Monday, August 28, 2006

Slim's Word of the Day: "Wodie"

Marco wants more slang, specifically local slang (and what Marco wants, Marco gets), so the word of the day is:
Friend or partner.
It shows up in the lyrics of local rappers such as Juvenile* and is probably derivative of "ward-ie" or "ward-mate," referring to the old municipal wards into which New Orleans is divided.**

* Speaking of Juvenile, does anybody remember that video for his song "Ha"? (If you don't, you can see it on YouTube. I just watched it again for the first time in years). It made a strong impression on me at the time and has lingered in my memory because it appeared on national television at a time when it was extremely rare to see a mainstream depiction of New Orleans that didn't resort to the tired steamy-nights-in-the-French-Quarter-Marie-Laveau-and-Jambalaya clichés. It shows real New Orleans neighborhoods looking like they look today - or, more precisely, how they looked before the storm. (And because it was filmed in and around the Magnolia Projects a few blocks from our house, the neighborhood shots specifically look very much like our neighborhood - the same streets, the same fences, the same signs, the same houses.) Of course, it trades in the old New Orleans mythology for an updated gangster-hero mythology, but at least the latter is more relevant to contemporary life in the city. And visually, the video is right on.

** The wards of New Orleans are a funny business. They're the old city voting districts but now have greater significance as cultural markers of certain neighborhoods than as official entities. The 9th Ward is a little unