v. (derived from “disrespect.”) To disrespect. To insult. “Yo . . . why you dissing me?”

1. see “dawg”

doggin’ on
1. being mean or cruel. See “baggin'” “Kion, why you doggin’ on me?”

doin’ laundry
1. v. Code word for having sex. “Lisa wants me to come over and spend some time doin’ laundry so don’t call me till later dude.”

Don’t hate.
1. To say don’t make fun of, to tell to be nice, something random to get someone’s attention. “Jon, don’t hate on me.”

1. A large, round shaped and very full booty or butt. See “badunkadunk” “Did you see her big o donk?”

1. n. Typically a ghetto female who is wearing out of style clothing; particulalty jeans. 2. A term for those who wear fake jewlry & or fashion. “Look at Nancy, she still think Fubu is cool! Damn she a doo-doo-mamma!”

1. adj. Late 80’s verbage, still used in some arenas for something good, excellent or appealing. See also “tight” or “phat.” “Check out his dope ride.” 2. marijuana.

1. v. to put the liquid form of LSD (acid) on an object that can be deliberately put on someones tounge or skin. This is usually done on small pieces of paper, but sometimes this is done to food items. When a food item that has been dosed is ingested, the person experiences intense hallucinations(referred as an acid trip). “At the Dead show some one dosed some licorice and passed it around.”

1. to be part of a group or friendship. Committed to “watch their back.” “No worries Chris. You know I’m down.” 2. agreeing or assenting with. “I’m down with whatever you decide.” 3. to be engaged in an activity. Also the current status or happening. “Man we gettin’ down with a couple freaks in an e-class.” “I’m fin to tell you waz down with J.D. and Misty.”

down low or D.L.
1. Secret, keep it a secret, not public information. “Jesse just broke up with Stacey . . . keep it down low.” 2. A secretive homosexual relation. Usually between men. “I don’t talk to Tywann anymore cause he act too soft: I think he on the down low.”

dragon, the
1. Bad breath. “Yo, you got any gum? I got the dragon, man.”

1. n. something that is very cool, stands out, totally awesome. Adopted from those who paint and design custom made cars when a car is freshly painted it looks wet and ‘candy paint drippin’. “Duece came in the club last night with those new J’s; they was drippin!”

1. Adj. A short term for weed/marijuana. Derived from the longer term “HyDROponically grown marijuana,” meaning “homegrown” pot; pot grown indoors in hydroponic chambers, which regulate light, humidity, and temperature. Typically a higher, more pure quality brand of weed than that found elsewhere because of its “organic” manufacturing. Lyrical reference: Holidae In – CHINGY Get a 12-pack of Coronas, and a ounce o’ ‘dro, ya know

1. adj. very attractive or desirable.

1. to hit somone, usually knocking them out or to a state where they don’t want to get up. “I’m about to drop that punk!” 2. to take a pill, mainly Ecstasy. “Are you gonna drop that pill?”

1. v. to be knocked out resulting in one falling to the floor. To be hit with enough impact that one falls. “I know you aint talking to me like that…don’t get dropped.”

dropped the dime
1. to tell on someone. “Man, he dropped the dime on Tommy.”

1. n. Going for a period of time without something you really want (usually referring to sexual activity). “Look how Tracy and Jay hanging out again…you know that drought must be over.” 2. n. When a certain drug is in limited supply or unavailable in your city or hood. Price’s are much higher. “Dang fool. You jus’ paid $250 for an ounce! The hood is in a drought fo real!”

drunk dial
1. when a person makes a phone call, usually late at night and when intoxicated, and embarasses oneself, or shares information that they will later regret.

dry hump
1. v. an old school term that still means to having sex with clothes on (two people, usually making out, becoming arosed rubbing against one another)

1. n./adj. A degrading term that means full luscious lips; an acronym for D**k Sucking Lips. This term is often used by teens as code so that adults will not know what they are referring to. “Did you see her? She had some serious DSL’s.”

1. Code for “Down to F**K.”

1. 20 inch chrome rims or wheels.

dub sack
1. a $20 bag of marijuana (which amounts to about 1.9g or 2g with the baggie) or $20 worth of drugs.

1. (pronounced doobee) A marijuana cigarette.

1. money. “Yo dawg, I ain’t got no duckets. Hook me up!”

1. n. A term to informally address an individual. 2. An exclamation used when something is astonishing or amazingly cool.

1. a 22 pistle (gun) “You betta call a truce b’fore I pull out the duece-duece and get loose.” 2. 22 inch rims (for your car) “Demarcus just got paid and he bought some new tires to go on his duece-dueces, now his whip is gonna be tight!”

1. n. slang for saying ‘peace’ I’m out (dueces represents the peace sign you make with two fingers). “It’s getting late I’m out, deuces.”

duk sick
1. a code word for oral copulation on a male. “Dave in the back with ol girl getting’ his duk sick.”

1. A term that is used instead of the word “son.” Like “son,” this word is used as a term of endearment. (A style of language derived from Queensbridge, NY, in which a word’s first letter is replaced with the letter “D.” This form of language is mostly used with the word “son.”) “Aye yo, Dun! What you been up to Dun?”

1. n. An old Chevy car, usually a Capri or an Impala. A stylish after marketed vintage car that is currently popular. “Yo, I’m just ridin’ in my dunk.” Lyrical reference: TRICK DADDY/DUNK RYDERS – Naked Hustle Remix dunk riders dunk ride or die (yeah)
bizzle blow one n**ga (yeah)

1. Is the fusion of sports and music inspired by the cultural aesthetics of urban style, fashion, and attitude. “He has a dunkadelic style to his game.”

1. adj. Old, worn or dirty. “You’ve been wearin’ those jeans all week, they’re lookin’ real dusty.”

1. n. term for marijuana joint or a blunt. Comes from ‘Dutch’ Masters cigars whose tobacco where the inner tobacco is replaced with marijuana. “I gotta go to the store n’ get a Dutch so we can roll up this kush.”

1. n. Term used for the drug “Ecstasy.” Sometimes called “X” “Lets go score some ‘E'”

ease up
1. means calm down or back up.

1. Good bye. Also see “late” or “peace” “I’ll see you later. Easy!” 2. A person who is quick to have sex or is easily influenced into having sex. “You Johnny, you better get at her; she’s easy.”

1. n. e-class is a very nice type of Mercedes Benz. 2. n. even though an e-class is a Benz, in some circles, they’ll refer to a really expensive car (i.e. Mercedes, Bently, Rolls Royce, BMW) as an e-class. “Homie ridin’ e-class.”

1. a synthetic drug with amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic properties. It is classified as a stimulant. It comes in tablet form that is often branded (i.e. Nike swoosh, Playboy bunnies, etc.) Other slang names used are: Adam, E, Roll, X, XTC.

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

1. Short term for Fu*K; pronounced “F” “Oh eff, I forgot to wake up early!”

eight ball
1. A term that refers to 1/8 ounce or 3.5 grams of methamphetamine or coke. “Big Homie, where can I come up on an eight ball?”

1. v. to leave or depart. “Say bro, we ’bout to elevate; you wanna go with us or stay here?”

1. Someone acting in a suicidal or depressed way. comes from “emotional”. Originaly derived from the punk/hardcore style of music called ’emo’ “Everytime Jr. gets drunk he start goin’ emo on us, huggin’ us & sayin’ that he love us…””

1. money or cash.

1. Meaning great or amazing or with grand proportions. “That performance was epic!”

epic fail
1. If a fail is a fail in life, then an epic fail is a fail of giant proportions. An epic fail can also refer to a task that is meant to be easy, but still wasn’t carried out properly.

1. A term used to describe ones irratation with someone or something. “I can’t stand when he comes around; He really erks me.”

1. v. Originally used by gang members as a code word to kill someone. “Manny was about to fade that fool till he realized that he grew up with his big brother.” 2. adj. When you’ve just got embarrassed or put down. “Look at your shoes fool…fade!”

1. To exhibit the intoxicating effects of a marijuana or alcohol. “Dawg, pass the spliff so’s I can get faded.”

1. A fail is a fail in life. It can be anything from falling off your bike, walking into a glass door or overcooking your holiday dinner. Fails can also happen online if you write on someone’s Facebook wall by accident, for example.

1. Not true. “Stop falsing!”

1. n. Family, friend or someone you’re closely connected to. “Hey yo, what up fam?”

1. a marijuana joint. 2. a big posterior on a female. “Check out the fatty on her.”

1. Facebook official, in regards to your relationship with someone else. When two people become “Facebook official,” they are publicly declaring that they are officially together or “going out.” “Did you hear that Mike and Christy are FBO?”

1. against the law, or not right. “Yo, I ain’t stealing that money, that’s federal!”

feel me
1. v. to understand or affirm. “I’m about to smack you up for tryin to front on me in front of my peeps, you feel me?”

1. v. (derived from “fixin”) Getting ready to do something. “I’m fi’n to tell you what’s up wit Sheila and Snoopy.”

1. adj. A description, “fu**ing idiot.” “D.J. got caught trying to steal shoes from the swap meet… he’s a fidiot!”

1. needing, like an urge. “I’m fiendin fer some cigs right now.”

1. Very good looking. “Dang that girl is fine.”

1. going to. See “fi’n” “Son, I finna bust a cap.”

1. Extremely good. Often referring to marijuana and food. **Also see “on fire.” “Man, those tacos are fire!”

fish bowl
1. To fill an enclosed space with marijuana smoke.

1. adj. wearing very nice, trendy clothes. “I stepped into the club fitted like a motha.” 2. n. a baseball cap that is made without an adjustable strap; designed to ‘fit’ the head of the owner. “All my fitteds match my kicks… Pardna, my wardrobe is tight!”

1. A numerical amount–fifty. Five counts of ten. “There was fitty of dem.”

five on it
1. Term used to imply that the person either has a nickel bag of weed to contribute, or is willing to pitch in 5 dollars toward the purchase of marijuana. Lyrical reference: I Got Five On It – LUNIZ Album: Operation Stackola

1. Another way of saying that someone is a fool. “Malachi is such a fizzle.”

1. n. an unreliable person, someone who can not be depended upon. “I wouldn’t ask her for anything. She’s flake.”

1. v. yelling at someone, usually in front of others. “What’s up?” “My mom was just flashing.” 2. v. attacking someone in a fit of rage.

1. flavor, exact meaning. “You know the flava?”

1. To beat someone up or use physical force to hurt them while displaying muscles like a wrestler “Keep on talking about my Momma and I’ma’ flex on you!”” 2. To display your power or skill with intensity. “Did you see Cappa flex on the mic yesterday on 106 and park?” 3. To depart or go away. “Hey this party is weak man, let’s flex.”

flip it
1. v. To purchase drugs or anything for a lower price than what you sell it for; usually making double the profit. “Yo I just bought an ounce of that sticky icky… now I’m gonna flip it, then go and get two more ounces and flip that… yea.”

1. n. A flop is when a planned event doesn’t end up happening. A flopper is someone who often cancels last minute.

1. v. show off ones belongings or wealth. Often while driving, showing your vehicle, its nice rims, your new jacket, etc. “I just hung a right on Main St. Now I’m just flossin’.”

1. A rapper’s ability to rap and rhyme both skillfully and competently. “Did you hear him? He had a sick flow.”

1. adj. to have a lot of money (rich like a royal flush). “I’m flush dog; I don’t have to run these streets for doe.”

1. Something that’s really cool. “That movie was so fly.”

fo fo
1. a 44. pistol.

fo rizzle
1. For Real. “That new Canye’ West single is bangin’ fo rizzle.”

fo sho
1. For sure “Hey Mike, you gonna be there?” “Fo sho!” 2. Yes. Absolutely.

fo’ real
1. derived from “for real.” Meaning yes, that is very true. “Mrs. B. give us so much #$%^ homework!” “Fo’real!”

fo’ rizeal
1. See “for real.”

fo’ shiggidy my weeble
1. Another term for saying, “for sure my friend.”

fo’ shizzle
1. (often used with “Fo’ shizzle my nizzle”) For sure. (see “nizzle” for it’s definition.)

1. Completely drunk or high, usually enough to barely walk at all. “Me and Kat got folded last night after the party!”

1. n. (derived from fool) a friend. “Whasup foo?” 2. an insulting name for someone. “What you lookin’ at foo?”

for sheezy
1. (derived from “for sure”) A statement of agreement. “Are you sure you want to go to ice cream?” “For sheezy!”

1. adj. flamboyant, very dramatic or attempting to be spectacular. (***History behind the word: The slang alludes to a Vietnam-era G.I. slang acronym for a particularly bad combat situation, which stands for “Fu*^ed Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In.” “Them ni*^as over on the north side is a bunch of fougazie bi*^ches; we keeps it grimy over here on the south side.”

four-twenty (4:20) (420) (4-20)
1. n. Commonly known as the time to smoke pot. It has come to mean everything from the act of smoking, the stuff that’s smoked, and the optimum smoking time. Because 99% of today’s culture DOESN’T know what 420 means, it has become a code people use to identify and talk with each other without outsiders knowing. Also known for the date, April 20th, which is the day to smoke pot all day, “the hippie holiday.” Most pot smokers use 420 for just that, but, this date also happens to be Hitler’s birthday which most possibly connected to or resulted in the selection of the April 20th date of the Columbine tragedy. Note: I get a large amount of emails trying to correct me, saying that 420 is actually the California police code for possession of marijuana. Sorry- but that’s an urban legend. Here are the facts straight from the LAPD: “There are several codes of law in CA that dictate drug offences. The Penal Code(PC) and the Health and Safety Code(H&S;). Most of the drug offences are covered by the H&S.; There is no 420 H&S;, there is a 420 PC and it is “Preventing entry onto Public property”. We sometimes have codes that the dispatcher uses on the radio to let us know what kind of call we are going to, but it usually is the same as the code section. Here are some of the Marijuana charges: 11359 H&S; Possesion of MJ for Sales 11360(A)H&S; Sales of MJ 11357(B)H&S; Possesion of less than 1 oz of MJ

1. n. genetically modified food.

1. a term used to cover up a person’s name that you don’t want to know you are speaking or writing about them. 2. a type of coffee drink made by mixing instant coffee with water in a shaker. Also, any iced coffee drink.

1. n. a male or female that gets around. “J.T., quit parlayin with that freak and let’s roll!” 2. v. To copulate.

1. n. An old school term referring to someone who looks good, feels good, and or puts out a vibe that is cool or really together. Made popular by many 80’s rap groups particularly The Fresh Prince a.k.a Will Smith. Term used mainly by people over the age of 28 from a Hip Hoppers worldview. “Man, those new shoes are fresh!”

friends with benefits
1. n. a description for a type of relationship where friends enjoy casual sex with no strings attached. Purely recreational sex. “”I saw you coming out of Gina’s apartment this morning. Are you guys friends with benefits now?””

1. Lying. Trying to be something you’re not. The act of being fake. “Man, don’t be frontin’, you know you messed with Kiesha last week!”

1. n. removable gold or platinum teeth jewelry. Also known as “golds” or “grillz.” Very popular in the south. “I went to the mall last night and got some new fronts. Check ’em out.”

1. adj. Another reference to jewelry or diamonds. “Look at Ebony’s frozen ears. She has some nice earrings.”

1. an acronym which means “F**k the World”.

1. very ugly. Derived from [email protected]*ing ugly.

1. n. (derived from “Gangster”) A name for anyone you would associate with. A name when greeting a friend. “Whasup G?”

G – money
1. More than just a “G.” (see “G”) A term for your friend or acquaintance, usually someone who is good at what they do. See “money.”

g’d up
1. To look good.

1. N. A slang term derived from the sleek and stylish multi-million dollar G-6 Gulf Stream twin engine jet to describe sleek and stylish items. “Yo, you see my new sneaks? They’s G-6!”

1. to steal.

1. God bless.

1. A man’s conversation, specifically his attempts at wooing females. “Marcel, she ain’t going to go out with you. You got no game!” 2. A male’s whole presence; his conversation, and how he presents himself. “Did you see Jay over there? He’s got game.” 3. Awareness and involvement in activity, usually used in reference to selling drugs. “Stay strapped when you make that money cause the game is no joke.”

1. n. A gangster. One who acts, dresses and talks like a gang member. “Jesse, what size are those pants? 45? You look like a gansta!” 2. For something to be nice or cool. See “tight.” “Yo, that outfit is gangsta.”

1. “gank” is to steal or take without permission. Same as “jack” and used the same way. “He ganked that hat from da mall.”

gassed up
1. v. To be hyped up and encouraged to think more of one’s self than needed; to be pumped up provoking arrogance and cockyness. “Aye, Jay’s new girl gots him gassed up, like he’s ish or something.”

1. n. A gun (derived from Gatling gun). This term came of age during the late 80’s when rap groups such as NWA used the term for guns. *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. “Paul, you didn’t tell me you was strapped! Why you gotta have a Gat?”

1. To stare at someone. “Look, he be gawkin’ at you.”

geeked up, geeker, or geek
1. n. A Geek/Geeker is a drug addict. To be Geeked Up means to be very high on drugs. “Jules was so geeked up on that white that he pissed on himself right in front of everybody…that’s why I just say no!”

1. n. The action a person under the influence of crack cocaine “Man look at dat crack head geekin & lookin all crazy!”

get at me
1. v. A call for a response or reply from another individual. “Aye yo if your boy got beef tell him to get at me.”

get down
1. To engage in the activity at hand well, with distinction and excellence (fighting, partying, dancing, sex). “That fool want to scrap, then let’s get down.”

get off
1. a term that implies sexual arousal.

get washed
1. v. Term meaning to get taken over, often used in the context of violence like getting jumped or even in the context of drugs like getting drunk or high. “Johnny messin’ with them ballers from the East Side and gonna get washed if he ain’t careful.” Lyrical reference: HIEROGLYPHIC’S – All Things (Album: 3rd Eye Vision 1998) All things, ain’t, what they seem
You’ll get washed; even if you’re way too clean

get your swerve on
1. To get drunk, to drink, or to otherwise become intoxicated from either alcohol or drugs. 2. To get into a rhythm. To achieve a positive momentum. When playing basketball, if your team does well you can use this term for how you performed.

gettin ya’ roll on
1. v. To look good while driving an expensive vehicle. “Man, did you see Big Woo? He getting’ his roll on.” 2. To ‘strut’ or show off your style

gettin’ buck
1. Getting wild and loud. Generally associated with krump dancing. “Last night Jannie was gettin’ buck on the dance floor all night.”

getting georgia
1. v. Term meaning to oral sex. Referring to the Georgia Dome (another slang for oral sex is ‘dome’) thus, the hint ‘getting Georgia. “Hey did you get some Georgia from that chick last night?”

getting ghost
1. To take off or leave a place. “All those guys are getting ghost.”

getting the hook up
1. Receiving more than you could have even wanted from a given situation. “Billy, check out this stereo system your dad gave you . . . you got the hook up!” 2. Being joined in a relationship with the person you wanted or starting a relationship with the opposite sex. **See “hooking up.” “Mark likes Jen . . . Jen is getting the hook up.”

getting the mack on
1. When someone is in the act of macking (see “mack”). “Check out Billy with them chassies . . . he’s getting the mack on!”

1. adj./adv. 1. Something undesirable. “That place is ghetto.” 2. Something excellent. **See “ghetto fabulous.” 3. Saying or doing something you don’t have to. Like hanging your clothes on the balcony when you have a dryer they can be put in.

ghetto bird
1. n. A police helicopter. Known as the only thing that flies in the ghetto.

1. Adj. having a pseudo-rich look or lifestyle without real wealth to sustain a rich lifestyle. “Did you see that Honda tricked out lik an e-class? Now that’s Ghetto-fabulous!”

1. v. (derived from “gigging”)Dancing. 2. A generic verb used for an assortment of activities. Usually the form of “to be.” “I’m just giggan it here with my friends.”

1. A man who is in a continuing sexual relationship with a woman and receives financial support from her. **See “man-ho”

1. Someone with red hair and or pale skin; someone to be thought of as “soft” or easy to beat up on. “Yo man, them two gingers over there need they as* whooped.”

give it up!
1. A request to please applaud for something. “Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for . . .”

givin’ up the gold
1. When a female gives up her virginity before the right time, usually before marriage. “Girl, why you given up the gold . . . you gonna be bankrupt later!”

1. A gun (9 millimeter automatic pistol) “Keep lettin’ that lip pop and I’ma let my glock stop all yo plots.”

1. When a guy is putting on the moves or trying to get a girl to go out with him. “Anton is G-macin on that breezy.”

go down
1. a slang term which refers to oral sex.

go hard
1. To show off or display skill with great intensity “Man I can’t wait to get back on the court I’m a go hard on all of y’all.” 2. Very cool “I like that song from lil wayne; that beat go hard than a mug.”

1. n. Street term for speed. “Hey don’t mess around with Alex; that fool is on that ooey goey.”

gold digging ho
1. n. a female that is trying to use you for your money. “I’m going out with Shirley tonight.” “Why you going out with that gold digging ho? She’s always trying to get up in your wallet!”

1. Marijuana; or drugs. *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. “That’s my boy, he got dat good for ya dog.”

1. A sexual term that describes anything that the opposite sex has that turns you on. This can range from Hugs and kisses to private sexual parts. “I bet you want the goodies.”

1. n. A gangster, a very obnoxious and independent person, usually someone who is from the streets. “You know why Corey always gets into a fight when he goes to the park; cause he’s a crazy a** goon.”

1. Homie, like a good friend. *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. “Yo, thatz my goonie right there.”

got got
1. When someone is caught trying to do something shifty or on the sly, like checking out another girl while holding hands with your woman. If you get caught looking at the other girl by your woman you “got got”!!

got the dragon
1. to have bad breath.

1. n. Money (derived from the idea: gouda is a type of cheese) “In tha Bay they call it guap, but in the valley we call it gouda; whatever it is, we gotta make that money!”

1. n. money. “Hey Mom, hook me up with some grain.”

1. n. marijuana.

1. v. To eat or graze like a cow. “It’s so embarrassing to hang out wit’ Donna at lunch cause girl be greasin’.”

1. n. A term referencing money due to its color. 2. n. A term referring to marijuana because of its color.

1. A term used to describe a group of unattractive large women. (See also landmines: a term used to describe thin unattractive females…these two terms are often used together.) “Yo, that party got nothing but grenades up in there!”

1. n. a person’s teeth or smile. “Man, you better shut up or I’ll bust yo’ grill!”

1. A nasty look. A facial expression meant to give off unfriendly vibes. Derived from the term “grill” which refers to one’s teeth. “You betta stop grillin’ me.”

1. work. hustle “I got’s to stay on that grind and make some paper cause it’s hard out here for a pimp.”

1. n. money. “I’ve got mad grip from slangin’ all that yayo.” 2. n. to have a lot or a bunch of. “He’s got a grip of cheddar.” 3. A long time. “I haven’t talked to you in a grip!”

1. n. nasty, gross or disgusting. *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. “Did you see Alma’s grody toes when she took her shoes off?”

1. v. to grab someone sexually, usually inappropriately

1. adj. Grown up. “I don’t know why he was kissing your little sister… he’s grown.”

1. n. a woman who is thought of as strong and aggressive, especially in her approach toward men and her sexuality.

1. n. lots of cash. (See also “gwap.”) “Shawty did that pop and lock; had to break her off that guap.” Lyrical reference: T-PAIN/FLO-RIDA Shawty did that pop and lock; had to break her off that guap.

1. n. An expensive brandname for fashion and accessories; like Prada or Fendi “My baby daddy got me this gucci bag girl, I don’t know where you think I got some extra money from.” 2. adj. A ghetto term for something nice. “I don’t know what you talkin’ bout, John John’s new Hyundai is gucci than a mithi-ficki.”

1. a word that expresses confusion or annoyance; the new ‘duhh’ “Don’t be lookin’ at me guh…are you gonna hit that j or what?”

1. Sam as “cappin” on someone. When you’re “gunnin”, you are making fun of someone or something. “Dude was gunnin’ on your ride(car).”

1. v. Getting drunk or high. “Gurp session at Shay’s crib this Saturday; brang yo $5 or you don’t get in.”

1. n. eyeliner that is worn by a guy.

1. n. a wad of money or cash. (see also “gwap” or “guap”). The term was used in the film “State Property II” by rapper Baby Boy.

1. n. a wad of money or cash. (see also “guap” or “gwalla”) “Tikki just got paid a gwap for picking up the trash in Mrs. Johnson’s yard.” Lyrical reference: T-PAIN/FLO-RIDER Shawty did that pop and lock; had to break her off that guap.

hack or hackin’
1. To make fun of someone, or to insult, or correct him or her repeatedly. Usually a fun-loving term between friends. “Why you always gotta hack on me?” 2. To get hit or fouled in a basketball game.

1. Going Ham/went ham- means getting overly angry for no reason. “Cousin, you know you ain’t all mad cause somebody looked at you wrong, you goin’ ham over that?”

1. A term in reference to a gun; derived from the metal hammer discharge that ignites the explosion of gun powder thrusting the bullet out of the barrel. “Homie recognize I stays posted with them hammers.”

1. A large bottle of alcohol; usually a half gallon worth. “You want me to make you a drink? I got that handle left over from the other day.” 2. One’s email or onling address, name or title. 3. A term that refers to a player’s capability to control the ball in a basketball game.

1. N, Adj, V. A person who is tough and rugged; can fight well. “Tye know how to fight, damn he hard!” 2. An erect penis. “I stay hard in my math class cause my teacher so hot.” 3. Good sex. “I hit that hard last night.”

1. v. derived from “hating.” To do bad things or say bad things to someone. To express dislike. “Why you gotta be haten on me?!!”

1. A hater is usually someone who feels anger or jealously towards another person because of their success.

1. A male receiving oral sex. “Matt told mike that Jessica gives real good head.” Lyrical reference: Artist: Too-Short; Album: Get In Where You Fit In; Song: Blow Job Betty “She’s the kind of girl you think about in bed. Blow Job Betty givin’ real good head.”

head shop
1. n. A store that sells smoking accessories, often frequented by people who smoke marijuana or tobacco. “Meet me behind the head shop and I’ll sell you this new bong w/ some goodies.”

1. people. “Yo, there was mad heads at the six joint.”

1. cops. 2. a gun. “Watch out for John, he’s strapped wit’ heat!”

1. a gun. “”I ain’t trippin’ off these fools, anybody act up I’m gonna pull out the heater and blaze it up.””

1. see “hella.”

1. see “hella”. Examples include: “Hecky yea.” or “Hecky naw”

1. adv. used in conjunction with another word as an intensifier. As if to say “very.” Derived from “A hell of a lot of . . .” Examples include: hella-cool, hella-stupid, hella-crazy, or hella-funny. “I called your name hella times, but you didn’t come.” “That’s because I had hella fun last night.” 2. adj. extremely large quantities “He had hella cash!”

1. Refers to an individual being arrested, jumped and or caught in any series of negative situations. “Aye, the po-po had Freddy hemmed-up around the corner.”

1. (“pronounced “erb”) marijuana.

1. a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, which is obtained from the opium poppy. It is a “downer” or depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain. It is a white to dark brown powder or tar-like substance. It can be injected into a vein or injected into a muscle, or smoked in a water pipe or standard pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette, inhaled as smoke through a straw, known as “chasing the dragon,” snorted as powder via the nose. Other slang names used are: Big H, Blacktar, Brown sugar, Dope, Horse, Junk, Muc, Skag, Smac.

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

high roller
1. Someone who is wealthy and usually drives a nice car and dresses top end. “Yo, Mike’s uncle is straight up high roller.”

1. H.I.V. “Homey got the high-five from the skanch queen.”

1. adj. A term used to describe someone who is snobby, arrgogant, or stuck up. “Man, I tried to talk to ol’ girl and she high-post!”

1. adv. to act as if you’re better than those around you. “Did you see Yolanda high-sidin’ when she was in front of the Teacher today? She think she all-o-dat.”

1. n. a musical genre from Ghana which combines elements of American-style hip-hop and the Ghanaian pop genre known as highlife. “Ko Ko used to be into crumpin’ but now he into hiplife.”

hit ’em up (hit them up)
1. v. To aggressively and at times violently approach and ask someone where they are from; to find out if the person(s)are from any particular gang or crew. “Aye Tone, go hit them fools up.” Lyrical reference: 2PAC Grab your glocks when you see 2pac
Call the cops when you see 2pac, Uhh
Who shot me,
But, your punks didn’t finish
Now, you ’bout to feel the wrath of a menace
Nigga, I hit ’em up

hit it
1. v. to have sex. (see also “hit that”) “Joey goin’ to hit it tonight.”

hit me up
1. v. To contact someone, usually by phone. “Joe said, “Rhonda, you gonna hit me up right?””

hit that
1. To have sex with someone. (See also “hit it” or “tap that”) “When you gonna let me hit it?”

1. A hooker or a hoochie, although sometimes more promiscuous than a hoochie, and therefore undesirable. “Yo G, look at that ho!”

ho – monga
1. n. A term used to describe a guy who keeps more than one girl. “Tyrell, you’s a straight up ho-monga.”

hob knocker
1. n. a person who masturbates in public restrooms. “OMG, did you hear about that hob knocker at the mall yesterday? He straight got caught…nasty!” 2. n. someone who hits others in private parts. Often used for insulting someone. “Jason is a straight up hob knocker; he’s always fighting dirty!”

hold me down
1. A term used to describe watching someone’s back, defending or representing them,or having their back. “Aye, when those chumps come through looking for me, you gonna hold me down, right?”

hold somthin
1. Asking to barrow money. “Let me hold somethin, you know I will pay you back.”

hold up
1. (pronounced hole up) A phrase used to get someone to wait, as if to say “Wait, hold on a second.”

1. n. possession of drugs that are ready for sale. “I’m holdin’; so let me know if you wanna get at me.”

1. v. to communicate to someone, usually via phone or email. “Hey, don’t forget to holla back youngn.”

1. v. To talk trash in exaggerated terms or to lie on someone. “All y’all ni**a’s that’s been hollin’ on the Stealers got’s to eat it now cause they just won the Bowl baby!”

1. When you act like you are better than or too good for someone. “Since Sarah moved away from the hood she now acts so hollywood.”

home skillet
1. friend.

1. A way of acknowledging a good friend. “Waz up Homeslice?”

1. n. Old word (derived from the Hispanic Americans who used “homes” as a label for others) that means friend or companion. “Whasup Homie?”

1. n. A female who is promiscuous by nature. A female who grants sexual favors easy. *See also “hooch” or “hoochie mama.” “Let’s go mack on them hoochies over there.”

hoochie mama
1. n. More than just a hoochie. A hoochie of hoochies. Someone who excels in all the qualities of hoochidom. “Yo . . . you ain’t nothin but a hoochie mama!”

hook me up
1. A request for assistance, usually seeking some sort of material or financial gain. “Oh . . . Ding Dongs . . . come on man, hook me up . . . let me mack on one of them!”

hook up
1. v. see “hooking up.” Also used as noun as in “the hook up.” See “getting the hook up”

hooking up
1. v. Often, this can mean purely recreational sexual activity with someone who is just a friend. Anything from gentle touching to intercourse. “Me and Tish were just hooking up for some fun in my Honda.” 2. v. starting a relationship with opposite sex.

1. basketball. “Hey man let’s go shoot some hoops.”

1. n. A 1972 Oldsmobile or car of the like. An old beat up car. “Here comes Billy in his hooptie!”

1. n. loaded down car. “Check out my partner in his hoo-ride.”

1. the ability to jump high. “He has hops.”

1. n. To have to face the consequences of being involved in a disastrous or negative situation. “Dang homie, your girl caught you with Jasmin, your straight up hosed.”

1. Mad or angry. 2. Stolen. “I’m not buying that, it’s hot!” 3. Dangerous. “It’s hot up in here!” 4. Good looking.

hot box
1. A term used to refer to the smoking of marijuana inside a car with all doors and windows closed so that all the smoke is kept inside the car. Usually done with the expectation of getting higher or more intoxicated. “Aye Rigo, let’s hot box your car.”

hot mess, A
1. 1. To look really bad!

hot minute
1. Fast or quick. “I’m just gonna run in the store, it’ll take a hot minute.”

1. Something that you think is cool. “Man, that game is hotness.”

1. very good. “That ollie you just sprung was mad hott dude.” 2. stylish. “That jacket is hott!”

1. used to describe good looking guys or girls. “Check out that new kid, he’s a hottie!”

1. See “in the house.”

1. To be very badly beaten at something, whether sports or a fight or a rhyme battle. “The Celtics got housed last night.” 2. to get extremely drunk, high, or wasted. “We got housed last night at Tomeka’s bang.”

1. n. Bad or cheap marijuana/weed lacking the necessary toxins and or chemicals that produce a strong high or intoxication. “Aye, I hope you didn’t buy that huff from Joe again.”

1. adv. ragged, torn down or run down “Hey dogg, you need to get some new kicks cause’ them shoes is ‘hulled out.’”

1. adj. Curves on a woman (breasts and hips). Used in the Black Eyed Peas’ song “My Humps.” “Keandra grew up over the summer break. She packing humps now!” Lyrical reference: BLACK EYED PEAS – My Humps I’ma get-get-get-get-you drunk, get you love drunk off this hump.

1. n. A hundred dollars – usually refers to one hundred dollars worth of weed “I ain’t got no change man, all I got is a hundo so we gonna have to sneak on the bus.”

1. adj. A person, place, or thing that is messed up, very ugly, and or dirty. “Man, that bum over there is hurt!”

1. v. To make money or gain a profit by selling something usually through the use of a scheme or trickery to insure persuasion. “Check it out homie; I stayz on my hustle.”

1. Marijuana that is grown indoors. “Yo, you got some hydro?”

1. a rumor blown out of proportion. ie: not true “Don’t believe the hype about Rhonda. It ain’t true.” 2. very good. See “live.” “Dogg, this party is hype!”

1. Getting Hyperactive. ‘getting hyphy’ is an emerging style of music and dance originated in the San Fransisco Bay Area. To dance, rap or act wild and hyperactive “Check out Keak Da Sneak up on stage, he about to ‘get hyphy wit it’.”

1. n. An alcoholic drink made of a mixture of Vodka, Cognac and Sprite or tropical flavors. “I got shorty bent last night off that Hypnotiq.”

I’ll bust a cap in your #$&?!! (posterior)
1. To shoot someone (not necessarily just in the gluteus maximus). “Man, you best stop mad dawging me or I’ll bust a cap in your #$&?!!”

I’m out
1. (derived from “I’m out of here”) Something to say when leaving, as if to say “I’m out of here.”

I’m straight
1. to declare that you are all right in your current state of being, as if to say “I’m cool,” or “I’m good already.”

1. jewelry, bling, usually just diamonds. “Man, I’m about to jack that ice he’s got on.” 2. A veriation of the drug meth.

iced out
1. wearing a lot of jewelry “Check out all that bling-bling, you’re iced out!”

1. n. short for “I don’t know” “What is home girl’s name over there, cuz idk?”

1. v. cool, in style.

1. n. anyone who is not well educated or informed about a specific subject.

1. An acronym that stands for “I love you.” Used mostly in text messages. “Call me in 2 hrs, I’m at the movies…ily.”

1. An accronym in reference to “In My Arrogant Opinion; often used during texting or as secret code. “I think her outfit was funky imao.”

in the cut
1. n. A designated location of saftey and or relaxation; usually secluded. “I’ve been looking for you all day homie, where you been… My bad I was chillen In the Cut.”

in the heazy
1. See “in the house.”

in the house
1. not in an actual house but at a present gathering or location. “My man Will’s in da house!”

1. n. the compulsive desire to get the latest news, or any information, especially via computer or cell phone.

inked up
1. v. Getting tattoo’d “Did you see Camron? He just got inked up last night.”

1. A term used to replace SH*T; usually referring to something or a series of events. “Man, I’m tired of all this ish.”

it’s all good
1. Something said to express that everything is under control and fine. Usually rebutting an accusation. “Justin, are you trying to thieve some of my CD’s?” “No man . . . quit trippin’! It’s all good!”

it’s real
1. See “It’s all good.” “For all the hata’s, it’s real.”

1. n. meaning marijuana. “Let’s go smoke some jaba.”

1. (v.) to steal. Originally derived from “car-jack,” although, now pertains to stealing anything. “Check out his new walkman…let’s jack it!” 2. n. Another reference to a telephone. “I just got off the jack, waiting for him to call me back.”

1. v./adj.Thoroughly annihilated. Messed up. “Man, the barber jacked up your hair. Billy, what happened? Your car is jacked!” 2. Stolen. “Billy, what happened to your car, did it get jacked!” 3. Can also mean very influenced by marijuana. “D’ja see T? Man, is he jacked!”

1. A female who is really attractive but under age. “Hey, check out that jail-bait.”

1. “see “janky””

1. adj. old or broken. In bad shape. “Billy, we ain’t taking your janky old car to the prom!”

jaw u
1. v. To hit someone in the jaw. “You betta give me 50 feet or I’ma jaw you dog!”

1. A term popularized on the East Coast (particularly Philly) to mean almost anything about life, love, places, things; New Yorkers also use the term. “Yo, you see that car over there? That jawn is tight!” or “I was at this party and saw this cute jawn.” or “You was at Alisha’s jawn last night?”

1. Having sex (most likely but not limited to the inside of a jeep). *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. “I was jeepin’ last night with Jason and my head kept getting knocked into the dome light.” 2. Rollin’ in a cool Jeep; profiling in a nice Jeep. “Four wheel cowboy jeepin’ down Santa Fe.” Lyrical reference: C.W. MCCALL – Four Wheel Cowboy Four wheel cowboy
Jeepin’ down to Santa Fe

1. n. tight fitting, stretch jeans for women. The word is really just a combination of the two words “jeans” and “leggings”.

1. n. a gigolo; someone who’s got the hook up with the ladies. “Yo, wussup jigga?” 2. n. a word that rappers called each other on the radio because they weren’t allowed to use another word.

1. hot, attractive, sexy.

1. v. another term for joking around and or making fun of someone in a playful manner. “After the game, on the bus ride home, we was all joaning on each other about our mammas.”

1. (pronounced “Jockin”) Oldschool term for trying to become the girlfriend of a guy. Flirting. “Michael! Watch out for that gold diggin’ ho Sabrina; she’s jockin you!” 2. To copy someone. For example, if someone is wearing the same shirt as you, they are “jockin'” you.

1. Old term for a marijuana cigarette; to smoke a joint. “He smokin a joint, lemme hit dat!”

1. To have Respect and credability resulting in having influence with someone; being able to influence the course of a situation and its circumstances. “Don’t trip, i’ll fix this; I got juice with them.”

1. To get drunk or hammered. “That kid is so juiced.”

jump off
1. n. A girl exclusively used for sex, with no hassel or strings attached. (*See also “My jump off”) “You see her right there… shes about to be my jump off.”

1. v. to be beat down and attacked by a group of individuals. “If that fool keep talken smack, he’s gonna get jumped by those dudes around the way.”

1. A guy’s genitals. “Tom just got kicked in the junk.”

junk in the trunk
1. n. A large rear end that looks good. **Also see “badunkadunk”

1. n. Juvenile Hall; children’s prison. “T.J. was caught trying to steel some blunts at the store and got sent to juvie again!” 2. n. A boyfriend or girlfriend who is generally younger than you. “Y’all ho*’s better not f*^k wit my juvie cause he’s hot and he don’t wanna loose me.” Lyrical reference: MAGNOLIA SHORTY – That’s My Juvie Y’all ho*’s bet not f*^k wit my juvie
Cause he hot and he and he don’t want to loose me

keep it 100
1. n. To tell the whole truth, keepingit 100% valid and true. Also “Keep it hun’ed” “Alright man, keep it 100. Why do you be taking those long showers?”

keep it real
1. a phrase used to say goodbye. Just as if to say, “peace.” “I gotta go Brian.” “Okay. Keep it real.”

1. n. Very close friend. The word derives from the old show, The Lone Ranger. Kemosabe was the nick name given to the Lone Ranger’s side kick Tonto. “I gots love for Hashim. That’s my kemosabe”

kick back
1. v. to relax and take it easy. “Man, we fixin’ to kick back and watch this game at the pad.” 2. Calm down. “Yo Mike, quit trippin’, kick back foo.”

kick game
1. see spittin’ game.

kickin’ it
1. v. To relax, usually with ones friends. To merely exist, usually with no work involved. “Where are you going Billy?” “Just kickin’ it with my friends!”

1. shoes.

1. The very best that there is. “Dude, that wave was so killa!”

1. To do something that is really annoying or distracting to someone. “Man why you killin’ my swag now?”

kimbo sliced
1. v. To completely beat someone up; to severly injure and hurt another person. A term derived from the famous street fighter “Kimbo Slice” that always unbelievably beats challengers up.

klepto (or klepto’d)
1. To steal something small. “I klepto’d her lipstick.” or “I’ll klepto it for ya.”

1. n. People who heat up knifes and burn marijuana instead of using a pipe or a bong. In the cannabis culture, knifers are a method of smoking marijuana. It involves heating up two flat surfaces, usually butter knives on a stove, then sandwiching a small amount of marijuana between the two hot knifes, causing the marijuana to either vaporize or burn almost instantly. Because the temperature can be lower than combustion techniques such as using a smoking pipe or a bong, the resulting process can more efficient as THC is destroyed at relatively low temperatures. “Dawg, I ran into these knifers who showed me how to vape this weed & I got tore up!”

knocked out
1. asleep. “Yo Jerry is knocked out!”

1. A term used to enthusiasticly refer to music that is very loud; and having lots of bass. “Dang Homie, those new speakers in your car be Knocken!!!”

1. n. a grip or wad of cash. “I always got a fat knot fool, what’s up you wanna go get some eats?”

1. Adj/V. 1. A term for oral sex. “I’m going to that party so that shawty (See Shawty/Shorty) can get me that knowledge.” 2. A term for acquiring great wisdom and information and its practical application. “Felicia is deep, she kickin’ real knowledge about life.”

1. One’s business. **See “all up in the kool-aid.” “Why you always gotta be gettin up in my koolaid Boo!” 2. Someone’s stuff. “You better get up outta my koolaid, or I’m ganna bus a cap in yo a**!”

krump dancing
1. v. ‘krumpin’ ‘getting krump. A form of dancing that originated in the African-American community of South Central Los Angeles, California and is a relatively new form of the “Urban” Black dance movement. Check out the movie Rize to see what krumpin’ is about. “Nancy was krumpin’ last night and turned the whole party out.”

1. adj. Wild and exhilarating. Taking it to the next level of excitement or fun. “That party last night was krunk as hell.”

1. A weakness. “Boy, that girl is my kryptonite.”

1. n. A stand of marijuana. “We only smoke that kush… that presidnetial sh*t from George Bush.” Lyrical reference: LIL’ WAYNE – Kush Yeah, and we smoke that kush
Yeah, that kush
Yeah, and we ball like swoosh
Yeah, like swoosh [x2]

1. v. trivial theft “Dude, he just kyped that black nail polish from Hot Topic!”

1. see “blunt.”

L 7
1. Another way of calling someone a square or a nerd. Derived from text messaging- it looks like “a square.” “Man that dudes an L 7.”

La La
1. A term for marijuana. “Smoke that la la.”

la la land
1. n. a fanciful state of mind or dream land. Also can refer to Los Angeles.

1. A word to describe something or someone that is no good, worthless or that you just don’t like. “Joe is one lame basketball player.”

1. A term used to describe thin unattractive females. (Can also be used in conjunction with the term “grenades.” For example: Last nights dance had nothing but grenades and landmines, dang!) “5th period gym class got nothin’ but landmines.”

1. (derived from “later”)Something to say when leaving, as if to say “I’m out of here.”

1. A term for the Police. “Cool out nephew, them laws is coming around the corner again.”

lay the smack down
1. See “smackdown.”

1. marijuana.

1. a drink made of promethazine and codeine mixed with Sprite. Originally founded in Houston, TX, but made popular by Lil Wayne. “Aye yo son, im sippin on that lean.”

learn you
1. to teach someone a lesson. “Boy, I’m gonna learn you!”

let’s bounce
1. Something said when it is time to leave. Let us leave the premises now.

let’s roll
1. a phrase used to express that it is time to leave. See “let’s bounce.”

1. To fire up or fire shots. To commence. “Da boi was charged up wit adrenalin’–licked 3 shots in the head and did him in…” 2. drunk or high “I’m licked Dogg.”

lick, the
1. the best. “Man, those new shoes are the lick!” see “the bomb.”

light some trees
1. smoking marijuana.

like a boss
1. To do something really cool or well. “Zach can sing like a boss.”

1. Essentially, a lipdub is a music video done in one take with a variety of people singing along. A lipdub may not be as common among all teens, but a lot of libdubs have been popping up on the Internet.

lit or lit up
1. Refers to being drunk or high.

1. very good. Usually a place – the place to be. “You coming to Jimmy’s party Friday. It’s gonna be live!”

1. n. Another texting and secret code accronym in refference to “laughing my a** off.” “When Jessica fell in that puddle I LMAO.”

1. a “netspeak” term used to say, “let’s meet in real life”.

1. Latino slang for loco (crazy). Often used as a term of endearment like holmes’ or fool’ or the n word. “Wat up loc; you rollin’ wit us or what?”

1. n. a person who eats only (or mostly) locally grown or produced foods.

lock up
1. To fight. “You keep talkin’ smack and we’re gonna to lock up.”

1. n. To dominate in an area of expertise or to have a location completely reserved whereas no one can take your position or space. “Pit got it locked from the brews to the locker.” Lyrical reference: PITBULL’S – I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) Six to the clock on the way to the top uh,

Pit got it locked from the brews to the locker

1. an acronym for laugh out loud.

1. see “down low.” “slang for sunglasses.” 2. Yo, I’m about to run to the mall and scoop up som mo’ lo-lo’s.

1. n. money, cash usually in large quantity. “I finally came up on that loot to cop that ride I’ve been wanting.”

low it
1. v./ adj. To forget about it or to forget something; to let an issue go. “That judge was trippin’ with me, but I’ma low it.” 2. Short for, allow it.

1. To hit someone hard enough to cause a lump or bruise. “Yo, you better step off before I lump you up!”

1. acting crazy, hyper, not of the norm; funny. “That dude is lunchin.”

1. marijuana.

1. alright. A little above mediocre. “Do you like that youth pastor?” Yea, he’s M&M.;”

1. n. text code for motherf*#^er; you begin with “m” (for mother) then 10 (for the next 10 letters) followed by “r” Often used in texting, also seen as ml0r “I can’t believe this m10r… he’s gonna give us a pop quiz today!”

ma duke
1. n. slang for mother “You can cap all you want, just don’t talk about ma dukes or it’s gonna be on dog.”

ma or mami
1. a female, usually Spanish or Puerto Rican. Usually used in a pick up line. “Hey ma. You lookin’ good tonight.”

1. v. To steal or take advantage of. “Yo . . . free pizza? I’m going to mack on some of that!” 2. To make a pass at someone or try to get sexual favor. Male flirting. “Quit mackin on them bootsie-lookin hoochies over there!” 3. n. Someone who “macks.” See “playa.” ““Check out Jesse over there with them chassies . . . he thinks he’s the mack!””

1. adv. an adverb that means to have a large amount of. Extreme. See “mad hops” or “mad skills”

mad dawg
1. v. (pronounced “mad dog”) To stare someone up and down from head to foot as if to initiate a fight. “You best not be mad dawging me boy . . . I’ll bust you up!”

mad skills
1. an incredible ability to jump high.

making cookies
1. having sex. Usually used as a code term to warn friends not to come by and interrupt.

man up!
1. a term used to suggest to a friend or otherwise to not be a wuss about a certain issue. Frequently used when talking about beer drinking. “Ugh, my stomach hurts…I can’t drink tonight.” “Man up and drink some beers!”

man, the
1. n. a policeman. “Watch out! It’s the man!” 2. a guy who is extremely cool. “Thanks for the hook up. You’re the man!”

1. See gigolo.

1. n. a brief one piece swim suit for men with a t-back. (almost looks like a wrestling suit).

1. The most often used illegal drug in the US. A product of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. It can be smoked in a cigarette called a “joint” or in a water pipe, called a “bong,” or can be mixed into food or brewed as tea. Other slang names used are: Aunt Mary, Boom, Chronic (Marijuana alone or with crack), Dope, Gangster, Ganja, Grass, Hash, Herb, Kif, Mary Jane, Pot, Reefer, Sinsemilla, Skunk, Weed.

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

1. To chill or relax. “What’s up Mike? Not much, just marinating.”

1. Anyone identified as an easy target, or “sucka.” Also can be someone who is soft, a sell-out or a wimp. “Doug is such a mark.”

Mary or Mary Jane
1. Marijuana. (Please also see our definition for “marijuana”.) “Do you know Mary? Do you know where I can find Mary?”

mean muggin
1. v. When someone looks hard at you or passes on a dirty look as if they’re ‘hating on you.’ “Man, dude was mean muggin when he fount out you was makin’ cookies wit his ol-G.” Lyrical reference: B.G.’s MOVE AROUND – I Am What I AM Album: Heart of the Streetz, Vol.2, 2006 I hold it down, never bound, out of state thuggin’
I don’t be trippin when the haters go to mean-muggin’ (muggin’)
I keep a strap in the hand so I keep stuntin’ (stuntin’)

1. v. to beat someone to death, to abuse or kill someone. (Also, murkage, murkism) (See “murk”) “Keshawn keep on acting like a punk he gonna get merked hanging w/ them fools from the East Side.”

1. Shortened term for Crystal Methamphetamine, a very dangerous drug.

1. an addictive stimulant that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. It is a crystal-like powdered substance that sometimes comes in large rock-like chunks. It can be taken orally, injected, snorted or smoked. Other slang names used are: chalk, crank, croak, crypto, crystal, fire, glass, meth, tweek, white cross.

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

1. A term used to describe mid grade or “ok” weed/marijuana. “Yo, that weed we got from Reggie was mid!”

1. A very foul term for someone’s mother that is very attractive. The word is an acronym for a “Mother that I’d Like to Fu**”

1. adj. a female’s sexual appeal. Derrived from Kelis’ song ‘My milkshake is better than yours’. “Janice got that milkshake that make everybody wanna get wit’ her.” 2. Also as a reference to vaginal discharge.

1. n. a person who looks a lot like another person only they are smaller or younger.

1. A long time. Not just 60 seconds. “Dang! I haven’t seen you in a minute, girl, where you been?”

1. n. street name for the drug Ecstasy. “Jason ain’t nothing but a tweaker; I swear he’s in love with Mitzi!”

mob (or M.O.B.)
1. v. To leave or depart in a hurry with many people. “Thangs is getting crazy like something’ bout to jump off, man we bout to mob out.” 2. n. An acronym meaning: Money Over Bit%&’es made popular by 2pac. “I keeps my attitude at M.O.B. status; it’s just pimpology baby, just pimpology.”

1. n. Short for mother f***er; often used by kids around their parents or adults who are opposed to vulgar language so that they are not understood while using it.

1. adj./adv. Right on the mark. To be excellent. “Yo . . . Billie . . . you are money” “Billy is our leading scorer on the team. He’s the money.” 2. a name you call your friend. See “g-money.” “Yo money, check this out.”

money long
1. n. to have a lot of money; ballin, or rolling in dough. “Don’t get it twisted, my money’s long.”

1. n. A girl’s genetalia.

muffin top
1. n. a person who has fat that hangs over their jeans (usually tight jeans) like the top of a muffin. (Also see “skank fat”) “Check out that muffin top over there flirtin with James.”

muffin’ stuffin’
1. v. having sex. “Yo imma be stuffin that muffin tonight.”

1. Face. Derived from mug-shot.

1. n. a person who is not familiar with a specific activity or skill.

1. n. A word used to refer to money, usually in large quantities. “As soon as I come up on some mula, I gonna cop me a new ride.”

1. v. to beat someone to death, to abuse or kill someone. (Also, murkage, murkism) (See “murk”) “Keshawn keep on acting like a punk he gonna get murked hanging w/ them fools from the East Side.”

1. Mushrooms have hallucinogenic principles (psilocybin or psilocyn). Psilocybin is similar to serotonin, and produces its effects by disrupting normal functioning of the serotonin system. They can be eaten or brewed in tea. Other slang names used are: caps, magic mushrooms, shrooms.

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

my bad
1. a phrase said to admit guilt in a situation. “Oh, that’s not your grandma, that’s your mom? My bad!”

my nizzle
1. A Euphemism for nig***. A name you call your close friend. (although, white people might want to not use this word because of it’s racist root word). “Wassup my nizzle!”

1. short for you know what I mean. “Them cops was trippin’ with us, nah-mean?” Also see ya’ mean.”

1. adj. tightly coiled, curled or tangled hair. Hair distinctive to some Africans or African Americans while in its natural state, or locked in dreads “Yo Mamma hair is so nappy, she got to take a Tylenol just to comb it!”

nappy dugout
1. n. A slang word for a woman’s vagina. The word was made known by George Clinton and the Funkadelics and later tapped by Ice Cube in his song “givin up the nappy dugout.” The term was also used in the film “Bulworth” by Warren Beaty’s character after he picked up the term hanging in the hood. “the nappy dugout, its where you gets the bugout–from Bulworth”

1. A word used to describe something that is ridiculously good or someone who is excellent in what they do. “Kobe was nasty on that basketball court last night.”

1. v. Let’s go. “Lets navigate.”

1. v. slang for oral sex. “Hey dog, I’m goin out wit Valarie; I heard she give good neck.”

1. Euphemism for nig***. Also another variation is “nikkah” or “nigga”

1. n. A friend or acquaintance. A revised version of ni**a, as per Snoop Dogg. Replaces earlier terms such as homie, etc. “What’s up my nephew?” or… “Have you seen that nephew?”

Netflix and chill
1. v. hang out and have sex

newbie (NooB)
1. n. Someone who is new to a particular activity, specifically a game, concept or forum.

1. A filler used in a conversation to compliment and identify something as cool or tight. “Yo did you hear Joey Manifesto spit; the kid is nice on the mic.”

1. a variation of the word nigger. Generally used by African Americans for a close acquaintance or term of endearment. See also nikkah, nurga, nugga and necka. “Hey, wassup my nigga!”

1. Euphemism for nig***. Also other variations are “necka” or “nigga”

1. n. A nine millimeter semi-automatic pistol. “Man, you best stop mad dawging me or I’ll whip out my nine and bust a cap in your #*^%!”

1. A word that African Americans use for “my nigga” as in like a friend.

nitty gritty
1. To get down to business; to take care of serious things. “Screw all that B.S.; let’s get down to the nitty gritty.”

1. see “my nizzle.”

1. Someone who doesn’t have the basic knowledge when it comes to pop culture, tech terms or just generally what seems to be “in” that week.

1. Chicano and Hispanic gangs usually from the northern part of California who wear the color red, symbolizing their gang, hood, and the northern region. These gangs usually do not get along/rival with the sureno gangs of the southern region of California “Aye Homie, I think that fool is a norteno.”

nug (also – nugs)
1. n. High quality marijuana, usually dried out and shaped like a ‘nugget’. “Wow, look at the size of that nug.”

nurga (nugga)
1. n. Less harsh way of saying nigga. “Look here nurga…you betta have my money when I come over today!”

1. Over doing it. “Dashawn you o.d.’in with them chips.”

1. Derived from “Orginal Gangsta.” A term referring to a real gangster, not one of the “many wanna-be’s posing” out there. The term was popularized by old school rapper Ice-T in his song “O.G.” back in the 90’s. The term then gained commercial notoriety. Lyrical reference: O.G. – ICE-T (Album: O.G. Original Gangster, 1991)

O.G. style
1. A way of saying that you did something gangster. **See O.G. “You did that all O-G style dawg.”

1. adj. obviously

off the chain
1. fun or exciting. See “off the hook.”

off the heezy
1. or “off the heezy for sheezy” meaning very cool. See “off the hook.”

off the hizzle
1. Meaning beyond cool or chic. Also see “off the hook” “Those new boots are off the hizzle.”

off the hook
1. Exceptionally good. “Did you see John’s new 22” spinners? They was “off the hook!”

off your rector
1. (derived from “off your rector scale”)Acting out of control. Rambunctious. “Girl, you are off your rector . . . now get down off the top of his car!”

oh snap!
1. A phrase uttered in disbelief or when something bad happens. “Oh snap! Look who just walked in here!” “Oh snap. I forgot my math again!”

1. adj. To be high or drunk. “Corry went to that party after the game and got oily than a mug. He was looking so stupid falling all on the dance floor.” 2. adj. To stand out above the rest in coolness or good looks (like how oil separates from water). “That bi*ch Tracy looking to oily, forget these other h*es; I’m tapping that tonight!”

old school
1. adj./adv. Anything that is old, but not necessarily bad. In reference to music, it may be referring to it as “the good ‘‘ol” music. “Hey Kelly, why you playing that old school song?” “Cause old school’s tight!”

1. an acronym for “oh my god”. Mostly used to express excitement or disbelief.

on fire
1. Extremely good, often in sports. “Lebron was on fire last night.”

on his/her/my/your jock
1. obsessed with a guy or girl. “Billy, why them hoochies on your jock?”

on point
1. v. To be aware. 2. v. To be up to par or to meet the standards. “Eh, homie! You better stay on point when your slangin’ that herb.”

on the real
1. n. A term used to refer to the seriousness of an event or statement; similar to the phrase “Real Talk.” “Yo Son, on the real, if the kid keep talking all that smack I’m a have to cap him.”

on what
1. n. a term used to swear on something to prove that your truthfulness. “On what fool; you really got wit Nisha? On ma dukes boy; I hit that last year.”

1. A term that encourages unity or oneness. Primarily used as a phrase of dismissal to say as you are leaving or going away. “Yo shorty you goin home……aight one.” or on the phone. “Yo, I gotta go.” “Aight, later, one.” “One.”

ones and twos
1. A DJ’s turntable set. Two turntables that are used by a DJ. “Hey Joey, is DJ promote, spinning on the ones and twos tonight?”

1. n. a policeman. “Watch out! One-time!” 2. n. a person who commits one offense and is now watched by the police. This term was derived when laws were passed during the late 80’s and early 90’s for cruising. If the same police officer saw you three times, they could pull you over and cite you for cruising. Thus, the term started when cruisers would cry out when a police was cited the “first time” “Yo, that’s one time!” The term became popularized by Ice Cube, Compton’s Most Wanted, Ice T, and Tupac Shakur in many of their songs.

1. n. a girl with a large posterior or buttocks. “Check out the fine onion on that betty.”

1. adj. an outcry or exclamation. “I saw baby girl on the dance floor and I was like, “Ooowee you fine.”” 2. n. Drugs. Usually very strong drugs that can cause you to lose control or hallucinate. “I know I was actin’ a fool cause I was on that Ooowee!” 3. adj. a term that expresses awe or amazement. Usually followed up with man (Ooowee man) “When everybody ran out o’ the mall, I was like, “Ooowee man, who shootin’ up in here?””

open up a can
1. v. (derived from “open up a can of whoop-a_ _”) To take an action of enforcement. To punish or hurt. “Man, if you don’t stop buggin I’m going to open a can on you!”

outie 5000
1. n. (derived from “outa here” mixed with the car the Audi 5000) A saying conveying that a person is about to depart. As if to say “time to leave!” Some shorten it and just say “5000!” **Also see Audi or Audi 5.O “Jesse . . . we’re outtie 5000!”

1. To master or ace a person or a thing till you control it. “I own that move the dancefloor baby, you can’t use that.”

pack it up
1. to get out of somewhere very quickly. “Pewee just called & said Po Po is coming, we gotta pack it up right now!” 2. v. to pack marijuana into a pipe or bong. “They all was telling to pack it up, but I said if you didn’t put 5 on it you can’t run the weed session!”

1. An old school term still used in some parts for house. “Yo lets go chill at my pad.”

1. n. money “I got to get me some paper if I’m going to be rollin’ with them.” 2. n. the papers used to roll joints

1. Someone who is on parole or on probation “I don’t smoke weed- I’m on papers. ”

1. v. relaxing and communicating, like sitting and talking to a female. “Check out Reggie parlayin with Shana.”

1. n. An individual’s significant other; sexual partner and/or friend with benefits; usually used to identify a homosexual’s girlfriend/boyfriend. “Hey, is that Mariah’s Partner?”

1. n. (pronounced “pawt-na”) From “partner.” A friend. A loyal associate. “Was’up pawtna!”

1. To be shut down, instead of saying “snap.” “Dude, you just got payned!”

1. (phencyclidine) has sedative and anesthetic effects that are trance-like, and causes one to experience a feeling of being “out of body” and detached from their environment. It is a white crystalline powder that is soluble in water or alcohol. PCP turns up on the street in a variety of tablets, capsules, and colored powders. PCP can be snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed and is most commonly sold as a powder or liquid and applied to a leafy material such as mint, parsley, oregano, tobacco, or marijuana. Other slang terms for this drug are: Angel Dust, Embalming Fluid, Killer Weed, Rocket Fuel, Supergrass, Wack, Ozone.

This information was obtained from Please also see their website for more information.

1. good bye. See also “peace out.”

peace out
1. a farewell remark. To say to someone, especially a friend, “good bye.”

1. n. Someone whose acting like a chump or immature. “I ain’t letting Mikie come with us to the park no more; he ain’t nothing but a peanut!”

1. To leave. “I’ll catch you later. I’m about to pearl.”

1. n. a basketball.

peep ‘dis
1. v. an order given to observe or to listen–to check out. “Yo G, peep this triflin’ shawty.”

1. short for “peoples.” Meaning friends and family. “Props to my peeps.”

1. adj. Someone who is very attractive, physically fit and sexy. “Look at that girl, she is so peng; I gotts to get her number or email or sumthin’!”

1. n. friends, companions or acquaintances. “I got all my peoples out on 100th and Crenshaw!”

1. to imitate or try to be something you’re not. “Why is that wigga always perpetratin!”

1. adj./adv. (pronounced “fat”) Very good, cool, top notch. Also used as an acronym, pretty hot and tempting. “His corvette was phat!” 2. Also seen as “actin like you phat” which means actin’ like you are cool, tough, or something special.

1. adv. (pronounced “fatty”) Incredibly good, cool, top notch. Usually in admiration of a feat or trick. “That 360 in the air was phatty!” 2. a large joint – marijuana. See “blunt.”

1. An acronym/euphemism for “playa hata degree.” Someone who tries to mess up a “playa’s chance with women (his “game”) “Tomesha has a PHD. She’s always messing up my game!” 2. A teacher or authority figure who seems to have something against “playas” or “gangster-like” students.

photo bomb
1. When a person or object is in a picture accidentally or intentionally and as a result, ruins the photo.

1. n. Also “piece of a**” (posterior) A derogatory term for a female, usually one being used for sexual favor, with derogatory intonations of a lack of emotion. “Nah-uh, Dawg, she aint my boo. She just a piece.” 2. sex. “I’m a go over Tanisha’s and get me a piece.” 3. n. a gun or weapon. “Back off, I’m carrying a piece.”

1. Describing some super quality weed/marijuana. “Yo, my cuz got the piff.”

1. an ugly girl. “Quit mackin’ on those pigeons over there.” 2. a girl who goes with all the guys, whether or not she has a boyfriend, usually just for sexual favors.

1. adj. Very admirable or desirable. Extremely good. “Check out his pimp ride!” 2. n. a male who is extremely admirable, especially with the women. “Take notes fellas, I’m the pimp!”

1. Someone extremely “pimp.” See “pimp.” The pimp of all pimps. Someone who excels in all the qualities of pimpdom. “Look at Billy pimpin all dem ho’s. He’s the pimp-daddy braw!”

1. n. a pimp in training; a pimp apprentice. “Did you see them pimpershcnaps trying to talk to Sheila and Tasha after school?”

1. Something very cool or ghetto fabulouse “Hey dawg, them new sneakers by Tha Game is pimpin’ I’ma get some of those next week.” 2. A guy trying to pick up on girls. “Look at him pimpin’.”

playa (player)
1. (pronounced “playa”)The male version of the word “Ho.” A male, who is perceived as very promiscuous, usually even bragging to others about his sexual escapades. This male might “date” a lot of the opposite sex at the same time. Or someone who has a different girlfriend or boyfriend every week or so. “Sheila, you ain’t all that. John’s a player, and you the flavor of the week!”

1. n. a person who is an inferior, an idiot, or inept. “That dude is a straight up pleb.”

1. n. To have a grudge, conflict or a problem with someone. “I ain’t goin with y’all if Nisha is coming cause we still plexin’ about her tryin’ to steal my man.”

1. n. A term used in reference to money; usually large amounts of money. “Yo, Bill Gates’ pockets are deep.”

1. n. Nick name used for cop or police, such as 5-0 or ‘Po-po’ “Kill all that whooptidoo, Po-nine just walked in the building so chill!”

1. . Someone inferior. Someone, usually female, that is looked down upon. “Check out that poodle over there by herself!”

pop off
1. The provoking or initiating of a fight or confrontation. “Watch your back tonight, cause some stuff gonna pop off.”

1. n. (pronounced poe-poe) a policeman. “Whatch out! It’s the po po!”

1. A ghetto way of saying what’s going on. “Yo, whaz popin?” 2. To initiate the activity and involvement of something; to start something. “Let’s get this party poppin.” 3. n. something that’s very cool. “Shawty keep it on and poppin’.”

poppin’ bottles
1. Getting drunk. “At the party they will be poppin’ bottles.”

1. Perfect, as in ‘Mary Poppins is perfect in every way.’

1. Refers to “parent over shoulder” and is used (typed) when a parent is around and may be looking over the shoulder of their kid while they are chatting, texting, etc. No one goes around saying “POS” out loud — nor would you say LOL (laugh out loud), WTF (what the f–k), BRB (be right back) or SMH (shaking my head), but this word is just for texting and chatting.

1. someone who immitates or tries to be something he is not. See perpetratin’ “Check out that cracker over there thinking he’s all ghetto. He’s a straight up poser.”

post up or posted up
1. To stay in one place. Derived from drug dealers on street corners. Staying on the corner in one place, like a street post. “I was posted up all day on E. 14th.”

1. It means to be somewhere. Usually by yourself. “The Po was posted on the corner waitin to bust the party.”

1. n. short for Newport cigarette. “DD is a nicotine fiend. He was smoking potes since he was 5!”

1. Fine or good. “She be potent!” “That weed is potent.”

pound it
1. something you say when you want to greet someone with the ghetto high-five- by tapping your fist on theirs and vice-versa.

1. n. A brandname of clothes and fashion accessories like Gucci or Fendi “If you love me I want you to buy me a Prada knapsack, with the hat to match.”

1. n. a pimped out car. “Once I get my p-ride on the streets wit this new system, all the girls gonna be up on it!”

1. n. Favor or admiration credited to a person because of something done. A verbal recognition of good achievement.

1. little girls that wear tight low cut jeans and belly shirts like Brittany Spears “Check out those prostitots over there. What ya think . . . are they 11? 12?”

1. A term that refers to the smoking of marijuana. “Baby, I’m about to roll over to Jay Jay’s house to puff that weed.”

puff-puff pass
1. v. a procedure that people do when smoking marijuana; basically consisting of taking two inhales of the weed (puff-puff) then passing it on to the next person. This term was made famous by Chris Tucker in the film Fridays with Ice Cube. “We all put five on this stanky-dank, so stick with the rules: PUFF-PUFF PASS!”

1. Adj. A British slang term used to describe something as great, genuine, or first class. “Those boots you wearing are pukka my man!”

pump it up
1. v. To engage in sexual intercourse, from the male perspective.

Pump yo brakes
1. v. stop whatever it is you’re doing or are about to do. “I’m bout to go holla at Kianna.” ” Ay, dawg. Pump yo brakes, she a gold digga.”

1. (v.) Steal or take something. “Did you punk the last ding-dong?” “I heard Gena’s car got punked.”

1. Embarassed by someone else.

purple state
1. n. a U.S. state where the two main political parties (Republican and Democrat) have about the same level of support among voters.

Purple Urple (a.k.a. Purple Haze)
1. n. A strong strain of sativa cannabis, usually containing leaves with a purplish tint or purple fibers. “Yo, I got some bomb purple haze with me tonight; its gonna get us seriously faded.”

purps, purple urple
1. a term for a strong strain of marijuana that has purple leaves. “JJ told me that he had some purple urple if I wanted to come by, but I told him that I’m off them grapes, I’m trying to clean my life up.”

1. n. One who sells narcotics/drugs illegally. A drug dealer.

1. the illegal distribution of drugs. “That fool better keep all his info on the low or he’s gonna do some real time for pushin’ weight, all that weight.” Lyrical reference: Pushin’ Weight; Ice Cube & Mr. Short KHOP A yeah yeah
I push rhymes like weight
I push rhymes like weight

put that on
1. Asking for or verifying authenticity. Like to ask “you swear!” “or I swear by my mom’s grave.” “”Tim got a new car!” “Put that on!” “I put that on!” or “I put that on everything!””

1. adj. A Spanish slang which means ‘whore’ or prostitute. “You are the son of a puta!”

putting me on blast
1. to be publicity disciplined or to have someone raise their voice at you. Similar to “putting someone on the spot.” “Why was that teacher putting me on the blast?”

1. pwned is spelled with a “p” and is pronounced ‘owned.’ It likely originated in an online game called “Warcraft” where a map designer misspelled “owned.” When the computer beat a player, it was supposed to say, “has been owned.” Being owned means someone just proved you wrong, but it could also be positive. If you did well on a test, uou pwned that test.

1. n. A term in reference to a quarter ounce bag of marijuana. “Aye yo son lets get a quarter off of Johnny.”

1. n. A homosexual male who is extremely flamboyant and exemplifies many female traits and gestures. “I’ve seen some gay people in my life, but that fool is straight up a queen.”

R. Kelly
1. v. To have sexual relations with a younger woman. Because R&B; singer R. Kelly has that reputation. *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. “Why you R. Kellyin’ those jr. high girls, One time?”

1. n. refers to a woman’s breasts. “Check out the rack on that one!”

1. adj. Worn or broken down. See “tore up.” “Get your raggedy ride out a here poser!”

1. adj. wild, crazy, out of control. “These girls out here are so ratchet; they will do anything for money.” 2. n. slang for a gun derived from using the word “tool” for a gun. “I had to pull out the ratchet when those fools was actin’ up.”

1. adj. anything pure or untampered with. Hardcore or very intense “I don’t even like to joke with Mr. Jones, he raw then a mug.” 2. adv. Sex without a condom “Ol’ Dirt used to sing how he liked it raw, until he died.”

Real Talk
1. The Truth.Something very serious. “I can’t stand it when these so-called rappers be tryin’ to rap about how hard they are when they just studio gangsta’s and dat’s real talk.”

1. v. (pronounced reh cug nize) To respect. “Boy you better recognize!”

1. adj. a lighter complexion African American female. “I want to go to New Orleans this summer and pull some of them redbone girls!” Lyrical reference: BEYONCE – Creole So all my red bones get on the floor
And all my yellow bones get on the floor
And all my brown bones get on the floor
Then you mix it up and you call it creole

1. n. an ironic term used to indicate something that is beyond ridiculous, being extremely absurd. “Dang that girl’s booty is redonkulous.”

1. The word “nigger” pronounced backwardly so as to not be confronted for using such a racist term; a term usually used by the racist. “Check out that reggin. What is he doing around these parts?”

1. A term used for marijuana, usually after the compressed nuggets are broken up and the seeds are separated from the cannibis. “Aye Son, you got that relish?”

1. Another way of saying relative or friend. “Matt is my relli.”

1. Trying to do your best; to achieve some respect. Also means to literally represent your geographical location; typically through area codes and or street names/city districts. “I’m just tryin’ to represent.” or “Yo, we representing the 408 up in here!”

1. n. The house or the place where someone resides. “Hey meet me at the rest and we’ll rock some o dat new playstation.”

1. A term used by drug dealers and users referring to the need to restock on the product(s) that were sold or used. “I need to go hit up the big homie and reup on that herb.” 2. The term is also used in reference to the profit a drug dealer makes in comparison to what he paid for the product he sold and capitalized on.

1. n. Someone’s mode of transportation. A car. “Check out his pimp ride!” 2. to have sex. “Girl, do you wanna ride tonight?”

ride on
1. Refers to approaching or sneaking up on an individual unannounced and then beating them up. “On the real, let’s go Ride On that fool.”

rider (ryder)
1. A person who is involved in gangbanging or in the street hustle game. “You see them cats Matt be hanging with? He a rider fo sho!” 2. A person who is down with their crew or clique and gets in on the action. Does not have any gang affiliation but is down for life. “Jeff is my boy, we rider’s for life!”

riding dirty
1. Driving with drugs or drug paraphernalia. “”I know these fools wanna catch me riding dirty.””

RIP Dolla
1. n. A popular term being tweeted and sent over Facebook to commemorate the rapper Dolla who was murdered hours after posting through tweeter his location.

rip squad
1. A term used to describe someone else’s embarrassment typically in basketball when a shot is blocked and or stolen from the opponent. “Charlie stuffed Jason in that last shot; Charlie on the rip squad!”

rise up
1. to warn someone away, as if to say to “back off.” (see “step off”) “Man you best be risin’ up off me!”

1. the trade name for methylphenidate. A medication prescribed for children with an abnormally high level of activity or with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is also occasionally prescribed for treating narcolepsy. It stimulates the central nervous system, with effects similar to but less potent than amphetamines and more potent than caffeine. Ritalin has a notably calming effect on hyperactive children and a “focusing” effect on those with ADHD. When taken as prescribed, Ritalin is a valuable medicine. Further, research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health has shown that people with ADHD do not get addicted to their stimulant medications at treatment dosages. Because of its stimulant properties, however, in recent years there have been reports of its abuse by people for whom it is not a medication. These prescription tablets can create powerful stimulant effects and serious health risks when crushed and then snorted like cocaine, or injected like heroin. Ritalin is in pill or tablet form. Other slang names used for Ritalin are: kibbles and bits or pineapple.

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1. crack-cocaine. Sometimes used as a term for drugs in general. 2. n. A mixture of cocaine and baking soda; creating crack, then broken down into small nuggets and smoked. “Yo, that undercover cop locked up Tracey for selling him six rocks.”

1. v. to wear something, generally in a ‘show-off’ type of way. “Did you see Genine rockin’ her skinny jeans yesterday?”

1. n. fat or big diamonds.

1. to leave. (see “roll-out” and “let’s roll.”)

roll out
1. v. to leave. “We ’bout to roll out.”

1. A female who sleeps around with lots of guys. “Karen is such a rolla.”

1. chillin’, hangin’ out, rollin’ with the flow, takin’ what life gives you. “I’m rollin’ with the homies.” 2. a term used when under the influence of Exstasy(x). “Hey, are you rollin?”

1. n. Ecstasy pills. “Many I took two rolls last night at the concert and I was rollin like a fool!”

1. v. To arrive, mainly through the use of a car. “Eh, I say we roll up to that party tonight and roll up on that fool James.” 2. Something that an enemy would do to sneak up on you; also to interact or address another person aggressively, particularly an enemy. “Let’s roll up on those fellas and bust a cap!” 3. To fight. “Roll up, fool!”

1. n. Dollars. Used mostly as a euphemism in prostitution circles. Sometimes also referred to as “flowers.” “She said that she’d do whatever you wanted to for a donation of 100 roses.”

1. n. to be sloppy drunk. “Tasha was so rummy last night that I thought she was gonna get date-dapped.”

1. v. A command to surrender your valuables. “Yo fool, run that watch, them sneakers and that ice-grill right now or I’m-a blaze this heata!”

run and tell that
1. A phrase which means to tell the truth, speak truth, tell it as it is, and to spread the word quickly to many people. “Yo, you got’s to run and tell that good news about Jesuz!”

runnin’ game
1. See “spittin’ game.”

1. n. It’s okay… A question used to reassure someone. “S’okay…I was just buggin’ y’know?”

1. (derived from “s’allrigh” or “it’s all right”) everything is okay, no problems. “J.T., you want me to help you with that?” “S’righ”

S.T. Rugglin
1. a name given to someone who is struggling. “You’re S.T. rugglin.”

1. abbreviation for “sucks to be you.” Often a put down used in texting. “I sw you wt Franklin at the mall …s.t.b.y.”

1. n. A bag (usually a zip lock bag) of marijuana/weed. The term usually is preceded by the dollar amount. *See also the term “dub sack” which refers to $20 worth of marijuana. “Tonight I’m gonna get faded off this dub sack I just bought.” 2. A slang term for the male scrotum.

1. adj. Someone who is trustworthy or a friend. “Don’t worry about Tyrone, that fool safe.”

1. to have a bad attitude towards someone or something. “Don’t be all salty with me!”

1. To be extremely drunk. “Man we got sauced last night at that party.”

say my name
1. an exclamation used to intimidate or used for celebration. If someone just scored a touchdown they might say, “Say my name (insert cruel noun here)!”

1. n. A term used for cocain that is smuggled over. “If you get caught bringing over that scale you’ll be doing some serious time in Federal son.”

1. n. whore, slut; generally a lady of ill repute. “Dude, I’m not gonna talk to any of these Scally’s around here, I ain’t got no protection for that!”

1. v. The act of using someone for a sexual favor without liking them.(see “mack”) 2. n. A title given to the person used in this process.

1. n. A quater key of crack cocane; term mainly used on the west coast. “I’m so pimp, I can cover pay roll with sceolla and still have scraps from that!”

1. to show superiority by teaching someone a lesson or showing someone how to do something. To beat someone in a competition. “Man, give me that ball, I’m going to school you!”

1. n. term that is short for San Francisco. “Let’s make it up to sco this weekend and get some yay-freaks.”

1. v. when a boy puts his hand under a girls bra and feels her breast or puts his hands down the front of her pants. “Joe was scooping Nesha at the movies on the low, but everybody knew what was up.”

1. v. A term used in reference to succeeding in the aim to have sex with another person. “I think I’m gonna score with Angel tonight.” 2. n. a term used to reference making fun of someone. “I can’t believe you let Fat Boi score on you like that; that was hilarious.”

1. v. to fight.

1. n. East Coast slang for money or dollars. “I gotta go hit them streets and collect my scrappa.”

1. n. Money, cash. “Look cousin, we ain’t going to Six Flags if we ain’t got no scratch, so you might as well stop talking about it!” 2. v. to engage in a sexual act with someone, usually but not limited to mutual masturbation. “Aye baby, you lookin’ hot tonight, you need to let me scratch that itch you got.”

1. n. a person in their teens or twenties who is good with computers or the internet.

1. A word made by the accidental combination of creepy and scary. It can be used in place of either word. “That is one screepy lookin’ guy.”

1. n. slowed down rap music aka ‘chopped and screwed’ made famous in the south by DJ Screw. “I don’t bump nothin’ but that screw afta 11.” Lyrical reference: DRAKE’S NOV.18 ALBUM – So Far Gone, 2009 I’m in Houston
Candy paint switchin colors in the light
It’s about like 11 p.m
And we just rollin through the city
Bumpin that screw

scrilla or scrill
1. n. money.

1. n. A person who is poor and has little to no money. The group T.L.C. popularized the word back in the 90’s with their song “No Scrub.” In the song they actually define the term. “Man, I ain’t hangin’ out with them scrubs; we’ll have to pay for their lunch and bus fare!”

seed or seeds
1. n. kids, a person’s offspring or posterity. “She look good, but she got them seeds.”

sellin’ out
1. Someone who switches their beliefs or passion all the time. “Dan is always sellin’ out.”

selling woof tickets
1. Trying to get someone to believe a falsity. Spreading lies. “Girl, you be jawsin . . . you’re jus’ selling woof tickets.”

1. v. To beat someone up. To violently assault a person. To deliver an unwelcomed gesture, word or an act to an individual. “In a minute I’m about to roll over to that party and serve that fool Chris.” 2. To confront or embarrass someone publicly. “Paula got served last night by Bridget, Tina and Kiesha when she tried to act all bougie at the mall.”

1. n. sending sexually explicit messages or pictures via cell phone.

sexy back
1. derived from Justin Timberlake’s song “Sexy Back,” where he claimed to bring “sexy back.” Someone who brings sexy back is simply claiming that they are the definition of “sexy.”

1. Ugly and generally not good. “Those clothes are so shabby.”

1. n. bad or loose weed (as opposed to tightly packed buds). “Say dogg, we ain’t goin’ to get no more sacks from yo cousin, all that fool got is shake!”

1. n. Not definite, resky, not very skillful. “Brandon’s skills at driving are kinda’ shaky after she kills mad beers.”

1. To stab or cut someone. “In jail, if you’re not careful you might get shanked.”

1. A good looking female. **See “shorty.” “Oh snap. Look at that sexy shawty over there.”

1. A cigarette or marijuana coated in PCP or formaldehyde (embalming fluid); a hallucinogen narcotic that is smoked. Also see “sherm stick.” “I can’t believe Stevie messes with sherm now!”

sherm stick
1. A cigarette or joint that is dipped in PCP or formaldehyde and is smoked. Also see “sherm.” “Yo, I spotted your little sister smoken’ a sherm stick the other night.”

1. A femalo hero. “Superwoman is such a shero.”

1. v. To be really high off some good marijuana. “Whew man, this weed has me shhmokin’.”

1. A person who cannot be trusted. When a friend does something that makes you question how good a friend that person actually is. “Yo he slept with your girl. Shifty!”

1. See “shizzle.”

1. Something very good. “Did you see T.J. play in the last game? He was the shizzle.” 2. Sure; when used as “fo shizzle” it means for sure. 3. A euphemism for shi*

shizzy (the shizzy)
1. Something very good. Derived from “the s**t. “She think she the shizzy now that she hooked up wif Adam.”

1. A euphemism for shoot. Also darn, heck, or many four letter words. “Shoo girl, I kow what you talkin’ about!”

1. n. a good looking female. **See “dime-piece” 2. A girldfriend. **See “breezy”

1. a phrase yelled when someone wants the good seat. Short form of “shotgun.” Formerly calling “shotgun” got you the front passenger seat in the car (derived from the position on the stagecoach- the person with the shotgun sat up front near the driver). “Shotty” does the same thing. Works with other locations such as “shotty the couch”; “shotty the bean bag chair”; etc.

shout out
1. accolades, recognition.

1. n. Short term for mushrooms, specificly a toxic mushroom used as a hallocinogen. “I’m bout to get faded once I pop these shrooms.”

shut up!
1. A quick reply expressing disbelief. As if to say, “Really?” “Ben Affleck just pulled in the driveway!” “Shut up!”

1. bad weed or marijuana.

1. adj. Sick doesn’t refer to being ill or literally sick. It is an adjective that usually refers to something that was awesome, cool or surprising, very good or insane. 2. Something exciting or intense, crazy. “That flow Joey just kicked was sick.”

sick with it
1. n. someone who is really good at what they do. “Trina is sick with it on her paintings.”

1. adv. To be completely drunk, wasted or high. “That chewy was so potent that we all walked out o’ the room sideways!”

sirius black
1. someone who is extremely attractive or Sexy. ““Oh girl right there is Sirius Black.””

1. Any kind of alcoholic drink. “Hey, give me one of those sizurbs.”

1. adj. repulsive and skank-like (see “skank”) “Your girl ain’t nothin’ but a skanch queen!”

1. n. More than a “hoochi-momma.” A dirty, nasty promiscuous woman that no one would even touch. “Check out that nasty skank over there.”

skank fat
1. n. fat that hangs over or is seen on an overweight person. (Also see “muffin top.”) “Look at all that skank fat around the side of his jeans.”

1. ‘I see now’ or I understand. Used as a way of acknowledging that you get the picture. “What you doing D? “I’m bout to get soma that candy from Sandy tonight!” Oh skeen, then I’ll holla at you tomorrow.”

1. v. To ejaculate, or come during sex. “Fool, I went in so hard on dat chick but I went skeet-skeet all over floor, cuz I ain’t gon’ be no baby daddy! Fo Real!”

1. an unattractive, yet promiscuous female. (See “skank”)

1. n. something or someone who is weird, off or strange. “Hey Dog! I ain’t hanging out with that sketchy ho, she started talking in other voices last night!”

1. (pronounced “skeed”) To be drunk or high.

1. n. A breed of marijuana classified by its strong odor and maintains a higher level of intoxication. “You ready to get faded? I got a sack of that skunk waiten to be smoked.”

1. n. an older classic car that is in great condition. “Did you see Ray-Jay in that new slab rollin’ down Peachtree? That whip is a beast!” 2. adj. In the south SLAB means slow, loud, and bangin’. “I only roll wit slab riders man.”

1. v. (pronounced “slangin'”) the act of selling any illegal substance. “Check out Brian slanging rock on the corner.”

1. To ignore someone or something. “Don’t sleep on that new Fifty record, it’s hecka tight.”

1. n. an eighth of an ounce of marijuana (taken from the analogy of a slice of pizza) “Dude, I thought you was only gonna get a nickel bag and you came back with a whole slice; you my homie fo real!”

1. v. to fight, slap or punch someone without warning or to sneak a hit in. “Keep up all that loud talkin’ and I’m gonna slide you punk a**!”

1. N. A person who is weak, afraid, and or frightened to do something. “Yo, Trey is my slime!”

1. See “slangin’.”

1. adv. making mistakes “Next time I catch Terry slippin on his game I’m gonna swoop in and pull Jackie cause she too fine.”

1. A term for being intoxicated. “Amy got slizzard last night.”

slo mo
1. v. One who learns gradually or not as quick as the average person usually used as an insult. “Look slo mo, try pulling the door… with the sign on it that says PULL!”

slow steppin’
1. messing up or falling behind. “You dropped the weed? Ah Dawg, you slow steppin!”

1. n. gold or platinum teeth. “That fool need to clean them slugs in his mouth, every time he smile, he smell like do do!” Lyrical reference: JUVENILE What kinda nigga got buku slugs in his mouth
What kinda nigga got buku drugs in his house

1. n. heroin. “He was so high on smack he didn’t know what he was doing!”

smack down, the
1. 1. n. An action of enforcement, punishing or hurting. Derived from a wrestling move called “the smack-down.” “Man, if you don’t stop buggin I’m going to lay da smack down!”

1. (v) to describe a negative, usually derogatory, comment or conversation about (or to) another person. “He be talkin’ smak about you!”

1. Having sex. “Camron thought he was gonna get something from me with his weak rap talkin’ bout, “What up mommy can I smash that?” I told him, “Stop trippin’ you know I’m waiting till I get that ring.””

smd (s.m.d.)
1. An acronym in reference to the phrase “Suck my D**k;” used as a very popular motto and logo on mugs, t-shirts and other items.

1. adj. to be extremely attractive and good looking; great sex appreal. “Whew, ol girl is smexy in that red dress!” 2. A term that also describes someone as being smart and sexy. Sometimes the term is applied to individuals who are Mexican and sexy. “That girl is straight up smexy.”

1. v. To shoot someone; to kill them gangster style. “You bes keep on steppin’ or you gonna get smoked.”

smoke a black
1. v. smoking Black and Mild cigars. the resurgence of Black and Mild cigars have increased in the last ten years. “With that fake a** smile, smoking on your black and mild…”

smoked out
1. adv. to be high from smoking an excessive amount of weed. “If we are smoked-out, then hip hop is going to be ‘smoked-out’. ~Mos Deff quote from the album Black on Both Sides.” Lyrical reference: THREE 6 MAFIA – Smoked-Out I’m smoked out snorted out drunken and blown
getting crunk in that mode
Twista gotta stay high
smokin’ skunk till I’m old

1. see “oh snap!”

Sniffing Cheese
1. It’s a drug containing a mixture of black tar heroin and Tylenol PM tablets crushed together. It’s taken by sniffing it throught the nose. Note: This is a very dangerous and addicting drug.

1. v. To rat on someone, give away a secret or report someone for criminal activity. “Teddy is always snitching; he told the teacher that we cheated on that test yesterday.” 2. n. Someone who freely gives up information about a friend or acquaintance to a higher authority who will use that information against said friend/acquaintance. “I’m not running w/ A.J. anymore cause that punk is a snitch; he told the principle where we got blunted.”

1. n. Cocaine or Coke, term derived from the fluffy white and flaky simularities that cocaine has in common with snow. “Yo stop drawing attention over here; Rae’s upstairs making that snow son.”

1. n. A white female. This expression is commonly used to describe a white female who mingles among black males. “I got a snow bunny and a black girl too. You pay da right price and they’ll both do you.– Terrance Howard.” Lyrical reference: E-40 – White Girl So if ur down on ur luck n got no money
then do what I do go get u a snow bunny

1. To kill, murder or assassinate someone. “Somebody needs to “Snuff” that fool Deebo.”

1. something that’s cool, or tight. “Dude, that trick you just did was snug.”

1. N. A person who is weak, afraid, and or frightened to do something. “Harold won’t fight Jason, he actin’ soft.”

1. (pronounced sold-jas) A person (usually young male) who is committed to a cause; passionately lives out his/her conviction and willing to suffer or die for what they represent. “Marcus is a real sodier in these streets. That’s why I like to hang with him.”

1. n. A close friend; a term of endearment used as a greeting, equivalent to homie. “Wassup Son?!” 2. n. A term used to belittle or demean someone as though they were lesser. “What are you looking at Son?!! I’ll bust you in yo grill!”

1. adv. A place to buy (drugs, paraphernalia); a person (usually sexually arousal) to desire; a thing to get. “Sandra knows all the sources around town so let’s hang with her and we’ll party all night.”

1. v. begging, or asking someone for spare change. “We were gonna go to the mall and spange for a while, you wanna come with us?”

1. a term that literally means to “smack one’s butt” or “spank,” but usually with sexual intentions implied.

special k
1. n. The liquid animal tranquilizer Ketamine usually dried, diced and snorted. Popular at raves which are now promoted music festivals.

1. v. tired. Also see “sprung.” “Man, I’m spent!”

1. n. A petitie woman that is desired because of the unique sexual abilites her weight and size allows her to engage in, very popular on dating and causal encounter online networks. “You see oh girl over there by the keg, that little spinner, bet you she comes home with me tonight.”

1. car rims that still spin when you stop “Check out those 22″ spinners on Fred’s Blazer!”

1. v. to rap or speak out. “Gimmie the mic and I’ll spit till the cows come home.”

spittin’ game
1. To try to impress someone of the opposite sex, or “picking up” on someone by sweet talking them. “Check out Jose over there spittin’ game.”

spittin’ knowledge
1. See “spittin’ game.”

1. A marijuana cigarette

1. adj. To be obsessed with, usually in an amorous fashion. “Vanessa’s so sprung on Todd, he’s all she talks about.”

1. n. Nickname for a Bentley Continental Flying Spur luxury car. “I saw them fools jumpin’ outta a all silver Spur at the crack-house… boy you know what’s going on!” Lyrical reference: JIM JONES & RON BROWZ – Pop Champagne Tell ‘em Ron Browz here, hottest in America
Gimme 16 bars and you know I’ll tear it up

Know its me when you see the Spur in your area

1. Your tribe, crew or group of friends that you hang out with. “I was hanging with my squad when we saw this preacher cat commin’ at us talking about “God loves us and stuff”.”

1. Cigarettes. “Hey man, you got any squares on you?”

square up
1. v. getting into a position to fight or battle; to raise your hands in a fighting position. “If this fool keep trippin we gone get squared up in this mug.”

1. n. a hot female. “Check out that squirrel over there.”

1. n. A term for money stacks usually stand for one thousand dollars. “Man I gotta wait another month to buy them rims, them joints cost three stacks all together!”

stanky leg
1. v. A growingly popular dance to the hip hop song “Do the Stanky Leg.” “Hey look at Jimmy; he’s doing the Stanky Leg!” Lyrical reference: G-SPOT – Do the Stanky Leg B*^ch I’m wide-up! Do the Stanky Leg!

1. A secret or unknown collection or compilation of something; usually used in reference to drugs. “Yo, I thought you didn’t have anymore herb?… Nah son, you know I always got a stash.”

1. v. To hit someone or something. “I’m gonna steal you in yo grill!”

step off
1. a retort used to warn someone to back away. “You betta step-off!” 2. To threaten someone to leave one’s belongings alone. “Step off my back pack!”

sticking it
1. v. sexual intercourse. 2. v. Pulling off a feat or trick. Landing a trick on a board, motocross bike, etc. “Did you see Nathan sticking it out there on the wake board?”

sticky, icky
1. A term made popular by Snoop Dogg, used in reference to marijuana that is moist and sticky; usually the most potent and highly looked upon weed. “Aye, spark up some of that sticky, icky.”

1. cigarette, short for “stogey.”

1. n. a cigar but can also refer to a hand rolled cigarette. “Man, these stogies are bomb right after dinner.”

1. adv. A skater or grunge term for extremely happy. “Did you see that trick? I was stoked I landed it!”

1. To be honest.

straight up
1. adv. A phrase uttered in the midst of any sentence when no other adverbs are available to memory. Similar to the old slang word “totally.” “He just straight up told me that he straight up liked me!” “Oh, straight up!” 2. Telling or asking someone something without messing around, or stalling; getting right to the point. “I just saw Jimmy with Jessica!” “Straight up?” “Straight Up!”

1. adj. Carrying a weapon. “Don’t worry, I’m strapped with my nine.”

1. n. something that has been expanded; to reproduce in larger quantity, usually in reference to money. “Yo son, my cash is mad stretched.” Lyrical reference: About Me – RAEKWON stretched out, moving professional, frying more fish. I heard it in slurs, them niggas is blessed. While we ball to the maximum, give me the floor, for real I show off and let my money get stretched.

1. v. to show off in a graggadocious style (see floss). “Jaden was tryin’ to stunt in that old car that his daddy gave him; he need to put some rims on that baby and then it’ll be tight.”

1. High class flashing of your jewelry, money, riches, etc. Made famous by the Cash Money Millionaires. “50 Cent is stuntacular.”

1. To do something that others find strange; also another word for “trippin.” (See trippin’.) “Mark you so stuttin.”

1. When something is not agreeable and is not satisfying, or does not meet expectations. When something is terrible or not pleasant. “It sucks that I’m not gonna make it to the Rock The Bells concert this year.”

sum- summ’m
1. (n.) Something. Derived from “some-something.” Usually something good or of value. “Do you got a little sum-summ’m for me?”

1. See “wassup.”

1. Chicano and Hispanic gangs usually from the southern part of California, who wear the color blue, symbolizing their gang and hood and the southern California region. “Those fools up north will kill you if they find out you’re a sureño.”

1. n. a drink made of a mixture of sugar water and soda mixed with Nyquil or any codeine based liquid medicine.

1. A person or thing with lots of swagga (how you show yourself to others; your style and presentation). “Tonya is the envy of the school, swagalicious for sure!”

1. A person’s distinctive style and confident presentation of self. Also “swag” “I got that swagga that these dude’s be biten.”

swagga jacker
1. v. when one person steals another’s swagga (meaning flow, lines, lyrics or jokes). “Man you can’t talk to no females with Reggie around cause he ain’t nothin’ but a swagga jacker anyway.”

1. adj. Someone who is fantastically full of swagga. “You don’t want none of this swagtastic lovin’ baby. I’ll make you suck ya thumb!”

1. n. Cadillac Rims, spooked, chrome. Very popular in the south. “E’rbody watch me creep by in my swangaz boy!”

1. adj. Slang to announce that you’re leaving, comes from the movie Ghost starring Patrick Swayze. “Hey dogg, this party’s do do, I’m Swayze.” 2. high as a kite-high flying; feeling untouchable. “Ty was so swayze last night; I told him he needs to leave that meth alone!”

sweat box
1. n. Small club

1. Trying to hit on someone. “This guys been asking me for my digits all night, he’s really sweatin’ me.” 2. Nagging, harassing and/or putting pressure on someone; usually asking many questions. “On the real, the cops be sweatin’ me constantly.”

1. adj./adv. (sometimes pronounced “saw-wheat”) A late 80’s term for very good, excellent. “His corvette was sweet!”

1. See “get your swerve on.”

1. Short for Swisher Sweet cigars. “JaRon been smokin’ them swisha’s and his breath stank!” 2. Slang for sweet or cool. “Man my new shoes is swisha.”

1. adj. Short for swollen; usually used in reference to a person that has lots of muscles or is buff. “He just got out of prison, been workin’ out all the time – now he all swoll.” 2. adj. A term usually used to describe or exaggerate the extremely large size of something or a person.

1. n. muscles

swoop me up
1. requesting someone to pick you up in their car. “Swoop me up for school in the morning.”

1. n. ‘sippin on some syzzurp’ A mixture of codeine induced cough medicine (usually perscription)along with rum or vodka and sprite. Syrup sippin’ induces a hallucinatory state in which everything appears slower. “Sippin’ on syrup is dangerous. November 2000 DJ Screw was found dead due to a heart attack resulting from a cough syrup overdose.”

1. n. A modifed version of M.I.L.F. refereing to a “Teacher I’d like to F**k.” “Did you see Ms. Cross? She’s a straight up T.I.L.F.”

1. n. single drops of the hallucengenic drug LSD on paper squares; usually placed under the toung. “As soon as we get to the Audiotistic rave I’m gonna try to score some Tabs.”

1. n. A term used in reference to a womens vagina; a comparison made between the food and a womans vagina based on the similar shape. “Yo, Jason wants a piece of Tina’s Taco.”

1. n. someone who is extremely large, obese or tall. “Tookie always got chosed on the football team, cause he’s a tank!”

1. adj. When a large or fat person goes into a destructive rampage. “Dang, did you see big fella tankin’ on Lil’ D when D stone his fires?”

1. or “tap that a**.” To have sex with somebody. “Hey dawg- I saw you with Katie. Did you tap that a** or what?”

tap that
1. to have sex with someone. (see also “hit that”)

1. Overpriced. Cost too much. “Oh snap! That stuff is taxed!”

tha sh*t
1. The coolest thing or person around. “Danny really thinks he’s tha sh*t!”

that’s whut’s up!
1. An exhortation. To highly agree with enthusiasm. “I got a new whip. That’s whut’s up!”

the time
1. v. To give another person an opportunity to have sex. “Aye shorty, I got the time… Do you got the time?”

1. v. (derived from “thiefing”) stealing.

1. n. To be desperate to the point of being anxious or rude. “Dawg, see how you disrespectin’ my space…you must be thirsty.”

this piece
1. a residence or place. “We up in this piece.”

1. thing. *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. A lot of the “izzles” are not as popular as they once were in urban/Hip Hop contexts and settings. “Give me that thizang!”

1. The act of being high off Extacy. *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. A lot of the “izzles” are not as popular as they once were in urban/Hip Hop contexts and settings. “Man, that girl is hella thizzin.”

1. v. To win some form of competition by a large margin. “Dude, I thrashed Robert on the court!” 2. v. To harm, or to harshly disrespect someone or thing. 3. n. A style of metal rock music.

throw back
1. n. A vintage basketball or football jersey. “Those fools be hating on my Throw Back.”

1. To get ‘trashed’ or ‘waisted’. To get so high or drunk that your on the brink of passing out. “Me and my friends got so throwed last night that we had to get Jackie’s big brother to drive us home.” 2. n. to be very cool, new way of saying “that’s far out.” “On the last day of school all of the 8th grade girls came in throwed.”

thug nasty
1. n. A person who is hard core gangster and whose actions and behavior reflect street living. “My man Raw C is straight thug nasty; he don’t take no mess from no one.”

1. adj. To be hardcore. To be in a state of gangsterized attitude. “That fool is thugged out.”

1. n. a slutty guy or girl, usually referred to guys. “I don’t know why you trying to talk to Richie, he ain’t nothin’ but a thundercat.”

tiggo bitties
1. Large breasts. “That girl has tiggo bitties.”

1. adj./adv. an older term that still maintains its presence that means good or cool, hip. Also can mean close, like a close friendship. “Man . . . did you see that lowered Cadillac? It was tight!” 2. stingy or tightfisted. “Yo, your pops is tight. He’s so cheap, even the Scrooge looks generous compared to him.” 3. to get really intoxicated and or messed up on drugs. “Yo dawg, we got tight as hell last night.”

tight eye
1. adj./adv. Under the influence of a controlled substance. “Hey I got that Bobby Brown. You can get yo “tight-eye” on dog!”

1. Slang for Crystal Meth. “”I’m looking for Tina.””

1. a driving manuver where you drive your car slowly and swerve from the left to the right till the car appears like it’s tipping from side to side. “You can catch me out on dem roads, tippin’ on dem 44’s.”

1. n. East Coast slang for a gun. “Son, you keep hollerin’ all that noise and I’ma let you have a piece o’ dis toast.”

1. To smoke and or inhale marijuana. “Don’t trip, I stay token that herb.”

1. n. someone that is a geek or nerd; one who is socially inept and does not fit it. “Don’t be a tool Mikey.” 2. n. slang term for male genitals.

tool time
1. v. It means being ready for sex, or sexually stimulated. “Hey Baby, do you know what time it is? It’s tool time!” 2. v. Slang for smoking cheap marijuana. Comes from the practice of Mexican construction workers hiding in the tool shed while getting high. “Hey Pancho man, I need a little tool time, chico!”

tool up
1. Get your gun ready. Pick up your weapon and get ready to fight. Similar to “man-up”. “”Those fools was actin’ wild, I thought it was time to tool up and drop some punks”.”

tore up (pronounced “toe up”)
1. adj. Messed up. Ugly or run down. “Fix your hair, it’s all tore up!” 2. Also refers to being under the influnece; drunk or high. “Did you see Joe at the party last night, man, he was tore up.”

tore up from the floor up
1. The current state of a person who does not look or feel very good. The obscene description of a person who’s physical appearance is disturbing or not pleasant. “Did you see her? Oh Girl, she was tore up from the floor up.”

1. A way of saying that a girl is a ho or that you had sex with her. “Man, that girl is such a toss-up.”

1. adv. Totally

1. adj. a slang that’s used as a derogatory term, like a ‘fool’ or ‘punk’. It ranges from different areas of the country. In some areas like Long Island, NY it’s a very strong put down; while in other areas like the Midwest its used as a lite put down for someone who rubs you the wrong way. Some people use it as a term to describe someone who smokes a lot of weed. “Dude, why do you even come around here with that fool Jerry? He is such a towel.”

1. v. Several males having sex with the same female consecutively at the same location. “After the game the football team ran a train on her.”

1. adj. The act of dealing in and or with selling drugs for the accumulation of wealth for personal gain. “Yo, after Larry got that deal with them cartels, he trappin’.”

treat ’em
1. to correct or confront someone with a learned necessity. To teach someone. “You betta treat ’em before I treat ’em.”

1. n. marijuana.

1. A sexually active female. “Yo Calvin. Who’s that trick over there with Jamie?” 2. A person who spends money for sexual intercourse, usually in the context of prostitution. Also used as a verb. “Why is Tiffany turning tricks?” or “Oh, he’s just a trick.”

1. v. To cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend or to be a poor partner in relationships. “Rick! Are you trifflin with Jackie? You better hope Tomeka don’t find out . . . she’ll open up a can on you!” 2. Talking behind a friend’s back, back stabbing; someone who loves drama and brings everyone else in on their mess. “Man, Monica is straight triflin’!” 3. Someone who is annoying and or gets on peoples nerves.

1. adj. someone who is well respected in the streets because they ‘keep it real’; comes from the words true and real. “Hey these ni##a’s is trill so you don’t have to worry about nobody snitchin’.” Lyrical reference: FLO RIDA – Act Like You Know my hole squad iced out my nigga so
trill my nigga so trill ack like you know

1. v./adv. (derived from “tripping” ) To act like someone who is hallucinating or on an acid trip. To do something that others find strange. “Girl, why you trippin . . . he ain’t all that!” 2. To act crazy or hostile about something or toward someone. “Eh, girl! I don’t even know why he be trippin on me when I be out.”

1. v./adv. the effect of taking LSD (dropping acid).

1. the act of purposely upsetting (just because you can, you’re anonymous) others online usually by trying to deceive them into thinking you are serious about some argument or point you are trying to make, or personally attacking them, or saying rude remarks. “David’s online trolling on the comment section of church websites just because he thinks it’s fun to upset those religious people.”

1. n. a long walk or trip. *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. “Taco Bell? That’s a troop and a half.”

1. a phrase said to express agreement, as if to say, “I agree” or “good point.”

true dat
1. That’s true.

1. n. a term for the popular ‘True Religion Jeans’ brand. “Dang! Did you see that girl’s trues?”

1. n. when something seems to be, or is felt to be true, even if it is not necessarily true.

1. to make fun of someone in front of a lot of people. “Yo, he tried her.”

1. v. To fight really well; fight a lot. A third coast & Dirty South term. “Every time we go to a party, Jason tunnin’.”

1. A gang’s area. A place a gang hangs out. “Ross is banging that turf.”

1. v. turf dancing or (T.U.R.F.=taking up room on the floor) meaning using a large area as you dance. This style of dance is associated with Hyphy, Krumping, or Bucking and was originated in Oakland, CA. “JJ was winning the battle till Rajaad started turfin’ on that fool and took him out.”

1. adj. Someone who is addicted to methamphetamine (crank, speed). “Sally didn’t sleep for over 40 hours, I’ll bet she’s a tweaker.”

1. v. to act like someone who has taken Methamphetamine. To be excessively hyper or energetic. To act strangely.

1. v. To snort or smoke methamphetamine (crank, speed). In some cases people will take it intervenously. “Why are you figiting so much, have you been tweaking again?”

1. n. a variation of the term ‘wigga’ (white nigga), often used in Texas. “Jason is true twigga, he representing them double wide trailers!” 2. n. a black person who uses Twitter and follows the activities of other black people. “I just put all of my twiggas up on the next spot to hit up tonight.”

1. v. To act crazy or trippy like you’re on drugs (another word for tripping). “Dang, my momma still twirlin’ about that party I went to last night!” 2. v. To manipulate someone as if you were playing hard to get. “Say baby, you know you want me. Stop twirlin’ a brotha.”

1. v. Another way of indicating sex or a sexual act. “I’m going to Rachel’s house to twist her out.”

1. Drunk or high. “I’ve been drinking all day, I’m twisted.”

1. n. eager or frequent users of the social networking site, Twitter.

1. v. a girl dance involving a girl shaking or rubbing their booty on a boy. “Sarah twurked on Jimmy at that party last night.”

1. v. to remove a person from your list of friends or contacts on a social networking site.

up in
1. up in here, up in this place, up in that . . . A description of where you currently are, or are going. “Yo, why you all up in here, I’m trying to sleep.”

up my game
1. v. to improve your skills in an particular area. “Now that I’m in the 10th grade I’m a have to up my game in talkin’ to these honies.”

1. v. to reuse something that was discarded in such a way as to make a product of better value or quality than the first.

1. the ability to jump very high. (see “hops”). “Look, Billy’s got mad ups!”

1. v. Slang term for a vaporizer; used to smoke weed. There are two different types of vaporizer. One kind heats the metal bowl in order to release the active ingredients, but at a low enough temperature that most toxins and carcinogens are not inhaled and the plant material is not burned. Another kind of vaporizer uses hot air to heat the herbs. The vapor produced is inhaled. Vaporizers are a very healthy alternitave to smoking, and reduce your intake of toxin. “Donna went to the head shop and bought a vape.”

1. n. a person who is robbed or being taken advantage of; can also mean being hustled. “Man, Henry bout to handle this vic on this card game.”

1. n. Viddlez is known as food back in the day. “Yo. I need some viddlez. I am too hungry!”

1. Wide wheels, sometimes with white walls.

1. adj. Weak, uncool, or poor quality. Something undesirable. “That girl is wack.”

1. see “wack.”

1. n. a large butt, a woman’s derriere. (see badunkadunk) *Although this term is not widely used anymore, it still bears stating as it has had use and could be still in circulation in certain contexts. “I like Judy cause she got that wagon that I wanna pull.”

wale tail
1. As in the term for the look of the thong underwear peeking above the back of a girl’s pants. “Mark did you see that wale tail?”

1. v. Having sex. “Hey man, Jeff wanged Shelia last night.” 2. An old school term for a penis. “Man, my wang is huge!” 3. Another term for masturbation. “John be wanging off too much.”

1. a “wanna-be” gangsta

1. A term that refers to what one feels like the day after getting completely stoned. “Man, I can’t even get up after last night, I’m washed.” 2. When one feels extremely tired, lazy, and fatigued; even the slightest movement requires immense effort due to the amount of tiredness. 3. The state of being exceptionally high off of weed.

1. (derived from “what’s up?”) What is going on? How is it going? Good to see you.

1. To be extremly drunk; usually resulting in complete loss of self control and beligerenence. “I’m a get shorty wasted tonight.”

1. n. slang for the drug pcp. “I ain’t going out wit Justin anymore; he’s a fiend for that water and I just don’t swing it like that.”

wats gucci
1. n. Slang term for what’s good… what’s up… how u doing? “Ahight wats gucci dawg?”

1. To be fly, impressively dressed, attention seeking through the way you’re clothed; made popular by rapper Max B. “Anybody know me know I’m the waviest boy!” 2. adj. In Suffolk County, New York it is used to mean that something is not quite right. “The way that fool was talking to you just seemed too wavy, you better watch that cat.”

we’re up
1. something said when it’s time to leave. “Hey, we’re up!”

1. adj. no good, a bad situation. “This is weak.”

1. n. Joke that didn’t quite make you laugh. “That was weaksauce.”

1. n. someone who’s just added hair extensions into their hair. “Trina just got her hair did so you know she feelin all weavolicious right now!”

1. n. A large amount of drugs usually gathered and packaged by the pound. 2. n. A large amount of cocaine. “Man, I’m tired of slangen nickels an dimes; I want to get my hands on some serious weight.” 3. Street credit, or hierarchal status in the streets. “Man, my dogs got all kinds o’ weight; what you want done out there?” Lyrical reference: Pushin’ Weight; Ice Cube & Mr. Short KHOP A yeah yeah
I push rhymes like weight
I push rhymes like weight

1. n. PCP (Phenylcyclohexylpiperidine); the act of smoking the drug PCP. “Daniel be twisted… he gets wet like every day.”

Wha’s crackulatin’?
1. (derived from “What’s crackulating?”) What is going on? How is it going? Good to see you. When greeting someone you might say, “Whas’ crackulatin’?”

Wha’s really good?
1. Or “what’s good?” A greeting. When you see a friend, you say this. “Wha’s really good son?”

1. Derived from “what’s up?” What is going on? How is it going? Good to see you. If you pass someone, bob your head once, raising your chin about an inch and say “Whassup?”

What it do?
1. A term used to say, What’s up? “Hey kinfolk, what it do?”

What up?
1. Another way of saying, What’s up? Also see “Wassup?” “Hey Malia! Girl what up?”

What’s crackin?
1. See wassup? (In some cities, it is said that certain gangs use “what’s crackin” and others use “what’s poppin” and you don’t want to say the wrong term.)

What’s poppin?
1. A greeting, or another way of saying what’s up? Also see “Wassup?”

1. Whatever.

1. a car “”Yo’ T. Lets hop in the whip and get up out of here.”” 2. A term used to describe someone turning the steering wheel really fast and using the wheel of an auto very well. “”Yo, Cherry be Whipping that car around.” OR… “James uses that whip well in that ’64 Impala.””

1. To be head over heels in love; do anything for someone. “Man, she got yo behind whipped!”

1. n. A term used to refer to cocaine because of its color. “Aye to Big John, you better not get caught slangen that white or you’ll be doing some serious time.”

who’s your daddy!
1. An exclamation of victory or retort. A cry bellowed after a recent conquer. After dribbling past an opponent and scoring in basketball, yell “who’s your daddy!”

1. To beat up on; to fight and win by totally humiliating your opponent. “Man, after Peter talked all that smack, I whomped on his a*s!”

1. v. to communicate bad things about someone. To gossip. Also known as “talking trash.” “Quit your whoobangin and let’s roll.”

1. v. To beat up. “You mad doggin me? I’ll whoop you so bad your cousin will cry!” 2. To beat someone in a sport. “We whooped their team 126 to 57!”

1. n. a word used in ‘meditation’ to calm you down. Taken from the Bad Boys film with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence where Martin Lawrence’s character would continue to repeat the word to calm himself down. “I was so jacked up after that math test, I was like “Whoosaah… I have to chill before my next class or I’m goin’ off!”

1. n. a fan of the British sci-fi tv series “Doctor Who”

1. Very good, great.

1. A white person who thinks he’s black. Derived from “white nig***”

1. n. A term to describe any journalism, reports or writing that uses Wikipedia as it’s only source. “Jason thought that he got over with his book report, but it was full of wikijism and he only got a C for the assignment.”

1. adv. to be defeated or whipped. “Don’t battle Terron, he will wipe you everytime cause that boy is raw!”

1. used especially when texting, to express triumph or excitement.

1. v. Term used as a response or in celebration to exciting news. “A yo Daniel, I (Michael) was drafted by the NBA last night, WOOP!”

1. that’s correct, that’s all right, or that’s good. ““I just got me a new ride!” “Word.””

word up
1. To affirm “that’s the truth” coined by the song “word up” released in 1986 by a band called Cameo.

1. v. illegal contraband and drugs sold for a profit. “Aye yo son, I got that work…for sale.”

1. adj. (derived from “worn out”) Exhausted. “Man, I’m worn.”

1. adv. abbreviation for “what the f*ck,” often used in texting. “I just sw yur grl at the mall w/ Jordan an ws lk wtf?”

1. Another way of saying hello; or what’s up? “Yo Mike! Wuddup!”

1. v. acting crazy or wild. Out of control “Girl, I ain’t goin over Nita’s house no more after dark cause them fools be wylin’ out!” 2. Tripping or doing something funny. “Did you see Nick wylin on TV last night?”

1. n. Term used for the drug “Ecstasy.” A pill used at Raves(parties). Sometimes called “E”.

1. Adj. A term used to describe something that is pleasing to the eye, something that is beuatifal to look at, or someone who is dressed really nice. “Yo, Henry lookin’ xlicious in that suite!” or “That new Lexus is xlicious.”

Ya digg?
1. A way of asking someone if they agree with you or if they understand what you are saying. “Yo, that Kings game was hot, ya digg?”

ya’ mean
1. (short for: “You know what I mean”) A term used to affirm another person’s understanding of what you are speaking about. “Yo, I’m bout to come up on this paper, ya’ mean.”

1. adv. A term used to warn an individual(s) to approach you with hostility and or to get out of your face. “Yahh Homie, you need to check yourself before you gets hurt.” Lyrical reference: SOULJA BOY & FT. ARAB – Tellem Yahhh Man when somebody be in your face, on your nerves just talkin and talkin and you don’t wanna hear it, just be like YAHHH Trick! YAHHH! Hey Soulja Boy, YAHHH! Trick, YAHHH! Get out my face.

1. 100 dollars; a total of 100 dollars. “Yo, I dropped 3 yards on that phone bill!”

1. v./adj. A combination of yeah and great. “Wasn’t Terrell’s party this week really good? Yate!”

1. An old school term used to describe cocaine. Popularized by the urban folk hero Tony Montana in the Hip Hop classic film Scarface. Also spelled llello.

yella bone
1. adj. a light skinned African American. “Man, look at that yella bone brutha over there, he sure is light!”

1. slang for ‘Yes Sir’. Made popular by Pharell on Snoop dogg’s song, ‘Let’s get blown’ “Man did you git wit Gina last night? Yezzur!”

yiked up
1. n. altered behavior, to be drunk, high and/or everything in between. “Casey was so yiked up last night at the park that we took his keys and told him that he couldn’t drive home.” Lyrical reference: PLIES – Hypnotized It’s 2-o’ clock in the mornin’
I’m yiked up, and i’m horny
All i need now is some moanin’

1. n. Northeastern slang for you guys or variation of the Southern term ya’ll “Yin’s guys wanna go to the football game and watch dem Steelers play?”

1. n. Slang for crack, blow snow or yay-yo. “Cindy is out there now… she after that yip er’ day now.”

1. An informal address; another way of saying “Hey” or “Hello.”

1. n. A combination of yo and holla. “Yolla, baby girl, what’s your name?”

1. An acronym for “You Only Live Once”. A term often employed after making an irrational or snap decision. “I decided to eat twenty-four cheeseburgers. YOLO!”

you feel me?
1. A question asked to make sure someone understands you or where you’re coming from. See “feel me.”

1. adj. References something small or undersized, particularly an article of clothing. “Look at that young shirt he’s wearing!”

1. A term used to refer to someone who is younger than you, similar to ‘my nephew’ “Lil’ P is comin up on his B-ball skillz. That youngboul’s gonna run the court next year.”

1. Or “young.” A young boy on the street. “What’s up young?”

1. n. They are Millennial generation, “young urban males” with well-paying jobs and no family to support, at least not yet. The Yummies have disposable income to burn (which is not common among other Millennials).

1. n. A sexually attractive mother who has had a child; typically young; younger than 30, but not considered a MILF. Also see MILF. Popularized by rap artist Baby Bash in the song “Na-Na-Na” Lyrical reference: Na-Na-Na – BABY BASH (Album: Cyclone, 2007)

1. n. a very popular sneaker (tennis-shoe) designed by graffiti artist and promoted by rap artist Soulja Boy. “I got J’s, got YUM’S, got Nikes; I’m zooted!” Lyrical reference: SOULJA BOY – Zooted New kicks fresh cut clean white tee
I’m zooted
Got Js got YUMS got nikes
I’m zooted
Supa swag no you can’t get like me souljaboy tell em my chain so icey

1. n. South African term for a joint or marijuana. “Johnny, you comin’ by for a zol session t’night?”

1. A measurement of marijuana. One ounce, 28 grams of weed. 2. Also used in reference to a quarter pound of marijuana. “Yo, Frankie we should reup with Mike, he sells zones for a bill.”

zoned out/zonen
1. v./adv. A term used to refer to the similar actions of daydreaming, unaware of the moment, usually lost in deep thought. The actions of a person who is intoxicated and unable to control their thoughts. “Leave Matt alone. He’s zoned out.”

1. adv. to be highor drunk. “Look at RayJay fall all over the floor tryin’ to do the stanky leg. Man that fool is zooted!” Lyrical reference: SOULJA BOY – Zooted New kicks fresh cut clean white tee
I’m zooted
Got Js got YUMS got nikes
I’m zooted
Supa swag no you can’t get like me souljaboy tell em my chain so icey

Who is Daniel White Hodge?

Daniel White Hodge Dan White Hodge is a dynamic speaker, scholar, Hip Hop theologian, urban worker, & racial bridge builder that connects Urban Popular culture (Including but not limited to Hip Hop, Race/ Ethnicity, class, socio-cultural concerns, The Black Church, & The Emergent Urban Church) with daily life events. Dr. White Hodge has been an active member of the Hip Hop Community for over 20 years and continues to not only study the culture from both an academic and practical perspective, but live it as well. Moreover, Dr. Hodge has over 16 years of urban youth work experience having worked for Young Life and now working with undocumented peoples in Los Angeles with his wife Emily. His unique perspective on Hip Hop and Theology challenges his audiences to look beyond the “outer surface” and go into the deeper parts of the culture using God as the lens. Dan’s books are Heaven Has A Ghetto: The Missiological Gospel and Theology of Tupac Amaru Shakur (VDM Academic 2010) and The Soul of Hip Hop: Rimbs Timbs & A Cultural Theology (IVP August 2010).


Using Metaphors in Creative Writing

Using Metaphors in Creative Writing

What is a metaphor?

The term metaphor meant in Greek “carry something across” or “transfer,” which suggests many of the more elaborate definitions below:

Metaphor Table
Definition Origin
A comparison between two things, based on resemblance or similarity, without using “like” or “as” most dictionaries and textbooks
The act of giving a thing a name that belongs to something else Aristotle
The transferring of things and words from their proper signification to an improper similitude for the sake of beauty, necessity, polish, or emphasis Diomedes
A device for seeing something in terms of something else Kenneth Burke
Understanding and experiencing one thing in terms of another John Searle
A simile contracted to its smallest dimensions Joseph Priestly

Related terms

Related Terms Table
extended or telescoping metaphor: A sustained metaphor. The teacher descended upon the exams, sank his talons into their pages, ripped the answers to shreds, and then, perching in his chair, began to digest.
implied metaphor: A less direct metaphor. John swelled and ruffled his plumage. (versus John was a peacock)
mixed metaphor: The awkward, often silly use of more than one metaphor at a time. To be avoided! The movie struck a spark that massaged the audience’s conscience.
dead metaphor: A commonly used metaphor that has become over time part of ordinary language. tying up loose ends, a submarine sandwich, a branch of government, and most clichés
simile: A comparison using “like” or “as” Her face was pale as the moon.
metonym: The substitution of one term for another with which it is commonly associated or closely related. the pen is mightier than the sword, the crown (referring to a Queen or King), hands (referring to workers who use their hands)
synecdoche: The substitution of a part for the whole or vice versa (a kind of metonym). give us this day our daily bread

Why use metaphors?

  • They enliven ordinary language.People get so accustomed to using the same words and phrases over and over, and always in the same ways, that they no longer know what they mean. Creative writers have the power to make the ordinary strange and the strange ordinary, making life interesting again.
  • They are generous to readers and listeners; they encourage interpretation.When readers or listeners encounter a phrase or word that cannot be interpreted literally, they have to think—or rather, they are given the pleasure of interpretation. If you write “I am frustrated” or “The air was cold” you give your readers nothing to do—they say “so what?” On the other hand, if you say, “My ambition was Hiroshima, after the bombing,” your readers can think about and choose from many possible meanings.
  • They are more efficient and economical than ordinary language; they give maximum meaning with a minimum of words.By writing “my dorm is a prison,” you suggest to your readers that you feel as though you were placed in solitary, you are fed lousy food, you are deprived of all of life’s great pleasures, your room is poorly lit and cramped—and a hundred other things, that, if you tried to say them all, would probably take several pages.
  • They create new meanings; they allow you to write about feelings, thoughts, things, experiences, etc., for which there are no easy words; they are necessary.There are many gaps in language. When a child looks at the sky and sees a star but does not know the word “star,” she is forced to say, “Mommy, look at the lamp in the sky!” Similarly, when computer software developers created boxes on the screen as a user interface, they needed a new language; the result was windows. In your poems, you will often be trying to write about subjects, feelings, etc., so complex that you have no choice but to use metaphors.
  • They are a sign of genius.Or so says Aristotle in Poetics: “[T]he greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor.” It is “a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.”

Creative ways to use metaphors

Most books give rather boring examples of metaphors such as my father is a bear or the librarian was a beast. However, in your poetry (and fiction for that matter) you can do much more than say X is Y, like an algebraic formula. Definitely play with extended metaphors (see above) and experiment with some of the following, using metaphors…

Uses of Metaphors
as verbs The news that ignited his face snuffed out her smile.
as adjectives and adverbs Her carnivorous pencil carved up Susan’s devotion.
as prepositional phrases The doctor inspected the rash with a vulture’s eye.
as appositives or modifiers On the sidewalk was yesterday’s paper, an ink-stained sponge.


Metaphor Table
Scratching at the window with claws of pine, the wind wants in. Imogene Bolls, “Coyote Wind”
What a thrill—my thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone except for a sort of hinge of skin….A celebration this is. Out of a gap a million soldiers run, redcoats every one. Sylvia Plath, “Cut”
The clouds were low and hairy in the skies, like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes. Robert Frost, “Once by the Pacific”
Little boys lie still, awake wondering, wondering delicate little boxes of dust. James Wright, “The Undermining of the Defense Economy”

Finding Your Voice

by Susan J. Letham

Novice writers tend to feel awed by the concept of “voice.” Once you understand what writers mean by voice, it becomes easier to grasp.

You wouldn’t mistake Goldie Hawn’s voice for Liz Taylor’s, even if you couldn’t see their faces, would you? And if I were to give you a text to read, you wouldn’t confuse a ghetto gangster with that a Washington lawyer. Not only do they sound different, they also use different kinds of language: words, tone, sentences, forms of address.

Here are three voice examples:

Example 1: I love the heady cruelty of spring. The cloud shows in the first weeks of the season are wonderfully adolescent: “I’m happy!” “I’m mad, I’m brooding.” “I’m happy–now I’m going to cry …” The skies and the weather toy with us, refusing to let us settle back down into the steady sleepy days and nights of winter.

Example 2: I believe I have some idea of how the refugee feels, or the immigrant. Once, I was thus, or nearly so. … And all the while I carried around inside me an elsewhere, a place of which I could not speak because no one would know what I was talking about. I was a displaced person, of a kind, in the jargon of the day. And displaced persons are displaced not just in space but in time; they have been cut off from their own pasts. … If you cannot revisit your own origins–reach out and touch them from time to time–you are forever in some crucial sense untethered.

Example 3: Privacy in the workplace is one of the more troubling personal and professional issues of our time. But privacy cannot be adequately addressed without considering a basic foundation of ethics. We cannot reach a meaningful normative conclusion about workplace privacy rights and obligations without a fundamental and common understanding of the ethical basis of justice and a thorough understanding of individual and organizational concerns and motivations.

Different backgrounds and distinguishable voices

Do you think the examples were written by the same person? Of course not. Anne Lamotte (example 1) is a contemporary US Writer and diarist. Penelope Lively (example 2,) a British author who spent her childhood in Cairo in the 1940s. Laura Hartman (example 3) is an academic who writes about ethics and technology. They are people with different backgrounds and distinguishable voices.

Voice is the way your words “sound” on the page

In writing, voice is the way your writing ‘sounds’ on the page. It has to do with the way you write, the tone you take–friendly, formal, chatty, distant–the words you choose–everyday words or high-brow language–the pattern of your sentences, and the way these things fit in–or not–with the personality of the narrator character and the style of your story.

The voice I’m using to write this is friendly, familiar, and direct, at least I hope it is. I’m writing more or less the way I would speak if we were chatting face-to-face. When I write poetry, fiction, or social policy articles, my voice is quite different. I don’t talk straight to my reader as I’m doing to you, I move back a step, become more distant, choose other words and different sentence structures.

You might be surprised to know how many beginning writers write out of character, that is, they choose the wrong voice and tone for the purpose they have in mind. Your New England preppie won’t chew on her words like someone with a Texas drawl or talk sexy, like a Detroit hooker. A Hickville street sweeper is unlikely to speak like a Harvard graduate, at least not unless he really is a Harvard graduate… but that would be story, not voice.

Voice is a reflection of experience

Voice is a reflection of how your character experiences the world of your story. Invest time in developing your figures and getting to know their background. When you’ve done that, tell your story out loud, as if the characters in your story were speaking. Let your characters tell you the story, listen carefully to how they do it, then start writing your story down. If you can ‘hear’ your characters, it’s likely that you’ll get the voice of your story right.

How to develop your voice

Write as much as possible. Keep a journal. Imagine you are writing your journal for a friend, perhaps in letter style. Write about your day, the things you see and experience, the thoughts that go through your head. Watch the news or read a newspaper and write your thoughts on current events. Writing about your views is good voice practice, because it forces you to think of new things to say and new ways to say them.

We don’t stop to think too much as we write letters, we don’t weight up every word–we tell the story. That’s exactly what you need to do when you write your drafts. When you start to worry about the way you’re going to sound, you quickly lose your voice.

Ask friends to describe your style

Once you have a stock of personal writing, ask a friend to read it and tell you how you come across on the page.

  • Is your personal writing literary? funny? romantic? poetic? factual? upbeat? depressing? straightforward? flowery? How do you sound?
  • Do you write your mind? Express opinions? Or are your words over-polite and politically correct? Writers get to call intimate interpersonal relations ‘sex’ and digging implements ‘spades.’
  • Is it stilted? Does it flow? Do you sound like YOU?
  • Does your writing have a rhythm?
  • Do all your sentences sound the same? Are they varied?
  • Do you have ‘favorite’ words and phrases that you repeat often? If so, which ones? Can you find alternatives?

We have to go deep inside to find our real voices, the ones that hide beneath the social veneer, and that means finding out who we are and what we think about the world. It’s important that you get to know your natural voice so you can stay in style, and so you can adapt to fit your characters in the right way.

A long, long letter to your reader

When you move from your journal into your story, think of your manuscript as a long, long letter to your reader, and remember that we rarely have problems writing letters and journals.

It takes time and a lot of writing to develop a voice, and impatient writers love to skip that part of the process. But writing before you’re ready won’t cut it in most cases. You run the danger of having no real voice to speak of (or with.) The tips in this article will set you on the right path to finding your voice and, through that, authentic voices for your characters and stories.

© 2002 Susan J. Letham



New Book: Writing Young Adult Fiction

After two years of editing(!) Dani’s and my new book, Writing Young Adult Fiction, is about to be published. As one of our fans, I’d like to extend this special pre-publication offer to you: get the Kindle book for just $2.99, or get it for free when you purchase the paperback.

My favorite part of the book is our spirited back and forth discussion of our favorite YA novels, where we explore everything that makes them great, from plot to covers. And of course, that makes it a great source of inspiration for your own Young Adult novel.

Order the paperback here and get the Kindle book for free.

Or order the Kindle book by itself for just $2.99.

After this pre-publication special the price will go up, so take advantage of this insider tip now. Of all our books, this is my favorite!

Oh, and if you take advantage of this, could you leave a review on amazon? That’s how books get sold.



Make Your Writing More Active

Passive writing is boring. Here’s a simple change you can apply to every sentence you write to make it more interesting. Simply look for the word “was.” For example:

The house I grew up in was in Los Angeles. It was a low, ranch style house with some modern touches. It was designed by my father. But maintenance was a challenge. After only a few years the plumbing was rusty and paint was peeling from the outside walls.

That’s really boring! Here’s what it looks like if we change all those “was” passive verbs to something more active:

I grew up in Los Angeles, in a low, ranch style house with some modern touches. My father designed it, but he didn’t realize how hard it would be to maintain. After only a few years plumbing rusted and paint peeled from the outside walls.

Quite a difference, isn’t it? The changes were minor, but now it is active and interesting. It even got shorter!

Try eliminating “was” from your writing and see how much more interesting it becomes! (If you write in present tense, look for “is” instead.)


Writing Dialogue

by Elizabeth Rose

Part one

My favorite part of writing, believe it or not, is the dialogue. While many authors may feel this is a challenging aspect in their novel, I, instead look forward to the dialogue as I let my characters write the book themselves. Personally, I think dialogue can make or break a story. Here are some tips I’ve discovered that may help you with yours.

First off, don’t be afraid to use dialogue. After all, what would a story be that had only narration? Pretty boring, right? The editors will be looking for those white spaces on the pages that only dialogue provides. Without dialogue, I think a reader would be too intimidated to even pick up the novel and start reading. Face it – today most readers want a fast read. Who has the time to spend months reading one book? Narration slows down the pace of story, dialogue gets things moving. If your story starts to sag in the middle – why not add a bit more dialogue and speed things up?

Dialogue is a great tool for many aspects of writing.

1) creating a great hook

2) creating characterization

3) condensing long passages of back story

4) to show instead of tell

5) injecting a bit of humor

There are many more, but let’s explore these five ways to use dialogue.

Creating a good hook

There’s nothing more appealing than a book that gives you a first sentence of dialogue so intriguing, that you can’t put it down. Why start the novel with a paragraph of narration that only describes the setting, gives back story or simply introduces or describes a character? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, only that sometimes, a line of creative dialogue can hook the reader faster than any other way.

For example: In Laura Renken’s, My Lord Pirate, she starts out with, “Draw no blood, men. Remember, this is to be a wedding party.”

She sets up a situation, draws the reader in, and makes you want to read on. The reader wonders – who is this speaking? Why would he/she even have to mention drawing blood, and whose wedding party are they at? They obviously sound like they’re up to no good, but why? And what are they planning to do?

Another example would be something like: “Release the girl, or I’ll be forced to kill you.” Or how about “I’m sorry Ms. Jones, but your actions have just given me reason to fire you.”

So you see, you capture the reader’s attention, get them thinking, asking questions, and then keep them reading to find out more.


An excellent way to let your readers know about your characters is through their speech. When dialogue is used properly, it should define your characters so thoroughly that if you took off all the tags of Jake said, or Daisy whispered, we would still know who was talking.

For example, in my Greek myth fantasy romance, Kyros’ Secret, one of the main characters is Ares, God of War. With a line like this, one doesn’t wonder who is speaking.

“Just once is all you need to kill and then the rage and glory of war will be imbedded upon your soul. Just once is all you need to feel the triumph of power over your mother’s weak blood that flows through your veins.”

With my heroine being the daughter of the god of war and goddess of love, it is easy to characterize her parents through dialogue alone. We can see through Ares’ speech that he is a ruthless man who thrives on war. Just from these two sentences, we learn that he wants his daughter to be a warrior like him, and that he thinks love only weakens a person, obviously having done so himself or he wouldn’t have coupled with the goddess of love in the first place. The struggle of good/bad is obvious, and his pull to sway his daughter down his path.

Many manuscripts are rejected from editors just because they don’t find the characters’ dialogue believable. Another way to add to your characters’ special way of talking would be if they spoke with accents. An Irish brogue or a Scottish burr flags that character right off the bat as unique. Unless, of course, every character in the book spoke with the same accent. But even then, you can single them out by the way they think and put their words into sentences. Let me use another example to get this point across.

In My Lord Pirate, Ms. Renken has a very interesting secondary character named Parrot. This character speaks Cockney, obviously having had a rough life and having grown up in a seedy part of town as seen by the dialogue.

“Oi ain’t no bugger slave. ’Sides, the cap, he says fer me not ta coddle ya, being ’is prisoner ’an all.”

So through the use of dialogue we learn Parrot is independent, stubborn, proud, but yet has a bit of nurturing down deep, but doesn’t want to show it, therefore using the captain as the excuse not to. The sense of loyalty to the captain is seen through the dialogue as well.

Condensing Back Story

Instead of using narration to tell tons of back story, let your characters do it for you through dialogue. It makes it much more interesting, plus it gives the characters a chance to develop.

For example, in my book Eden’s Garden, I combine a bit of narration with the use of dialogue of Eden Ramirez, the heroine, and her dying father to tell of their relationship.

“Papa . . . don’t die,” Eden said in her native tongue.

She took his large hand in hers and rubbed it softly against her cheek. He was so unlike the hardened professor who had come from the States year after year to study the Incan ruins of Machu Pichhu, hoping to find some uncovered truth or hidden treasure of the ancient culture that was destroyed so many years ago.

“I wanted to marry your mother – really,” he whispered through his ragged breathing. “I’m sorry. I wish I could have been the father you needed.”

Even if you didn’t know Eden was half Peruvian and lived far from her American father, you could see the distance of their past in their words. Her words show us she has feelings for him and doesn’t want to lose him. His words show most the back story. We find out he has never married her mother, he’s sorry about, and obviously had feelings for the woman, but something didn’t work out. He knows he hasn’t been a good father or there for his daughter, and we see his guilt as well. So, in just a few sentences, we find out what may have taken a page to tell about the back story.

Use dialogue To Show Instead Of Tell

Use your dialogue to show what you want to tell the reader. Instead of coming out and saying it with narration, let your characters do it for you. It’s more interesting, plus it’ll give the characters time to interact.

Eden Reed does a fine job of this in this next passage from her book, The Valley of Hemlock.

“There are other residents in the house, aren’t there?”

The corner of his mouth lifted in a wry smile at my obvious concern for my virtue. “Yes, there are other ‘residents’. There are two in the physical sense: a cook and a housekeeper. But I’m not sure how many actual ‘residents’ roam the halls.”

“Are you trying to tell me that this house is haunted?” I was beginning to tire of people trying to scare me.

His features turned hard again without warning. “That is the rumor.”

“If you’re trying to frighten me, sir, you are wasting your time. I no more believe in ghosts than in flying pigs. So if you are finished, I’d like to retire. As you’ve been so gracious in allowing me to stay the night, I’d like to spend the rest of it sleeping.”

“My intent is not to frighten you Miss Barlow only to persuade you. I would still prefer that you move to a different room.”

Here we find out that Boothe House is said to be haunted. Ms. Reed has shown us the mystery as well as a bit of danger in her hero. We know that he wants her to move to another room and will even revert to scaring the heroine if he has to, to do it. He has a secret there to protect that he obviously doesn’t want her to discover. The heroine’s dialogue shows us that she is feisty and not afraid to stand up to anyone. We see her strength, as well as her practicality, and her boldness to those who try to manipulate her. There’s a sense of formality to both their words, so the respect for each other is still evident, but yet we sense obstinate behavior from both of them.

So instead of Ms. Reed telling us that her heroine is tough and practical, and her hero cunning but yet still direct, she’s shown us.

Injecting Humor

The last aspect of using dialogue I’m going to mention for now, is using it to add a bit of humor into your story. This is a great way to show the playfulness or personality of a lighthearted character. Or perhaps even a normally dark character who has a spirited side to him.

In The Valley of Hemlock, I find this passage a good example. The hero has just found the heroine snooping around in the fireplace.

“I don’t believe we’ve met. Cinderella, isn’t it?”

. . . Mortification was too mild a word. Maybe if I could just crawl up the chimney.

“You’ll never make it,” Eric read my mind. “You’ll get stuck about half way up. I’ll have a devil of a time trying to get you out, not to mention, ruining a perfectly good suit.”

“Do you always spy on people?” I asked in irritation.

“I wasn’t spying. I was merely walking in the door when I heard a barrage of curses. I didn’t realize you possessed such a colorful vocabulary.”

My palette had only just begun.

“Are you going to come out of there or do you plan on spending the rest of the day in the ashes?” he inquired.

“I was hoping maybe you’d go away.”

“Not likely. At least, not until you tell me what you’re doing in there. Can’t find your glass slipper?”

“You know how slippery glass is. I’m forever leaving it behind,” I said, backing out of the fireplace carrying a heaping pile of cinders with me. A section of broken glass, the size of a petite shoe rolled out. I lifted it with a shrug. “Posh! The wrong size.”

This is a way to break up a story that may normally be serious throughout. Here, we see the playfulness and attraction each of the characters has for each other. Though the time period suggests they are still very formal to each other, we see their resolves caving in as they weaken and have a bit of fun in an uncomfortable situation. They both let down their guards and we get a glimpse into their true selves.

Using these five ways, dialogue can work for you, not against you in creating your novel.


Part two

To continue our discussion on dialogue, in part two I’d like to add to the five methods of using dialogue I’ve mentioned earlier. Two other ways to use dialogue with a purpose would be to:

*Creating a mood, or tone of the story

*Give the reader a sense of setting

Creating the Mood

Lissa Michaels creates the tone of her story, Captive Hearts, by using her characters’ dialogue in the beginning of the story to convey a message.

Morgan walked over to the desk and flipped on the viewscreen. His brother’s smiling face appeared.

“Where in the three phases of hell have you been?”

Galen sputtered, his face flushing. “We delivered all the missives, then picked up the trade goods we’d ordered, Morg, it was great! The broker got everything we requested. I managed to get two cases of Folian brandy for you and a water crib for Sabina and Boyan’s baby, and –“


He flinched. “We were so close to Pleasara, and Hastin said we had time to –“

“Hastin!” Morgan swore. “I should have known. Here I’ve been worried sick you were taken by the Jotnar, and you were rolling around in some whore’s bed.”


“I didn’t send you out on a pleasure cruise, blast it. Don’t you know how dangerous it is for us? You get in, do your business, and get out. There’s no time for anything else.”

“I know, but – “

Morgan turned his back on his brother, effectively cutting off Galen’s excuses. “I shouldn’t have let you go.”

Here, Ms. Michaels has set the tone of urgency and danger of the mission. Morgan’s anger, as well as concern for his brother shows that family ties run deep, a great setup to possibly be used against him later. While Galen is triumphant of his little shopping trip and trying to impress his brother, Morgan’s dominance sets the tone to let the reader know he is the boss. We feel danger through his words, anxiousness, intrigue with a sense of fear at his mention of the Jotnar, and we know that this story will hold action, suspense, and an obvious encounter with the dreaded Jotnar later on.

Dialogue that is cut off, as we’ve just seen conveys a sense of urgency. Morgan felt the need to speak before his brother was finished. Action speeds up with the shorter dialogue, and will slow down with long passages. To keep it believable, watch that your dialogue conveys your tone through its length as well.

Sense of Time and Setting

Use your dialogue to remind readers of which time and place your story is set. Every time period has its slang, but be careful to use it correctly. Normally, the farther back in date you go, the more formal the speech was. Contractions are seen more in modern day novels. Make sure you do your research to insure proper words for proper times.

Dialogue can convey if your story is a pirate novel, a medieval set in England, or a western.

In this passage of Rawhide Surrender, by Elysa Hendricks, the dialogue gives you no doubt this is a western.

Disgust thickened KC’s words. “Red Buffalo is a slimy snake who’d slit your throat as quick as he’d swat a fly.”

“But such a pretty snake, so lean, so tall, so strong.” Carmelita gave an exaggerated sigh of longing. “He could make Carmelita’s heart beat fast.”

“He could make Carmelita’s heart stop beating.,” KC muttered, never taking her eyes off the riders. They stopped at the cantina, the logical place if they had it in mind to do some trading.. . .

“This Red Buffalo, I think I might be available if he wants a woman.” Carmelita stepped out of the barn.

KC snagged the woman by the arm and hauled her back.

“You’re crazy as a coot. Look at them, woman, they’re savages, fresh off the warpath. They’d eat you alive.”

Here we get a feel of the setting, just by the characters and the words they use.

When trying to convey a thought – such as someone asking another what is bothering them, make sure it sounds convincing. While modern day dialogue may say “what’s up?” a medieval may read “what takes your concern, my lord?”

If you want to find out if a word was in use for the time period you’re writing in, you can use references such as Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary or The Dictionary of Etymology: The origins of American English words.

What NOT To Do

When writing dialogue, there are ways to use it that can actually backfire on your work.. You may want to avoid these, as they can only weaken a story.


*Idle Chatter



By being redundant, you not only aggravate the reader, but slow down the flow of the story. If we know there are only two people in a scene, you don’t need to tag every bit of dialogue. That’s why we start a new paragraph each time a new person speaks.

Let me give an example:

“Listen,” said Maria. “I think I hear something.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” John grumbled.

“Don’t call me ridiculous, Maria snapped. “If you just listen, you’ll hear the noise too.”

“Maria,” John said with a grin, “you are still afraid of the dark after all these years, aren’t you?”

After the first two sentences, we know who is speaking. We really don’t need the tags in the last two sentences, nor do we need to have John say Maria’s name. We already know he’s speaking to her.

A better way to write it would be:

“Listen.” Maria stilled John with her hand on his arm. (Here’s an action, mentioning both characters, instead of a tag.) “I think I hear something.”

“You’re being ridiculous.” John brushed her hand away with a laugh.

“I’m not!” (No need to repeat the word ridiculous again)

“You’re still afraid of the dark after all these years, aren’t you?”

Idle Chatter

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a conversation goes nowhere and says nothing. Make sure you use all your dialogue for a purpose. Avoid small chat such as introductions that take up pages, or telephone calls that say:

“Hello?” said Susie, speaking into the receiver.

“Hello,” answered her good friend, Mable.

“How are you?” Susie’s voice perked up at hearing the voice of her friend she hadn’t seen in a while.

“I’m good, how about you?” answered Mable.

“I’m doing okay,” sighed Susie, “ but I’ve been a bit tired.”

“Yeah, I think this weather has everyone tired and depressed,” Mable agreed.

Get to the point quickly, and try to keep the reader’s interest in the plot at hand. Do you really need to go through small talk that no reader cares about? Ask yourself this, and cut to the chase, while keeping the pace of the story.

In other words, instead of the above passage, why not just simplify it?

Tired and depressed, Susie picked up the phone, surprised to hear the voice of her good friend Mable.

“Mable, it’s been so long since we’ve talked.”

“Yes, I know. But I just had to call to let you know I’m getting married.”

This corrected version cuts to the chase, and still lets us know with a few simple lines that they are old friends who haven’t seen each other in awhile. We know Mable’s reason for calling, and we aren’t bogged down with idle chatter that doesn’t move the story forward.


By forecasting in the narration, we lose the impact of hearing something through dialogue. A simple example:

Ginny jumped in surprise when a man stepped out from behind the bushes. She was so scared that she bit her tongue. Fear was the only thing keeping her from running, until she recognized Mark.

“You scared me to death, Mark. I even bit my tongue! Don’t ever do that again.”

We don’t need to hear her relate something we’ve already had forecast in the previous line. Instead, a better version would be:

Ginny’s heart leaped into her throat at the site of a man in the bushes. The taste of blood kept her frozen to the spot. Then she recognized the dark figure. (We don’t need to say it’s Mark here – save that for the dialogue. We mention the taste of blood, and that’s enough for now.)

“Mark!” she gasped. “You scared me and made me bite my tongue. Don’t ever do that again.”

Also, you’ll want to avoid telling backstory through dialogue in a way that sounds like it’s only put there for the reader.

“You remember Roxy, don’t you?” asked Jill.

“Roxy,” repeated Tess. “Isn’t she the one who ran away with her best friend’s husband?”

“Right after she was the maid of honor at Debbie and Jake’s wedding,” added Jill.

“And then she jumped off a cliff because she was so ashamed of what she did?”

“Exactly. Only she survived, and her best friend Debbie was the doctor who saved he life..”

Instead, we can weave the information into the conversation without sounding as if we’re trying to fill the reader in on something.

Like this:

“Roxy isn’t easy to forget,” said Jill.

Tess nodded her head. “If she was my best friend, I never would have saved her from her fall the way Debbie stepped in as if she hadn’t betrayed her.”

“Debbie is a doctor. She puts her job above personal problems, that’s what I always liked about her.”

“True,” agreed Tess. “Any woman who could put aside the fact her patient stole her husband, and go about saving her patient’s life anyway deserves a reward.”

Hopefully, with these tips you can make your dialogue sparkle and work for you, not against you.


Themes in Young Adult Novels

Other people may be more like us than we imagine. (The Borrowers)

Memories of friendship can last forever. (Bridge to Terabithia)

Defending a country requires loyality and sacrifice. (Camp X)

Every child is special to his or her family. (The Canada Geese Quilt)

Imagination can be a powerful weapon. (Cougar)

Jealousy can be destroying. (The Fairest)

The power of knowledge. (From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)

Feelings make human beings. (The Giver)

Self-reliance. (The Hatchet)

Sometimes we have to accept change even if we don’t want to. (Julie of the Wolves)

Beasts can show strong emotions too. (King Kong)

Some customs and traditions compel people to be dishonest. (The Kite Runner)

Thinking and analysing contribute to decision making. (The Lemming Condition)

Unity is a power. (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Orphans deserve parental love. (Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism)

Children can be brave. (Molly Moon Stops the World)

Divorce makes children miserable. (My Broken Family)

Families are the basis of life in societies. (The Orphan of Ellis Island)

War has ugly faces that make children miserable.(Parvana’s Journey)

Information leads to knowledge.(The Penultimate Peril)

Sometimes, you can save lives by being wise and clever. (Poppy)

Not everything in life comes without price. (Shiloh)

Different people can become friends. (Sign of the Beaver)

Sometimes, risky decisions yield their fruits. (Skybreaker)

Unfortunate person can sometimes become fortunate.(The Slippery Slope)

When there is a will there is a way. (Stone Fox)

Hatred has negative effects on people. (Weasel)

Fear can prevent us from helping others. (Wired)



In English, only two tenses are marked in the verb alone, present (as in “he sings”) and past (as in “he sang”). Other English language tenses are marked by words called auxiliaries.

Simple Present: They walk

Present Perfect: They have walked

Simple Past: They walked

Past Perfect: They had walked

Future: They will walk

Future Perfect: They will have walked

The most common auxiliaries are “be,” “can,” “do,” “may,” “must,” “ought,” “shall,” “will,” “has,” “have,” and “had.”


Present Perfect

The present perfect designates action which began in the past but which continues into the present.

1. June taught for ten years. (simple past)

2. June has taught for ten years. (present perfect)


Past Perfect

The past perfect tense designates action completed in the past before another action.

1. Mike bred puppies and later sold them. (past)

2. Mike sold puppies that he had bred. (past perfect)


Future Perfect

The future perfect tense designates action that will have been completed at a specified time in the future.

1. Saturday I will mow my lawn. (simple future)

2. By Saturday evening I will have mown my lawn. (future perfect)


Similes and Metaphors

A SIMILE is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y , using the words AS or LIKE .

For example:

“My love’s LIKE a red, red rose.”
“He was AS cold AS ice.” 

A METAPHOR is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y, and where X is said TO BE Y. A METAPHOR says that X IS Y.

For example:

“It IS raining cats and dogs.”

“Juliet IS the sun.”

“My bedroom IS a tip.”

“Her eyes ARE homes of silent prayer.”

Authors use metaphors and similes to create IMAGES .

Identify whether the following are similes or metaphors. BEWARE, two of them aren’t either one!

  1. “Juliet is the sun.” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.)
  2. Tracy felt as sick as a parrot.
  3. “..the perfect sky is torn.” (Natalie Imbruglia, “Torn”)
  4. The traffic is murder.
  5. Tom is as deaf as a post.
  6. “Life’s but a walking shadow.” (Shakespeare, Macbeth.)
  7. She ran like the wind.
  8. I’m as light as a feather.
  9. “The sun’s a thief.” (Shakespeare, Timon of Athens.)
  10. Kitty is the apple of her mother’s eye.
  11. “Death lies upon her like an untimely frost.” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.)
  12. My feet are as warm as toast.
  13. “There’s more life in a tramp’s vest.” (Stereophonics, “more life in a tramp’s vest.”)
  14. Tom is deaf.
  15. “Everyday is a winding road& ” (Sheryl Crow, “Everyday is a winding road.”)
  16. My eyes are blue.
  17. “England & is a fen of stagnant waters.” (Wordsworth.)
  18. “Their smiles, wan as primroses.” (Keats.)
  19. The cucumber is cool.
  20. Your beauty shines like the sun.
  21. “Love is blind, as far as the eye can see.” (The Spice Girls, “Too Much.”)
  22. She looked as pretty as a picture.
  23. James was as cool as a cucumber.
  24. His feet are as black as coal.
  25. “It’s been a hard day’s night / And I’ve been working like a dog.” (Lennon and McCartney.)


A Birthday

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickest fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleur-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Christina G. Rossetti 1830-1894 


You Fit into Me

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye 

a fish hook
an open eye

Margaret Atwood (1939- ) 



Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A Common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fool’s Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our travelled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)


Advice on Novel Writing

by Crawford Kilian


  1. Developing Efficient Work Habits
  2. Elements Of A Successful Story
    • In the opening…
    • In the body of the story…
    • In the conclusion…
    • Throughout the story…
  3. Style: Checklist For Fiction Writers
  4. Manuscript Format
  5. Storyboarding
  6. Ten Points on Plotting
  7. The Story Synopsis
  8. Understanding Genre: Notes on the Thriller
  9. Symbolism and all that
    • The Natural Cycle
    • The Natural Versus the Human World
    • The Hero’s Quest: Mysterious or unusual birth
    • Symbolic Images
    • Symbolic Characters
  10. Narrative Voice
  11. Constructing a Scene
  12. Show And Tell: Which Is Better?
  13. Character In Fiction
    • The Character Resume
  14. “Let’s Talk About Dialogue,” He Pontificated
    • Some Dialogue Conventions to Consider:
  15. Writing A Query Letter About Your Novel
    • The Letter Itself
  16. Researching Publishers and Agents
  17. Reading a Contract
    • Delivery Of Satisfactory Copy
    • Permission for Copyrighted Material
    • Grant Of Rights
    • Proofreading and Author’s Corrections
    • Advances and Royalties
    • Author’s Warranties and Indemnities
    • Copies to Author
    • Option Clause
    • Going Out of Print
    • A Word of Advice


This is the author’s 1992 series about writing fiction for the mass market. When asked why he posted them online, he said, “When you’re young, and you think you have the talent, you wonder how you can make the talent serve you. When you’re older, you wonder how you can serve the talent. This is some small part of my service. God bless, work hard, write honestly, take pride in your craft!”

Crawford Kilian
Communications Department
Capilano College
2055 Purcell Way
North Vancouver, BC Canada V7G 1H7
Usenet: [email protected]

Developing Efficient Work Habits

Different writers face different advantages and drawbacks in forming good writing habits. The circumstances of your personal life may make it easy or hard to find writing time, but time itself is not the real issue–it’s habit. Writing must be something you do regularly, like brushing your teeth. The writer who waits for inspiration will wait even longer for a complete, published novel.

Writing habits flourish best in routine, but the efficient writer also exploits opportunity.

Routine: Set aside some time every day when you can work undisturbed for an hour or two–first thing in the morning, during lunch, after dinner, whenever you can set aside other demands. Ideally, it’s the same time of day. Your family and friends will soon build their routines around yours. With luck, they will resent your unscheduled appearances during your writing time, and will send you packing back to your desk.

Keep your writing equipment (paper, pens, software manuals, etc.) in your writing place, close at hand. Minimize distractions like interesting new magazines and books. Try to find a writing time when few people phone or visit. If a cup of coffee and some background music make you feel less lonely, by all means enjoy them.

Use household chores as thinking time: a chance to review what you’ve done so far and to consider where your writing should go next. Walking the dog or vacuuming the carpet can provide more ideas than you expect. This is really just “controlled daydreaming,” letting your mind freewheel in a particular direction: What the heroine should do in the next chapter, how the hero would respond to escaping a car bomb, how the villain developed his evil character. But the process doesn’t seem to work if you just sit and stare at the wall. You need to be up and moving in some automatic pattern.

Don’t lean on others for editorial advice and encouragement–least of all people you’re emotionally involved with. Spouses, friends and roommates rarely have both editorial perceptiveness and the tact to express it without infuriating you or breaking your heart. Empty praise will get you nowhere; unconstructive criticism can destroy your novel in an instant.

Instead, be your own editor: set aside regular times to write yourself letters discussing your own work, articulating what’s good and less good in it. In the process you’ll easily solve problems that could otherwise grow into full-blown writer’s block. On a computer, the letters can form a continuous journal, recording your reactions to the evolving work. Checking back to the first journal entries can help keep you on track–or dramatically show how far you’ve moved from your original concept.

Writing a letter to yourself is especially helpful if you’re beginning to have anxieties about the story. Sometimes we try to suppress those anxieties, which only makes them worse. Anxiety turns to frustration and despair, and finally we abandon the whole project. If you can actually write down what bothers you about your heroine, or your plot, or whatever, the answer to the problem often suggests itself. The act of turning our chaotic thoughts into orderly sentences seems to lead to much quicker and more satisfying solutions.

In addition to these self-addressed letters, keep a daily log of your progress. Word processors with word-count functions are powerful encouragers. The log can give you a sense of accomplishment, especially on big projects, and can enable you to set realistic completion deadlines. For example, if you know you can write 500 words in an hour, and you write three hours a week, you can have a completed novel manuscript of 75,000 words in 50 weeks. If you write ten hours a week, the ms. will be complete in 15 weeks.

Compile a “project bible.” This is a list of facts, names, and so on that you expect to be using for constant reference. If you have some important research findings you plan to use, put them in the bible along with their sources. Include lists of characters’ names (with descriptions, so their eyes don’t change color), unusual words or spellings, etc. The best format for this bible may be a looseleaf binder you can carry with you. (A word of caution: If your bible gets too big to carry easily, you’re defeating its purpose.)

Opportunity: If you decide you “can’t write” unless you’re seated at your Gigabyte II computer with Mozart on the stereo and no one else in the house, you’re just making life harder for yourself. Your ordinary domestic routine will always contain “dead time”–periods when you’re away from home (or at least away from your workplace) with no other task at hand. You might be waiting in a doctor’s office, on a bus, or trapped in a large, dull meeting. Use that dead time constructively by carrying your notebook bible in which you can record at least a few lines of a rough draft. Or you might jot down some background notes about your project, or a self-editing idea that’s just occurred to you. You can then use these when you’re back at your desk producing finished text.

These are general habits that will help you at all stages of the novel-writing process. But you may also find that you need to understand those stages and adapt your habits to each of them. You may not do yourself any good if you plunge into the writing phase before you’ve worked out a decent outline. So let’s take a look at the stages of the novel-writing process, and then consider some techniques to maximize your efficiency in each of them.

Elements Of A Successful Story

If your novel or short story is going to work, it’s going to need all the right components. Used without imagination or sensitivity, those elements may produce only formula fiction. But, like a good cook with the right materials and a good recipe, you can also create some pleasant surprises.

Many writers, like many good cooks, don’t need to think consciously about what they’re throwing in the pot. But as an apprentice you should probably think about how your story matches up with the following suggestions. They all have to do, essentially, with bringing your characters and readers from a state of ignorance to a state of awareness: Can our heroine find happiness as a journalist? We don’t know, but we’ll find out. Can our hero found a family dynasty in the Nevada wilderness? We don’t know, but we’ll find out.

In the opening…

Show us your main characters, or at least foreshadow them: We might see your heroine’s mother getting married, for example. Or we might see a crime committed which will bring in your hero to investigate.

Show one or more characters under some kind of appropriate stress. For example, if the hero must perform well under enemy fire in the climax, show him being shot at in Chapter One–and performing badly. If the heroine must resist temptation at the end, show her (or someone else) succumbing to temptation in the beginning.

Show us who’s the “good guy,” who’s the “bad guy.” That is, in whom should we make an emotional investment? Whose side are we on? Even if the hero is morally repugnant (a hired killer, for example), he should display some trait or attitude we can admire and identify with. The villain can be likable but set on a course we must disapprove.

Show what’s at stake. Editors and readers want to know this right away. (That’s why the blurb on the jacket usually tells us: “Only one person can save the West/defend the Galactic Empire/defeat the vampires…”)What does the hero stand to gain or lose? What will follow if the villain wins?

Establish the setting–where and when the story takes place.

Establish the area of conflict . If the setting is the Nanaimo coal mines at the turn of the century, the area of conflict may be relations between miners and owners, or within a family of miners, or within a single miner’s personality.

Foreshadow the ending. If the hero dies in a blizzard at the end, a few flakes of snow may fall in the first chapter.

Set the tone of the story: solemn or excited, humorous or tragic.

In the body of the story…

Tell your story in scenes, not in exposition. A scene contains a purpose, an obstacle or conflict, and a resolution that tells us something new about the characters and their circumstances.

Develop your characters through action and dialogue. Show us, don’t tell us, what’s going on and why (not He was loud and rude, but “Get outa my way, you jerk!” he bellowed.).

Include all the elements you need for your conclusion. If everything depends on killing the victim with a shotgun, show us the shotgun long before it goes off.

Give your characters adequate motivation for their actions and words. Drama is people doing amazing things for very good reasons. Melodrama is people doing amazing things for bad or nonexistent reasons.

Develop the plot as a series of increasingly serious problems. (The heroine escapes the villain in Chapter 5 by fleeing into the snowy mountains; now in Chapter 6 she risks death in an avalanche.) Establish suspense by making solution of the problems uncertain (How will the heroine escape the avalanche and avoid freezing to death in Chapter Seven?).

Make solutions of the problems appropriate to the characters (Good thing she took Outward Bound training in Chapter One).

In the conclusion…

Present a final, crucial conflict when everything gained so far is in danger and could be lost by a single word or deed: this is the climax, which reveals something to your readers (and perhaps to your characters) which has been implicit from the outset but not obvious or predictable.

Throughout the story…

Remember that nothing in a story happens at random . Why is the heroine’s name Sophia? Why is she blind? Why is her dog a black Lab? The easy answer is that you’re the God of your novel and that’s the way you want things. But if you have a conscious reason for these elements, the story gains in interest because it carries more meaning: For example, “Sophia” means “wisdom” and the name can provide a cue to the reader.

Use image, metaphor and simile with a conscious purpose, not just because a phrase “sounds good.”

Maintain consistent style, tone, and point of view.

Know the conventions of the form you’re working in, and break them only when you have a good reason to. For example, if it’s conventional for the private eye to be an aggressive, hard-drinking single man, you’re going to shake up the reader if your private eye is a yogurt-loving, shy mother of three school-age children. You’ll shake up the reader even more if she goes around pistol-whipping people; as a private eye, her behavior will still depend on her personality and limitations.

Style: Checklist For Fiction Writers

As you begin to develop your outline, and then the actual text of your novel, you can save time and energy by making sure that your writing style requires virtually no copy editing. In the narrative:

  1. Do any sentences begin with the words “There” or “It”? They can almost certainly benefit from revision. (Compare: There were three gunmen who had sworn to kill him. It was hard to believe. or: Three gunmen had sworn to kill him. He couldn’t believe it.)
  2. Are you using passive voice instead of active voice? (Compare: Is passive voice being used?) Put it in active voice!
  3. Are you repeating what you’ve already told your readers? Are you telegraphing your punches?
  4. Are you using trite phrases, cliches, or deliberately unusual words? You’d better have a very good reason for doing so.
  5. Are you terse? Or, alternatively, are you on the other hand expressing and communicating your thoughts and ideas with a perhaps excessive and abundant plethora of gratuitous and surplus verbiage, whose predictably foreseeable end results, needless to say, include as a component part a somewhat repetitious redundancy?
  6. Are you grammatically correct? Are spelling and punctuation correct? (This is not mere detail work, but basic craft. Learn standard English or forget about writing novels.)
  7. Is the prose fluent, varied in rhythm, and suitable in tone to the type of story you’re telling?
  8. Are you as narrator intruding on the story through witticisms, editorializing, or self-consciously, inappropriately “fine” writing?In the dialogue:
  9. Are you punctuating dialogue correctly, so that you neither confuse nor distract your readers?
  10. Are your characters speaking naturally, as they would in reality, but more coherently?
  11. Does every speech advance the story, revealing something new about the plot or the characters? If not, what is its justification?
  12. Are your characters so distinct in their speech–in diction, rhythm, and mannerism–that you rarely need to add “he said” or “she said”?

Manuscript Format

Once your book appears in print, your publisher will return your manuscript as “dead matter.” At that point it’s of interest only to future Ph.D. candidates. But when it first arrives in the publisher’s office, it ought to look as inviting, clean and professional as you can make it. You want to make sure it’s as readable (and correctable) as possible; don’t give the editor an excuse to reject you because you make her eyes hurt, and she can’t even find room to insert proper spelling.

Ideally, you’ll submit your manuscript in laser-printed form. If you can’t afford that, then use an inkjet printer (used with good bond paper, it’s almost as good as laser), a good dot-matrix printer, or an electric typewriter. If your dot-matrix printer has a pale ribbon and you can’t replace it, make a darker photocopy of the original printout.

Consider your choice of font. A sans serif font is legible but not readable–that is, you can recognize a word or phrase quickly, but reading page after page would be exhausting. A boldface font is even worse. A serif font is more readable, so by all means choose one for the body of your manuscript text. Point size is also important. For the Mac, 12-point Times isn’t bad, and it lets you put a lot of text on one page. But 14-point Times is more readable.

(This issue, by the way, recently kicked up a big fuss in this newsgroup; some people argued that only a monospace font was acceptable. I finally phoned Del Rey Books to see if they preferred a monospace font like Courier, or a more flexible font. The editor I talked to obviously thought I was bonkers; they don’t much care as long as they can read the manuscript.)

Paper should be standard 8.5×11, 20 lb. white bond. If you use fanfold paper in a dot-matrix printer, make sure it’s reasonably heavy. (You will of course separate each page and remove the strips on the sides.) Give yourself a margin of at least an inch top and bottom, and an inch or an inch and a half on the sides. Double-space your text. Do not put an extra double-space between paragraphs, unless you want a similar gap on the printed page to indicate a change of scene or passage of time. Indent each paragraph about half an inch. If you are using a font with letters that take up variable amounts of space, a single space after a period is enough. If you are using a typewriter or a monospace font, two spaces are better. Either way, a single space should follow every comma, semicolon, and colon. If you can, use an “em dash” with no spaces between the dash and the surrounding words. Two hyphens — are an acceptable substitute. Underline text only if you cannot italicize it.

Do not use a right-justified margin! It may look tidy, but it creates gaps between words that make reading hard. Avoid hyphenations. Also avoid “widows and orphans”–that is, a paragraph that begins on the last line of a page, or a paragraph that ends on the first line the following page. Most word processors can kick such paragraphs onto the next page. This may create huge lower margins, but it’s better than breaking a paragraph.

Be sure that each page displays a plain Arabic numeral in the upper right-hand corner. Otherwise, don’t bother with a header. They’re not going to scatter your ms. or lose the title page. And when you send it in, don’t bind it in a cute cover. Send it loose, in a typing-paper box. Make sure you have at least two copies on disk (in separate locations) or a photocopy. In 1979 I sent half a manuscript (240 pages, a year’s work) to my editor in New York; he sent it back a couple of months later, but I’m still waiting for it. Fortunately I had a carbon copy.

The publisher may want you to send along a disk with the manuscript on it, as well as the hard copy. When I did that recently, I found that the editor just poured my files into a new font and layout and sent me the page proofs for correction. That meant all the mistakes I found were my own; I couldn’t blame some clumsy typesetter. This is the downside of the computer revolution, folks.


“Storyboarding” usually means arranging a sequence of images for a film or commercial. But you can storyboard a novel also, and it can be a helpful way to organize the plot.

That’s because we don’t normally think plot. We have an idea for a story (immigrant boy founds family dynasty in Nevada wilderness) and a random assortment of mental images (encounter with a grizzly bear, wild ride to rescue son from kidnappers, gorgeous blonde swimming nude in icy stream, showdown with eastern gangsters wanting land for casino). How do we get from these fragments to a coherent plot?

Writing a letter to yourself may help, but first try this: Take a stack of 3×5 cards and jot down an image or scene on each one, just in the order the ideas occur to you. It might look something like this:

Jesse rides into town, confronts Caleb Black about his fraudulent mining-shares deal. Caleb denies everything, threatens to shoot Jesse if he talks about it.

When you have five or ten or twenty such cards, lay them out in the sequence you envisage for the story. You certainly don’t have a card for each scene in the novel, but you have the scenes that your subconscious seems to want to deal with.

You also have numerous gaps. How do you get Jesse from his silver mine in Nevada to the deck of the Titanic? How does Caleb get in touch with the three hired killers from San Francisco? How does Jesse’s grandson respond to the first offer from the gangster syndicate that wants to build a casino on the site of the old mine?

Now you turn your thoughts to just those gaps, and new ideas occur to you. That means more cards. Maybe some of the new ideas are better than the original ones, so some of the old cards go in the trash. New characters emerge to fulfill functions in the story. Your research into Nevada history suggests still more scenes which might go into this or that part of the novel; still more cards go into your growing deck.

The story may eventually end up as a series of flashbacks, but for now stick to straight chronological order. Maybe the whole story occurs during a three-hour siege of a secluded mansion; maybe it stretches across a century and a continent. Whatever the “real time” of your story, you may see that the cards clump naturally around certain periods of the plot and you see no need for events to fill in the gaps. That’s fine; maybe you’ve found the natural divisions between chapters or sections of the story.

Keep asking yourself why. Why Nevada, why mining, why a gorgeous naked blonde? Don’t keep a scene in your storyboard unless you can justify it as a way to dramatize a character’s personality, to move the story ahead, to lend verisimilitude. If you absolutely must have a scene in which Jesse’s true love Sophia goes skinnydipping in an icy creek and then nearly drowns, what good will the scene do for the story?

Once you have at least the main sequence of events clearly mapped out on your cards, you can begin to transfer them to a more manageable synopsis or outline. More about that in a later posting.

Ten Points on Plotting

  1. Nothing should happen at random. Every element in a story should have significance, whether for verisimilitude, symbolism, or the intended climax. Names, places, actions and events should all be purposeful. To test the significance of an element, ask: Why this place and not another? Why this name and not another? Why this action, this speech, and not others–or none at all? The answers should be: To persuade the reader of the story’s plausibility; to convey a message about the theme of the story; to prepare the reader for the climax so that it seems both plausible and in keeping with the theme.
  2. Plot stems from character under adversity. A mild-mannered person cannot achieve his goals by an out-of-character action like a violent assault, unless we have prepared the reader for it by revealing a glimpse of some suppressed aspect of his personality that can be plausibly released by stress. And the stress itself must also be plausible, given the circumstances of the story.
  3. Each character has an urgent personal agenda. Too much is at stake to abandon that agenda without good reason. We may not share the character’s urgency, but we should be able to see why he cares so much about what he’s doing. A character who acts without real motivation is by definition melodramatic, doing outrageous things for the sake of the thrill it gives the reader–not because it makes sense for the character to do so.
  4. The plot of a story is the synthesis of the plots of its individual characters. Each character has a personal agenda, modified by conflict or concordance with the agendas of others. The villain doesn’t get everything his way, any more than the hero does; each keeps thwarting the other, who must then improvise under pressure. If the hero is moving northwest, and the villain is moving northeast, the plot carries them both more or less due north–at least until one or the other gains some advantage.
  5. The plot “begins” long before the story. The story itself should begin at the latest possible moment before the climax, at a point when events take a decisive and irreversible turn. We may learn later, through flashbacks, exposition, or inference, about events occurring before the beginning of the story.
  6. Foreshadow all important elements. The first part of a story is a kind of prophecy; the second part fulfills the prophecy. Any important character, location, object should be foreshadowed early in the story. The deus ex machina is unacceptable; you can’t pull a rabbit out of your hat to rescue your hero. But you can’t telegraph your punch either–your readers don’t want to see what’s coming, especially if your characters seem too dumb to see it. The trick is to put the plot element into your story without making the reader excessively aware of its importance. Chance and coincidence, in particular, require careful preparation if they are going to influence the plot.
  7. Keep in mind the kind of story you’re telling. Any story is about the relationship of an individual to society. A comic story describes an isolated individual achieving social integration either by being accepted into an existing society or by forming his own. This integration is often symbolized by a wedding or feast. A tragic story describes an integrated individual who becomes isolated; death is simply a symbol of this isolation. The plot should keep us in some degree of suspense about what kind of story we’re reading. Even if we know it’s a comedy, the precise nature of the comic climax should come as a surprise. If we know the hero is doomed, his downfall should stem from a factor we know about but have not given sufficient weight to.
  8. Ironic plots subvert their surface meanings. Here, an ordinarily desirable goal appears very unattractive to us: the hero marries, but chooses the wrong girl and turns his story into a tragedy. Or the hero may die, but gains some improvement in social acceptance as a result–by becoming a martyr or social savior, for example.
  9. The hero must eventually take charge of events. In any plot the hero is passive for a time, reacting to events. At some point he must try to take charge. This is the counterthrust, when the story goes into high gear. In some cases we may have a series of thrusts and counterthrusts; in the opening stages of the plot, the counterthrust helps define the hero’s character and puts him in position for more serious conflicts (and counterthrusts) later in the story. You could even say that every scene presents the hero with a problem; his response is his counterthrust. In the larger structure of the plot, the counterthrust often comes after the hero’s original plan of action has failed; he has learned some hard lessons and now he will apply them as he approaches the climax of the story.
  10. Plot dramatizes character. If all literature is the story of the quest for identity, then plot is the roadmap of that quest. Every event, every response, should reveal (to us if not to them) some aspect of the characters’ identities. Plot elements dramatize characters’ identities by providing opportunities to be brave or cowardly, stupid or brilliant, generous or mean. These opportunities come in the form of severe stress, appropriate to the kind of story you’re telling. A plot element used for its own sake–a fistfight, a sexual encounter, an ominous warning–is a needless burden to the story if it does not illuminate the characters involved. Conversely, the reader will not believe any character trait that you have not dramatized through a plot device.

The Story Synopsis

The story synopsis or outline can take many forms; it has no rigid format. But the synopsis, like the manuscript, should be double-spaced and highly legible, with frequent paragraphing.

Some synopses cover the whole story, while others supplement a portion of completed manuscript and presuppose the reader’s familiarity with that portion. If you have broken your novel into chapters, that’s a useful way to divide your synopsis also. You may find, however, that what you thought would fit into one chapter will expand into two or three.

The major element of the synopsis, and sometimes the only element, is the narrative.

  • Usually in present tense:On a fine spring day in 1923, Lucy Williams applies for a job working for a mysterious millionaire.
  • Names and describes major characters:Lucy’s new boss is Donald Matthews, a handsome young businessman scarcely older than Lucy, but with an unsavory reputation as a rumored bootlegger.
  • Summarizes major events in the story:Hurrying home through the storm, Lucy bumps into Kenneth Holwood, Donald’s former partner. Holwood seems deranged, and hints at some terrible secret in Donald’s past.
  • Indicates the story’s point of view:Lucy mails the package despite her qualms; she wonders what it might contain. Meanwhile, in a shabby hotel room across town, Holwood meticulously plans the death of Donald Matthews. (This shows us that the story’s point of view is third-person omniscient; we will skip from one viewpoint to another as events require.)
  • Contains virtually no dialogue:Donald invites Lucy to dinner at a notorious speakeasy, saying she’ll enjoy herself more than she thinks she will.

A list of major characters’ names (with brief descriptions) can sometimes be helpful in keeping the story straight; if used, such a list usually goes at the beginning of the synopsis.

A background section sometimes precedes the synopsis itself, especially if the story’s context requires some explanation. (This seems especially true of science fiction, fantasy, and historical novels, where the plot may hinge on unfamiliar story elements.) Otherwise, such explanation simply crops up where required in the synopsis.

How long should a synopsis be? I’ve sold some novels with just two or three pages. Other writers may write forty or fifty pages of outline. If your purpose is to interest an editor before the novel is completed, and you expect the total ms. to run to 90,000 to 120,000 words, a synopsis of four to ten doublespaced pages should be adequate. After all, you’re trying to tempt the editor by showing her a brief sample, giving her grounds for a decision without a long investment in reading time.

Should you stick to your synopsis? Not necessarily. It’s there to help you and your editor, not to dictate the whole story. Like the itinerary of a foreign tour, it should give you a sense of direction and purpose while leaving you free to explore interesting byways; it should also give you a quick return to the main road if the byway turns into a dead end.

Understanding Genre: Notes on the Thriller

“Genre” simply means a kind of literature (usually fiction) dealing with a particular topic, setting, or issue. Even so-called “mainstream” fiction has its genres: the coming-of-age story, for example. In the last few decades, genre in North America has come to mean types of fiction that are commercially successful because they are predictable treatments of familiar material: the Regency romance, the hard-boiled detective novel, the space opera. Some readers, writers and critics dismiss such fiction precisely because of its predictability, and they’re often right to do so. But even the humblest hackwork requires a certain level of craft, and that means you must understand your genre’s conventions if you are going to succeed–and especially if you are going to convey your message by tinkering with those conventions. For our purposes, a “convention” is an understanding between writer and reader about certain details of the story. For example, we don’t need to know the history of the Mexican-American War to understand why a youth from Ohio is punching cattle in Texas in 1871. We don’t need to understand the post-Einstein physics that permits faster-than-light travel and the establishment of interstellar empires. And we agree that the heroine of a Regency romance should be heterosexual, unmarried, and unlikely to solve her problems through learning karate.

As a novice writer, you should understand your genre’s conventions consciously, not just as things you take for granted that help make a good yarn. In this, you’re like an apprentice cook who can’t just uncritically love the taste of tomato soup; you have to know what ingredients make it taste that way, and use them with some calculation.

So it might be useful for you, in one of your letters to yourself about your novel, to write out your own understanding and appreciation of the form you’re working in. I found this was especially helpful with a couple of my early books, which fell into the genre of the natural-disaster thriller. Your genre analysis doesn’t have to be in essay form; it just has to identify the key elements of the genre as you understand them, and that in turn should lead to ideas about how to tinker with the genre’s conventions. And that, in turn, should make your story more interesting than a slavish imitation of your favorite author.

As an example, here are my Own views about the thriller:

  1. The thriller portrays persons confronting problems they can’t solve by recourse to established institutions and agencies; calling 911, or a psychiatrist, won’t help matters in the slightest.
  2. The problems not only threaten the characters’ physical and mental safety, they threaten to bring down the society they live in: their families, their communities, their nations. This is what is at stake in the story, and should appear as soon as possible.
  3. The solution to the characters’ problems usually involves some degree of violence, illegality, technical expertise, and dramatic action, but not more than we can plausibly expect from people of the kind we have chosen to portray.
  4. The political thriller portrays characters who must go outside their society if they are to save it, and the characters therefore acquire a certain ironic quality. They must be at least as skilled and ruthless as their adversaries, yet motivated by values we can understand and admire even if we don’t share them.
  5. The disaster thriller portrays characters who are either isolated from their society or who risk such isolation if they fail. That is, either they will die or their society will fall (or both) if they do not accomplish their goals. In the novel of natural disaster, the disaster comes early and the issue is who will survive and how. In the novel of man-made disaster, the issue is how (or whether) the characters will prevent the disaster.
  6. The characters must be highly plausible and complex; where they seem grotesque or two-dimensional, we must give some valid reason for these qualities. They must have adequate motives for the extreme and risky actions they take, and they must respond to events with plausible human reactions. Those reactions should spring from what we know of the characters’ personalities, and should throw new light on those personalities.
  7. The protagonist’s goal is to save or restore a threatened society; it is rarely to create a whole new society. In this sense, the thriller is usually politically conservative, though irony may subvert that conservatism.
  8. At the outset the protagonist only reacts to events; at some point, however, he or she embarks on the counterthrust, an attempt to take charge and overcome circumstances.
  9. The progress of the protagonist is from ignorance to knowledge, accomplished through a series of increasingly intense and important conflicts. These lead to a climactic conflict and the resolution of the story.
  10. With the climax the protagonist attains self-knowledge as well as understanding of his or her circumstances (or at least we attain such knowledge). This knowledge may well create a whole new perspective on the story’s events and the characters’ values: A murder may turn out to have been futile, or loyalty may have been betrayed. We should prepare for these insights early in the novel, so that the protagonist’s change and development are logical and believable.

Symbolism and all that

Maybe you never got anything out of your literature courses except a strong dislike for “analyzing a story to death.” Sometimes the symbolic interpretation of a story or poem can seem pretty far-fetched.

Nevertheless, as soon as you start writing, you start writing on some kind of symbolic level. Maybe you’re not conscious of it, but it’s there: in your characters, their actions, the setting, and the images. (Some writers are very powerful symbolists, but don’t realize it; that’s why authors are often poor critics of their own work.)

You may argue that your writing simply comes out of your own life and experience, and has nothing to do with “literary” writing. Well, no doubt you’ll include elements of your own life, but whether you like it or not you’ll find yourself treating that experience like gingerbread dough: You’ll shape it into a mold to create a gingerbread man, or you’ll have a shapeless mess on your hands.

What you write is really a kind of commentary on everything you’ve read so far in your life. If you get a kick out of romance novels, and you write one based on your own torrid love life which is quite different from most romances, your novel is still a comment on what you’ve read.

This is not the place for a long discussion of the theory of fiction. You should learn at least the basics of that theory, however, and no better source exists than Anatomy of Criticism, by Northrop Frye. You may find parts of it heavy going, but it will repay your efforts by letting you look at your own work more perceptively, and by enabling you to develop structure and symbol more consciously.

To paraphrase Frye very crudely, every story is about a search for identity. That identity depends largely on the protagonist’s position (or lack of position) in society. A tragic story shows a person who moves from a socially integrated position (the Prince of Denmark, the King of Thebes) to a socially isolated one (a dead prince, a blind beggar). A comic story shows a person moving from social isolation (symbolized by poverty, lack of recognition, and single status) to social integration (wealth, status, and marriage to one’s beloved).

Fiction in the western tradition draws on two major sources: ancient Greek literature, and the Judaeo-Christian Bible. Both sources are concerned with preservation or restoration of society, and with the individual hero as savior or social redeemer. Hamlet wants to redeem Denmark from his uncle’s usurpation; Oedipus wants to save Thebes from the curse that he himself unintentionally placed on it.

In precisely the same way, the private eye redeems his society by identifying who is guilty (and therefore who is innocent); the frontier gunman risks his life to preserve the honest pioneers; the mutant telepath faces danger to search for fellow-mutants.

Now, you can play this straight or you can twist it. The private eye may find that everyone is guilty. The gunman may be in the pay of crooked land speculators. The mutant may find he is sterile, that his talents will die surface meaning. Winston Smith, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, is happily integrated at the end of the story, but we don’t share his happiness.

How you use symbols can also undercut or change your apparent meaning. Let’s take a look at some common symbols and patterns, and how they can comment on your story.

The Natural Cycle

Day to night, spring to winter, youth to old age. These suggest all kinds of imagery: light=goodness, darkness=evil

spring=hope, winter=despair

girl=innocence, crone=evil knowledge, impending death

Northrop Frye argues that we associate images of spring with comedy; images of summer with romance; images of autumn with tragedy; images of winter with satire and irony. Note, however, that here “comedy” means a story of social unification; “tragedy” means a story of social isolation; and “romance” means a story in which the characters are larger than life and encounter wonders usually not seen in reality.

Bear in mind that images associated with these cycles are usually all you need: at the end of Nineteen Eighty-Four, a cold April wind kills the crocuses that ought to promise hope and renewal. Similarly, autumn leaves can symbolize an aging person, a dying society, or the onset of evil.

The Natural Versus the Human World

Desert versus garden

Sinister forest versus park

Pastoral world versus city

In western literature, the journey from innocence to experience is often symbolized by the protagonist’s journey from an idyllic world close to nature, to an urban world that has closed itself against nature. (In Biblical terms, this is the journey from Eden through the desert of the fallen world, to the Heavenly City.) Returns to the natural world are sometimes successful; sometimes the protagonist manages to bring the urban world into a new harmony with nature. In other cases, an urban hero finds meaning and value through some kind of contact with nature.

The Hero’s Quest: Mysterious or unusual birth

Prophecy that he will overthrow the present order, restore a vanished order

Secluded childhood among humble people in a pastoral setting

Signs of the hero’s unusual nature

Journey-quest — a series of adventures and ordeals that test the hero, culminating in a climactic confrontation

Death — real or symbolic


Recognition as savior-king; formation of new society around him

Symbolic Images

A symbol may be good or evil, depending on its context, and the author is quite free to develop the context to convey a particular symbolism. For example, the tree is usually a symbol of life–but not if you use it as the venue for a lynching, or you turn its wood into a crucifix or a gibbet. Here are some images and their most common symbolic meanings:

  • Garden: nature ordered to serve human needs (paradis is a Persian word for garden)
  • Wilderness: nature hostile to human needs
  • River: life, often seen as ending in death as the river ends in the sea
  • Sea: chaos, death, source of life
  • Flower: youth, sexuality; red flowers symbolize death of young men
  • Pastoral animals: Ordered human society
  • Predatory animals: Evil; threats to human order
  • Fire: light, life or hell and lust
  • Sky: heaven, fate or necessity
  • Bridge: Link between worlds, between life and death

Symbolic Characters

Different types of characters recur so often that they’ve acquired their own names. Here are some of the most common:

  • Eiron: One who deprecates himself and appears less than he really is; includes most types of hero (Ulysses, Frodo, Huck Finn). The term “irony” derives from eiron.
  • Alazon: An imposter, one who boasts and presents himself as more than he really is; subtypes include the braggart soldier (General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove) and obsessed philosopher-mad scientist (Saruman, Dr. Strangelove). In my novel Tsunami, I named my villain Allison; although he starts as a movie director, he ends up as a braggart soldier.
  • Tricky slave: Hero’s helper (Jim in Huckleberry Finn; Gollum in The Lord of the Rings).
  • Helpful giant: Hero’s helper; in tune with nature (Ents in TLOR; Chewbacca in Star Wars).
  • Wise old man: Hero’s helper; possessor of knowledge (Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi).
  • Buffoon: Creates a festive mood, relieves tension (Sam Gamgee, Mercutio).
  • Churl: Straight man, killjoy or bumpkin (Uriah Heep).
  • Fair maiden: Symbol of purity and redemption (Rowena) or of repressed sexuality (any number of Ice Maidens).
  • Dark woman: Symbol of lust and temptation (or of natural sexuality).
  • Hero’s double: Represents the dark side of the hero’s character (Ged’s shadow in Wizard of Earthsea).

Since these images are much older than what is now politically correct, they can cause problems; readers may see them as affirmations of old, oppressive social values. However, many modern writers now use them ironically to criticize, not endorse, the values the images originally expressed. Nevertheless, be aware that if your heroines are always blonde virgins and your villainesses are always seductive brunettes, you may be sending a message you don’t consciously intend.

Be aware also that you’re perfectly free to develop your own symbolic system. Just as the “Rosebud” sled in Citizen Kane symbolizes Kane’s lost childhood innocence, you can make a symbol out of a hat rack, a catcher’s mitt, or an old bus schedule. You’re also free to make your symbols understandable to your readers, or to keep them part of your private mythology. If you associate a catcher’s mitt with your the death of your hero’s father, the reader will understand–on some level–what you’re trying to say. If the catcher’s mitt seems important to your hero, but you don’t tell us why, we can only guess at the symbolic meaning.

Don’t try too self-consciously to be “symbolic.” But if certain images, objects or events seem to dominate your thinking about your novel, write yourself a letter about them. See whether they might indeed carry some symbolic level of meaning, and if that level is in harmony with your conscious intent.

Narrative Voice

Someone in your story has to tell us that Jeff pulled out his gun, that Samantha smiled at the tall stranger, that daylight was breaking over the valley. That someone is the narrator or “author’s persona.”

The author’s persona of a fictional narrative can help or hinder the success of the story. Which persona you adopt depends on what kind of story you are trying to tell, and what kind of emotional atmosphere works best for the story.

The persona develops from the personality and attitude of the narrator, which are expressed by the narrator’s choice of words and incidents. These in turn depend on the point of view of the story.

First-person point of view is usually subjective: we learn the narrator’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions to events. In first-person objective, however, the narrator tells us only what people said and did, without comment.

Other first-person modes include:

  • the observer-narrator, outside the main story (examples: Mr. Lockwood in Wuthering Heights, Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby)
  • detached autobiography (narrator looking back on long-past events)
  • multiple narrators (first-person accounts by several characters)
  • interior monologue (narrator recounts the story as a memory; stream of consciousness is an extreme form of this narrative)
  • dramatic monologue (narrator tells story out loud without major interruption)
  • letters or diary (narrator writes down events as they happen)

If the point of view is first-person, questions about the persona are simple: the character narrating the story has a particular personality and attitude, which is plausibly expressed by the way he or she describes events.

The second-person mode is rare: You knocked on the door. You went inside. Very few writers feel the need for it, and still fewer use it effectively.

If the point of view is third-person limited, persona again depends on the single character through whose eyes we witness the story. You may go inside the character’s mind and tell us how that character thinks and feels, or you may describe outside events in terms the character would use. Readers like this point of view because they know whom to “invest” in or identify with.

In third-person objective, we have no entry to anyone’s thoughts or feelings. The author simply describes, without emotion or editorializing, what the characters say and do. The author’s persona here is almost non-existent. Readers may be unsure whose fate they should care about, but it can be very powerful precisely because it invites the reader to supply the emotion that the persona does not. This is the persona of Icelandic sagas, which inspired not only Ernest Hemingway but a whole generation of “hard-boiled” writers.

If the point of view is third-person omniscient, however, the author’s persona can develop in any of several directions.

  1. “Episodically limited.” Whoever is the point of view for a particular scene determines the persona. An archbishop sees and describes events from his particular point of view, while a pickpocket does so quite differently. So the narrator, in a scene from the archbishop’s point of view, has a persona quite different from that of the pickpocket: a different vocabulary, a different set of values, a different set of priorities. (As a general rule, point of view should not change during a scene. So if an archbishop is the point of view in a scene involving him and a pickpocket, we shouldn’t suddenly switch to the pickpocket’s point of view until we’ve resolved the scene and moved on to another scene.)
  2. “Occasional interruptor.” The author intervenes from time to time to supply necessary information, but otherwise stays in the background. The dialogue, thoughts and behavior of the characters supply all other information the reader needs.
  3. “Editorial commentator.” The author’s persona has a distinct attitude toward the story’s characters and events, and frequently comments on them. The editorial commentator may be a character in the story, often with a name, but is usually at some distance from the main events; in some cases, we may even have an editorial commentator reporting the narrative of someone else about events involving still other people. The editorial commentator is not always reliable; he or she may lie to us, or misunderstand the true significance of events.

Third-person omniscient gives you the most freedom to develop the story, and it works especially well in stories with complex plots or large settings where we must use multiple viewpoints to tell the story. It can, however, cause the reader to feel uncertain about whom to identify with in the story. If you are going to skip from one point of view to another, start doing so early in the story, before the reader has fully identified with the original point of view.

The author’s persona can influence the reader’s reaction by helping the reader to feel close to or distant from the characters. Three major hazards arise from careless use of the persona:

  1. Sentimentality. The author’s editorial rhetoric tries to evoke an emotional response that the story’s events cannot evoke by themselves–something like a cheerleader trying to win applause for a team that doesn’t deserve it. A particular problem for the “editorial commentator.”
  2. Mannerism. The author’s persona seems more important than the story itself, and the author keeps reminding us of his or her presence through stylistic flamboyance, quirks of diction, or outright editorializing about the characters and events of the story. Also a problem for the editorial commentator. However, if the point of view is first person, and the narrator is a person given to stylistic flamboyance, quirks of diction, and so on, then the problem disappears; the persona is simply that of a rather egotistical individual who likes to show off.
  3. Frigidity. The persona’s excessive objectivity trivializes the events of the story, suggesting that the characters’ problems need not be taken seriously: a particular hazard for “hardboiled” fiction in the objective mode, whether first person or third person.

Verb tense can also affect the narrative style of the story. Most stories use the past tense: I knocked on the door. She pulled out her gun. This is usually quite adequate although flashbacks can cause awkwardness: I had knocked on the door. She had pulled out her gun. A little of that goes a long way.

Be careful to stay consistently in one verb tense unless your narrator is a person who might switch tenses: So I went to see my probation officer, and she tells me I can’t hang out with my old buddies no more.

Some writers achieve a kind of immediacy through use of the present tense: I knock on the door. She pulls out her gun. We don’t feel anyone knows the outcome of events because they are occurring as we read, in “real time.” Some writers also enjoy the present tense because it seems “arty” or experimental. But most readers of genre fiction don’t enjoy the present tense, so editors are often reluctant to let their authors use it. I learned that the hard way by using present tense in my first novel, The Empire of Time; it was enough to keep the manuscript in editorial limbo for months, and the final offer to publish was contingent on changing to past tense. Guess how long I agonized over that artistic decision!

Constructing a Scene

The basic unit of fiction is not the sentence or the paragraph, but the scene. Every scene in a story has both a verbal and a nonverbal content. The verbal content may be a young man fervently courting a girl, or the President of the United States deciding whether to go ahead with a nuclear attack on a biological-warfare research center. The nonverbal content appears in the way you present the scene: You want your reader to think that the young man is touchingly awkward, or obnoxiously crude; that the president is a shallow twerp or a deeply sensitive man facing a terrible decision.

In effect, you are like an attorney presenting a case to the jury: You supply the evidence, and the jury supplies the verdict. If you tell us that the young man is touchingly awkward, we may well disbelieve you. But if you show us his awkward behavior, and we say, “Aw, the poor lunk!”–then your scene has succeeded.

Every scene presents a problem of some kind for one or more characters, and shows us how the characters deal with that problem. That, in turn, shows us something about the characters and moves the story ahead.

Here’s an exercise I’ve found useful with my fiction-writing students. I give them about 30 minutes to take the following elements to construct a scene that dramatizes the elements and leads to a decisive resolution:

  • A taxi and public-transit strike that’s completely tied up downtown traffic
  • Donald Benson, a 35-year-old businessman: male chauvinist, aggressive personality, with business troubles
  • Helene Williams, his 22-year-old secretary: insecure in her new job, able to make friends easily, knows the city well
  • The need to get Donald to a hotel out at the airport to make a crucial presentation to a potential investor from Los Angeles; the investor will be flying out in four hours.

Give yourself half an hour to write such a scene, so that the reader will finish it knowing all this information. I predict you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can produce the scene, and at how it leads logically to another scene. The key is *knowing what you want to show your reader about your characters and their problems.* Once you know that, everything else follows pretty easily. So consider what’s going on in your own story. What do you want your reader to think about your heroine? That she’s shy but determined? That she thinks no man could ever love her? That she’s perceptive about other women but baffled by men? Whatever those traits may be, you should be able to think of logical, plausible events that could force her to show them to us.

In some cases, your plot will give you some automatic scenes. If your heroine is flying from New York to Frankfurt, maybe her seatmate is an attractive man who studiously ignores her; maybe the German customs people give her a hard time but she insists on her rights; maybe the heroine sees the attractive man greeted by a woman he seems to dote on even though the perceptive heroine can see the woman despises him. And so on.

How long should a scene be? Long enough to make its point. A scene may run to just a sentence or two, or it may take up 20 pages. When it ends, we should know more about the characters involved, and their problems should have increased. This doesn’t mean endlessly increasing gloom, but it means that even a success only clears the way for a more stressful scene to come. The hero may disarm the terrorist bomb in the daycare center, but the resulting publicity will make him a marked man; now the terrorists will try to kill him or his loved ones.

How many characters should take part in a scene? As few as possible. Even a debate in Congress isn’t going to involve every last representative. Here’s a tip in this connection: If your plot demands a fairly large cast–for example, your protagonist is the commanding officer of an infantry platoon, or the headmistress of a girls’ school–don’t introduce a whole mob of characters at once. Bring in your protagonist first, in a scene that demonstrates the character’s key traits (courage, leadership, self-hatred, whatever). Then bring in each of the supporting characters in a scene that lets him or her display key traits as well, while deepening our understanding of the protagonist and moving the plot along.

This way we build up interest in the story by building up interest in the varied and complex characters. Tolkien does it in The Lord of the Rings; Kurosawa does it in Seven Samurai. Learn from the old masters!

Show And Tell: Which Is Better?

Novice writers (and some professionals) often fall into the trap of “expositing” information instead of presenting it dramatically. Sometimes exposition is inevitable, or even desirable. Lloyd Abbey, in his brilliant SF novel The Last Whales, gives us exactly one line of human dialogue; his characters, all being whales, can’t speak to one another, so the narrator must tell us what they think and do. Gabriel Garca Marquez can also write superb exposition for page after page.

Most of us ordinary mortals, however, need to dramatize our characters and their feelings. Otherwise our readers will tire of our editorials.

Consider the following expository and dramatic passages. Which more adequately conveys what the author is trying to show to the reader?

Vanessa was a tall woman of 34 with shoulder-length red hair and a pale complexion. She often lost her temper; when she did, her fair skin turned a deep pink, and she often swore. She was full of energy, and became impatient at even the slightest delay or impediment to her plans. Marshall, her chief assistant, was a balding, mild-mannered, nervous man of 54 who was often afraid of her. He was also annoyed with himself for letting her boss him around.——————————

Vanessa abruptly got up from her desk. A shaft of sunlight from the window behind her seemed to strike fire from her long red hair as she shook her head violently.

“No, Marshall! God damn it, this won’t do! Didn’t I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Vanessa, b-but–”

“And you understood what I told you, didn’t you?” Her pale skin was flushing pink, and Marshall saw the signs of a classic outburst on the way. She took a step toward him, forcing him to look up to meet her gaze; she must be a good three inches taller. He raised his hands in supplication, then caught himself and tried to make the gesture look like the smoothing of hair he no longer had. He felt sweat on his bald scalp.

“Vanessa, it was a–”

“It was another one of your screw-ups, Marshall! We’re committed to a Thursday deadline. I’m going to make that damn deadline, whether or not you’re here to help me. Now, am I going to get some cooperation from you, or not?”

Marshall nodded, cursing himself for his slavish obedience. Fifty-four years old, and taking orders from a bitch twenty years younger. Why didn’t he just tell her to shove it?

“All the way, Vanessa. We’ll get right on it.”

“Damn well better.” Her voice softened; the pink faded from her cheeks. “Okay, let’s get going.”

Comment: A paragraph of exposition has turned into a scene: the portrayal of a conflict and its resolution. The scene has also prepared us for further scenes. Maybe Marshall’s going to destroy himself for Vanessa, or poison her; maybe Vanessa’s going to learn how to behave better. Most importantly, the authorial judgments in the exposition are now happening in the minds of the characters and the mind of the reader–who may well agree with Marshall, or side with Vanessa.

Here’s another example:

Jerry was 19. Since leaving high school a year before, he had done almost nothing. He had held a series of part-time jobs, none of them lasting more than a few weeks. His girl friend Judy, meanwhile, was holding down two summer jobs to help pay for her second year of college. Jerry controlled her with a combination of extroverted charm and bullying sulkiness. Secretly he envied her ambition and feared that she would leave him if he ever relaxed his grip on her.——————————

“Hey, good-lookin’,” Jerry said as he ambled into the coffee shop and took his usual booth by the window.

“Hi,” said Judy. She took out her order pad.

“Hey, I’m real sorry about what I said last night. I was way outa line.”

“Would you like to order?”

“Hey, I said I was sorry, all right? Gimme a break.”

“That’s fine. But Murray says not to let my social life get in the way of my job. So you’ve got to order something for a change.”

He snorted incredulously. “Hey, I’m broke, babe.”

She stared out the window at the traffic. “You can’t hang out here all day for the price of a cup of coffee, Jerry. Not any more. Murray says he’ll have to let me go if you do.”

“Well, tell him to get stuffed.”

“Jerry, be reasonable. I can’t. I need this job.”

“Christ, you already got the job at the movie theatre.”

“That’s nights, and it hardly pays anything. I’ve got my whole second year at college to pay for this summer. Jerry, maybe we can talk about this after I get off work, okay?”

“Yeah, right. See you Labor Day, then.”

“Jerry, don’t be a smartass. See you at four, okay?”

He got up, shrugging. “Yeah, sure. Guess I’ll go over to the bus station and read comic books until then.” He glared at her. “Don’t be too nice to the guys who come in here. I find out you been fooling around with anybody, you know you’re in trouble, right?”

“Right, Jerry. I’m really sorry. See you later.”

Comment: Again we have a conflict that promises to lead to further conflicts and their resolution. We want to know if Judy will ditch Jerry, or Jerry will smarten up. Their relationship reveals itself through their dialogue, not through the author’s editorializing.

Note that both these examples involve a power struggle. Someone is determined to be the boss, to get his or her way. Most scenes present such a struggle: someone decides on pizza or hamburgers for dinner, someone chooses the date for D-Day, someone comes up with the winning strategy to defeat the alien invaders or elect the first woman president. We as readers want to see the resources thrown into the struggle: raw masculinity, cynical intelligence, subtle sexual manipulation, political courage, suicidal desperation.

Depending on which resources win, we endorse one myth or another about the way the world operates: that raw masculinity always triumphs, that political courage leads nowhere, and so on. Of course, if we are writing ironically, we are rejecting the very myths we seem to support. By using raw macho bullying mixed with a little self-pity, Jerry seems to win his power struggle with Judy. But few readers would admire him for the way he does it, or expect him to succeed in the long term with such tactics.

Think carefully about this as you develop your scenes. If your hero always wins arguments in a blaze of gunfire, he may become awfully tiresome awfully fast. If your heroine keeps bursting into tears, your readers may want to hand her a hankie (better yet, a towel) and tell her to get lost. Ideally, the power struggle in each scene should both tell us something new and surprising about the characters, and hint at something still hiding beneath the surface–like the insecurity that underlies Jerry’s and Vanessa’s bullying.

Character In Fiction

Plausible, complex characters are crucial to successful storytelling. You can develop them in several ways.

  1. Concreteness. They have specific homes, possessions, medical histories, tastes in furniture, political opinions. Apart from creating verisimilitude, these concrete aspects of the characters should convey information about the story: does the hero smoke Marlboros because he’s a rugged outdoorsman, or because that’s the brand smoked by men of his social background, or just because you do?
  2. Symbolic association. You can express a character’s nature metaphorically through objects or settings (a rusty sword, an apple orchard in bloom, a violent thunderstorm). These may not be perfectly understandable to the reader at first (or to the writer!), but they seem subconsciously right. Symbolic associations can be consciously “archetypal” (see Northrop Frye), linking the character to similar characters in literature. Or you may use symbols in some private system which the reader may or may not consciously grasp. Characters’ names can form symbolic associations, though this practice has become less popular in modern fiction except in comic or ironic writing.
  3. Speech. The character’s speech (both content and manner) helps to evoke personality: shy and reticent, aggressive and frank, coy, humorous. Both content and manner of speech should accurately reflect the character’s social and ethnic background without stereotyping. If a character “speaks prose,” his or her background should justify that rather artificial manner. If a character is inarticulate, that in itself should convey something.
  4. Behavior. From table manners to performance in hand-to-hand combat, each new example of behavior should be consistent with what we already know of the character, yet it should reveal some new aspect of personality. Behavior under different forms of stress should be especially revealing.
  5. Motivation. The characters should have good and sufficient reasons for their actions, and should carry those actions out with plausible skills. If we don’t believe characters would do what the author tells us they do, the story fails.
  6. Change. Characters should respond to their experiences by changing–or by working hard to avoid changing. As they seek to carry out their agendas, run into conflicts, fail or succeed, and confront new problems, they will not stay the same people. If a character seems the same at the end of a story as at the beginning, the reader at least should be changed and be aware of whatever factors kept the character from growing and developing.

The Character Resume

One useful way to learn more about your characters is to fill out a “resume” for them–at least for the more important ones. Such a resume might include the following information:

Address & Phone Number:
Date & Place of Birth:
Height/Weight/Physical Description:
Citizenship/Ethnic Origin:
Parents’ Names & Occupations:
Other Family Members:
Spouse or Lover:
Friends’ Names & Occupations:
Social Class:
Social Class:
Community Status:
Job-Related Skills:
Political Beliefs/Affiliations:
Personal Qualities (imagination, taste, etc.):
Sense of Humor:
Most Painful Setback/Disappointment:
Most Instructive/Meaningful Experience:
Health/Physical Condition/Distinguishing Marks/Disabilities:
Sexual Orientation/Experience/Values:
Tastes in food, drink, art, music, literature, decor, clothing:
Attitude toward Life:
Attitude toward Death:
Philosophy of Life (in a phrase):

You may not use all this information, and you may want to add categories of your own, but a resume certainly helps make your character come alive in your own mind. The resume can also give you helpful ideas on everything from explaining the character’s motivation to conceiving dramatic incidents that demonstrates the character’s personal traits. The resume serves a useful purpose in your project bible, reminding you of the countless details you need to keep straight.

“Let’s Talk About Dialogue,” He Pontificated

Dialogue has to sound like speech, but it can’t be a mere transcript; most people don’t speak precisely or concisely enough to serve the writer’s needs. Good dialogue has several functions:

  • To convey exposition: to tell us, through the conversations of the characters, what we need to know to make sense of the story.
  • To convey character: to show us what kinds of people we’re dealing with.
  • To convey a sense of place and time: to evoke the speech patterns, vocabulary and rhythms of specific kinds of people.
  • To develop conflict: to show how some people use language to dominate others, or fail to do so.

Each of these functions has its hazards. Expository dialogue can be dreadful:

“We’ll be in Vancouver in thirty minutes,” the flight attendant said. “It’s Canada’s biggest west coast city, with a population of over a million in the metropolitan area.”

Dialogue can convey character, but the writer may bog down in chatter that doesn’t advance the story.

“When I was a kid,” said Julie, “I had a stuffed bear named Julius. He was a sweet old thing, and whenever I was upset I’d howl for him.” (Unless Julie is going to howl for Julius when her husband leaves her, this kind of remark is pointless.)

Dialogue that conveys a specific place and time can become exaggerated and stereotyped:

“Pretty hot ootside, eh?” remarked Sergeant Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “Good day to get oot of the hoose and oot on the saltchuck, eh? Catch us a couple of skookum salmon, eh?”

Dialogue that develops conflict has to do so while also conveying exposition, portraying character, and staying true to the time and place:

“Gadzooks,” said Sergeant Renfrew as he dismounted from his motorcycle. “Wouldst please present thy driver’s licence and registration, madam?”“Eat hot lead, copper!” snarled Sister Mary Agnes as she drew the .45 from within her habit.

Some Dialogue Hazards to Avoid:

  • Too much faithfulness to speech: “Um, uh, y’know, geez, well, like, well.”
  • Unusual spellings: “Yeah,” not “Yeh” or “Yea” or “Ya.”
  • Too much use of “he said,” “she said.”
  • Too much variation: “he averred,” “she riposted”
  • Dialect exaggeration: “Lawsy, Miz Scahlut, us’s wuhkin’ jes’ as fas’ as us kin.”
  • Excessive direct address: “Tell me, Marshall, your opinion of Vanessa.” “I hate her, Roger.” “Why is that, Marshall?” “She bullies everyone, Roger.”

Some Dialogue Conventions to Consider:

Each new speaker requires a new paragraph, properly indented and set off by quotation marks.

“Use double quotations,” the novelist ordered, “and remember to place commas and periods inside those quotation marks.”“If a speaker goes on for more than one paragraph,” the count responded in his heavy Transylvanian accent, “do not close off the quotation marks at the end of the first paragraph.

“Simply place quotation marks at the beginning of the next paragraph, and carry on to the end of the quotation.”

Use “he said” expressions only when you must, to avoid confusion about who’s speaking. You can signal increasing tension by moving from “he said” to “he snapped,” to “he snarled,” to “he bellowed furiously.” But the dialogue itself should convey that changing mood, and make such comments needless.

Action as well as speech is a part of dialogue. We expect to know when the speakers pause, where they’re looking, what they’re doing with their hands, how they respond to one another. The characters’ speech becomes just one aspect of their interactions; sometimes their words are all we need, but sometimes we definitely need more. This is especially true when you’re trying to convey a conflict between what your characters say and what they feel: their nonverbal messages are going to be far more reliable than their spoken words.

Speak your dialogue out loud; if it doesn’t sound natural, or contains unexpected rhymes and rhythms, revise it.

Rely on rhythm and vocabulary, not phonetic spelling, to convey accent or dialect.

If you are giving us your characters’ exact unspoken thoughts, use italics. If you are paraphrasing those thoughts, use regular Roman type):

Now what does she want? he asked himself. Isn’t she ever satisfied? Marshall wondered what she wanted now. She was never satisfied.

If you plan to give us a long passage of inner monologue, however, consider the discomfort of having to read line after line of italic print. If you wish to emphasize a word in a line of italics, use Roman: Isn’t she ever satisfied?

Writing A Query Letter About Your Novel

The query can be a quick way to tell whether your novel might be of interest to a particular publisher–without having to wait until some editor finds your manuscript deep within her slush pile. The query should give the editor an idea of your story (and a sense of the way you’re handling it) that’s clear enough to help her decide if it’s worth considering. If the idea sounds good, you know the complete manuscript (or sample chapters) will enjoy a prompt and careful reading. If the idea doesn’t sound right for her, she may tell you why, and perhaps suggest either a new approach or another publisher.

Some queries are very short, and others are long indeed–novel outlines masquerading as letters. Consider the following suggestions as guidelines, not ironclad laws:

  1. Supply a short, pungent description of what the book is about: a desperate attempt to escape a narcotics bust, an unexpected journey that leads to romance and danger in 1930s China, an aging gunfighter’s attempt to prove himself again in the Mexican Revolution.
  2. If not obvious from your plot outline, identify the audience your book is aimed at: hardcore space-opera fans, teenage girls, Regency-romance readers.
  3. Be able to tell the editor what makes this novel different from others in the genre: a twist in the plot, a new angle on the hero, an unusual setting.
  4. Your credentials may be helpful, if only as a dedicated and knowledgeable reader in the genre, or as an observant resident of the city you’ve set your novel in. These are not trivial qualifications: If you don’t know and love the genre you’re writing in, it will show. And if you don’t know the history and folklore of your setting, the story will lack depth.
  5. Display in your query some of the excitement and energy you want to bring to your story–show how and why this story matters to you, and it’ll matter to your editor.

The Letter Itself

Ideally, your query letter ought to run to a page or a little more, organized something like this:

First paragraph: Tell us what kind of novel you’ve written, or are now writing. How long is it, when and where is it set? Describe the hero and heroine, and perhaps one or two other major characters. What’s their predicament? How are they proposing to get out of it? And why should we care–that is, what’s at stake?

Second paragraph: Describe what happens in the middle of the novel–how your characters interact, what conflicts arise among them.

Third paragraph: The resolution of the novel–the climax and its outcome, and tying up loose ends.

Fourth paragraph: Why this story interests you, what your qualifications are for writing it, and some questions for the editor: If this story interests you, would you like the whole ms., or an outline and sample chapters? Do you have any specific ms. requirements I should be aware of?

Obviously this pattern will vary depending on the nature of the query: If you’ve included an outline and sample chapters, the plot summary will be very brief or nonexistent, and the query will focus on your background and your questions for the editor. If the book is completed, the plot summary will be easier to supply than if you have only a rough idea of where the book is going.

The query letter is a blurb for your novel, and like any blurb it needs to pique the reader’s interest and make the reader wonder: “How is that going to turn out?” The quality of writing in the query had better be first-rate, especially if you haven’t included an elegantly written chapter or two. If your query is clumsy or riddled with English errors, the editor will be less than eager to see more of your prose.

Because the query requires little time to read and respond to, it can help you quickly identify potential markets and definite non-markets. But it can’t pre-sell your novel; at best, it can only create a cautiously welcoming attitude in an editor who knows how tough it is to sell a first novel during a recession.

Will your query reveal such a knockout story idea that the publisher will steal it–turn you down, pass on your idea to one of their hack writers, and publish it for their own profit? This may be the single most common anxiety of novices, but the sad truth is that your idea probably isn’t worthstealing. In fact, the editor may wearily see it as the umpteenth standard variation on some ancient plot, one she’s seen a dozen times just this week. This is not to say your idea should be positively weird; most story ideas in genre fiction are indeed variations on ancient plots. The trick is to make the variations appear to be fresh, surprising, and full of potential storytelling power. A query is a direct approach to an editor. But you may well be aware that many, many publishing houses no longer even consider queries or submissions that do not come through an agent. In my next posting I’ll consider what that implies in the selling of your novel.

Researching Publishers and Agents

Too many people submit manuscripts to publishers.

Simply to read enough of those manuscripts to judge them unworthy would take the full-time services of several salaried editors. Most publishers simply can’t afford to plow through the slush pile in hopes of someday finding a Great Novelist.

So they indicate in Writer’s Market that they will consider only “agented submissions”–work that a professional literary agent, who knows the market, thinks has some sales potential.

That simply draws fire onto the agents, who now find that they too have huge slush piles. And, like the publishers, the agents can’t make money reading unsalable junk.

Where does that leave you?

In better shape than you think. If you’ve hammered out a credible but surprising plot about interesting people in a hell of a jam, and you’re showing them in action instead of telling us what they’re like, and your grammar, spelling and punctuation are first-rate–you’re already ahead of 80 per cent of your competition.

Now the problem is finding the right market. Too many novice writers simply fire off their work to a publisher they’ve vaguely heard of, or one that’s supposed to be prestigious, or even one that happens to be conveniently located right in town. (Those were precisely my three motives in submitting my first children’s book to Parnassus Press. They bought it, which shows that sometimes even ignoramuses can get lucky. By rights I should have had to send the ms. to a couple of dozen houses before hitting the right one–if I ever did.)

Publishers tend to carve out special markets for themselves. A couple of sharp editors can dominate a genre; because they know how to reach a certain kind of reader, they attract a certain kind of writer. Or a publisher may be passionately devoted to supporting a certain kind of fiction, but is deeply uninterested in any other kind. A feminist publisher wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to market a men’s action-adventure novel, and wouldn’t care to learn. A children’s publisher won’t care how well-crafted your murder mystery is. And so on.

So step one is almost embarrassingly obvious: Notice which houses publish the kind of story you’re working on. Look carefully at the story elements in the titles they publish; Del Rey fantasy novels, for example, require magic as a major component, not just frosting or a gimmick to get the hero somewhere interesting. Out of all the publishers in North America, only a few are potentially yours.

Then consult those potential publishers’ entries in Writer’s Market and see what they have to say about their own needs and who their editors are in specific genres. You may learn that your work in progress is too long, or too short, or needs some particular quality like a heroine aged over 35. You may also learn how long it takes them to respond to queries and submissions. Don’t take those statements as legally binding promises; responses almost always take far longer, especially for unagented submissions.

Writer’s Market also lists publishers by the genres they publish. This list can lead you to houses you’re not familiar with, but don’t just rush your ms. off to some publisher in Podunk. Check out the entries of these houses also, and also track down some of their recent titles in your genre. If they strike you as dreadful garbage, avoid them. Better to stay unpublished than to be trapped with a bad publisher.

Another useful source of research information is the publishing trade press. Quill and Quire in Canada, and Publisher’s Weekly in the US, are much more up-to-date than any annual can be. So if the top horror editor in New York has just moved to a new publisher, or a publisher is starting a new line of romance novels aimed at Asian women, you may adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. Magazines like The Writer and Writer’s Digest supply similar market news.

If every possible publisher warns you off with “No unagented submissions,” you then have to go through a similar process with literary agents. You should be able to find an annually updated list of agents in your local library or the reference section of a good bookstore. Some agents, like Scott Meredith and Richard Curtis, have even written books themselves about the publishing business; these are worth reading.

As a general rule, you probably need an agent in the city where most of your publishers are. That, as a general rule, means New York City. You also need an agent who knows the market for your particular genre, so your work will go as promptly as possible to the most likely markets. (Some agents may submit a work in multiple copies to all potential publishers; this can really speed up the process.)

But also bear in mind that the phone and fax can put almost anyone in close touch with the New York market, so an agent in Chicago or Los Angeles or Miami may be quite as effective as somebody in Manhattan–and may also be familiar with regional publishers.

Consider whether you want a big agent with scores or hundreds of clients, or a small outfit. The big agent may have clout but little stake in promoting you; the small agent may work hard for you, but lack entree to some editors. Talk to published writers, if possible, about their experiences with agents; sometimes a sympathetic author can suggest a good one.

No agent, however good, can sell your work to an editor who doesn’t want to buy it. What the agent offers the editor is a reasonably trustworthy opinion about the marketability of a particular manuscript. It’s in the agent’s interest to deal only in work with serious sales potential, and to get it quickly into the hands of its most likely buyers.

You may therefore have to query a number of agents before you find one who’s willing to take you on. And you may find that some highly reputable agents won’t look at your stuff unless you pay them to.

This is not a racket. If you agree to the agent’s terms, the reading may give you a very frank response. Sometimes you’ll get a detailed critique that may devastate your ego but teach you just what you need to learn. In many cases the agent will waive the reading fee if he feels you’re a commercial possibility and you’re willing to sign on as one of his clients. That should be an encouraging offer indeed.

Sometimes an agent will take you on but strongly suggest certain kinds of revisions, or even that you tackle a completely different kind of story. Listen carefully; you’re getting advice from someone who knows the market and wants to share in your prosperity. At least one of my novels greatly profited from the advice of an agent who thought my originally proposed ending was a disaster.

Your agreement with an agent may take the form of a detailed contract, or a simple agreement over the phone, or something in between. Be sure you understand and accept the terms your agent requires: Ten per cent of what he makes you, or 15? Deductions for photocopying, postage and phone bills? Control over all your writing, or just your fiction output?

Once you have an agent, don’t be a pest. When he’s got something to report, he’ll let you know. If you’ve got something to report, like the completion of the manuscript or an idea for turning it into a series, let the agent know. Otherwise, stay off the phone and stick to your writing.

In some cases, of course, you may find you’ve sold a novel on your own hook and then decide to go looking for an agent. Under these happy circumstances you should find it fairly easy to get an agent’s interest. If the publisher’s already offered you a contract (and you haven’t signed yet), the agent may be willing to take you on and then bargain a better deal for you. But you’ll probably do all right even if you negotiate that first contract on your own. Most publishers are honorable and decent people; sometimes their integrity is positively intimidating. Even if they weren’t honorable, your first book is likely to make so little money that it wouldn’t be worth it to screw you out of spare change.

Reading a Contract

When you do finally receive a publisher’s contract, you may feel your heart sink. It runs to several pages of single-spaced text, highly flavored with legalese and organized in a daunting sequence of numbered paragraphs and subparagraphs. Who knows what thorns lurk in such a thicket?

Actually, not too many. Most of your contract is standard “boilerplate” text that protects you as much as the publisher. It is often possible, even for a novice, to negotiate specific aspects of the contract.

Still, it helps to know what you’re getting yourself into, so let us take a look at some of the key passages you’re likely to find in your contract.

Delivery Of Satisfactory Copy

If you’re selling your novel on the strength of sample chapters and an outline, the publisher wants assurance that you’ll submit the full manuscript (often with a second copy), at an agreed-upon length, by an agreed-upon date. If your full ms. doesn’t measure up, or arrives too late, the publisher has the right to demand return of any money you’ve received.

In practice the publisher is usually much more flexible. He may bounce your ms. back to you with a reminder that you don’t get the rest of your advance until the ms. is “satisfactory.” He (or more likely the editor) will tell you in exquisite detail what you still need to do to achieve “satisfactory””status. A late ms. also means you won’t collect the balance of your advance until it arrives, and it may also cause delays in final publication–as I learned to my sorrow with Greenmagic.

Permission for Copyrighted Material

If you want to include the lyrics of a pop song in your novel, or quote something as an epigraph, it’s up to you to obtain the rights to such material, and to pay for them if necessary. If you leave it to the publisher, he’ll charge you; if he can’t get permission, and the novel doesn’t work without such material, the deal is off and you have to repay any advance you’ve received. Obviously, this is an extreme case; normally you just drop the lines from the song or poem, and carry on.

Grant Of Rights

You are giving the publisher the right to make copies of what you’ve written. These copies may be in hardcover, softcover, audio cassette, filmstrip, comic book, or whatever. You are also specifying in which parts of the world the publisher may sell such copies. For example, a sale to a British publisher may specifically exclude North America, leaving you free to sell North American rights separately.

You may also be giving the publisher rights to sell foreign translations, to print excerpts in other books or periodicals as a form of advertising, or to sell copies to book clubs. Normally such sales require your informed, written consent.

Proofreading and Author’s Corrections

You agree that you will proofread the galleys or page proofs of your novel and return the corrected pages promptly. If your corrections amount to actual revision of the original manuscript, and will require re-typesetting more than 10 per cent of the book, the publisher will charge you for such costs. This can very easily destroy any income you might have earned from the book.

Advances and Royalties

This spells out how much the publisher will pay you, and when. The most common agreement is payment of one-third of the advance on signing the contract; one-third on delivery of a satisfactory complete ms.; and one-third on publication date. You may be able to negotiate half on signing and half on delivery; otherwise, you are in effect lending the publisher some of your advance until a publication date that may be over a year away.

Royalties are generally a percentage of the list price of the book. For hardcover books, the usual royalties is ten per cent of list price. So a novel retailing for $24.95 will earn its author $2.50 per copy. For mass-market paperbacks, royalty rates can range from four per cent to eight per cent, usually with a proviso that the rate will go up after sale of some huge number of copies–150,000 seems to be a popular target. A paperback selling at $5.95, with an eight per cent royalty, will therefore earn you about 47 cents. A “trade” paperback, intended for sale in regular bookstores rather than supermarkets and other mass outlets, will probably earn a comparable rate; the list price, however, will likely be higher and the number of copies sold will be lower.

Whatever the royalty rates, you’re likely to get only half as much for sales to book clubs or overseas markets. (This is especially painful for Canadian authors with American publishers: sales in your own country, as “foreign” sales, earn only half the U.S. royalty rate.)

You will also agree to split the take from certain kinds of licensing sales. For example, if your novel is a hardback and some other house wants to bring out a paperback edition, you can normally expect a 50 per cent share of what the paperback house pays. Sometimes a paperback house will license a hardback edition (in hopes of getting more critical attention for your book and hence selling more copies in paperback eventually); in such a case you should expect 75 per cent of the deal.

If you can possibly avoid it, do not agree to give your publisher a share of any sale to movies or TV. A film or TV show based on your novel will boost the publisher’s sales quite nicely; he doesn’t need a slice off the top of a deal that will surely pay you more than the publisher did. But if the book seems highly unlikely to interest Hollywood, you might offer a slice of film rights in exchange for a richer advance, with a proviso that an actual film or TV sale will also produce an additional chunk of money from the publisher.

The publisher will normally not charge for the production of versions of your novel in Braille or other formats for the handicapped. So you will get no money from this source.

The publisher should agree to supply you with two royalty statements a year. Each will cover a six-month reporting period, and each should arrive about 90 days after the close of that period. So a statement for January-June should reach you at the end of September. This will probably be a computer printout, and may be confusing. But it will indicate the number of copies shipped, the number returned unsold by booksellers, and the number presumably sold. The publisher will hold back on some of the royalty “against further returns.” Whatever remains is the actual number on which the publisher owes you money.

Chances are that your advance will have consumed any potential royalties for the first reporting period, and perhaps for the second as well. Once you have “earned out” your advance, however, you should expect a check with each royalty statement.

Do not sign a contract that does not explicitly promise you at least two royalty statements a year. Some publishers promise a statement only after the novel has earned out its advance. This means you may go for years–or forever–without knowing what your sales have been.

Author’s Warranties and Indemnities

Here you are promising that this is indeed your work, that it isn’t obscene, a breach of privacy, libelous, or otherwise illegal. If you do get into trouble, you agree to cooperate with the publisher’s legal defense, and you agree to pay your share of the costs instead of asking the publisher, booksellers, or others to do so. If the publisher’s lawyer thinks the manuscript poses legal problems, you agree to make the changes required to solve those problems–or to allow the publisher to do so.

You may find an insurance rider as part of your contract; this is intended to protect both you and the publisher from suffering total financial disaster if you get caught in a losing lawsuit.

Copies to Author

You will get a certain number of free copies, and will pay a reduced rate for more copies. That means you will still pay for those copies, and you should.

Option Clause

Pay attention to this one! This says you are giving the publisher right of first refusal on your next book (or at least your next book of this particular genre). The option clause means the publisher will give the next book a close, prompt reading. You should expect a response within 90 days, but some contracts specify 90 days after publication of your current book. That means you might have to wait for months, maybe over a year, until the publisher sees the initial reaction to your first book.

In practice, though, you probably will get a quicker response than that. If the publisher does make you an offer, you have the right to refuse it; you can then take your second book to any other publisher you like. However, you can’t sell it to anyone else unless you get better terms for it than your original publisher offered.

You may well find yourself trapped as a result. If you need money in a hurry, you may feel you’ve got to accept a bad offer rather than spend months or years shopping your ms. around the market until you find a more generous publisher. And then, of course, your second contract will include an option clause for the third novel!

Your best hope in this case is that sales of the first book will warrant a heftier advance on the second or third book. And if the publisher still won’t cooperate, you can then go to another publisher with at least some respectable sales figures that show you deserve a better deal.

Going Out of Print

Request for it to be reprinted; if he doesn’t want to, you can then demand that all rights revert to you. You are then free to sell the book to another publisher. (I have done this a couple of times. You don’t make as much money on the resale, but at least the book stays out on the market longer.) You may be able to acquire the plates or film from which copies of your novel were made, making it possible for a new publisher to bring your book out quite cheaply.

You will probably not make any money from “remaindered” copies that the publisher may sell to a book jobber at a deep discount. In some contracts, however, the author may indeed receive some percentage of such sales. It’s also possible to buy copies of your book at a similar low price.

A Word of Advice

If at all possible, go over the contract with the editor or publisher, asking whatever questions arise. Then take your contract to an agent, lawyer, or professional writer. Chances are that it’s perfectly okay. But even if you don’t find something sneaky in the fine print, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what you and your publisher have committed yourselves to. If something arises later on, like a problem over the option clause or the frequency of royalty statements, it won’t come as a total shock.

Finally, bear in mind that if you have read this far, you are seriously interested in mastering an art and craft that rewards very few practitioners–novices or experts. Fiction in print is still relatively popular, but only relatively. For every reader you might attract, TV or films or recordings attract hundreds of consumers. You will work for months or years to create a product that is theoretically eternal, but in practice has a shelf-life of a few weeks. Most of your readers will, two months after reading your work, be unable to recall anything about the story (including your name)–maybe not even whether they liked it or not. And you will reach more readers with a punchy, witty letter to the editor of a metropolitan daily than you’re likely to reach with your novel.

Is it worth it? Only you can answer that question. My answer has been yes, and I don’t regret it. Writing ten novels has been not only fun but an education; I can hardly wait to find out what the eleventh novel will teach me.

Cheers, CK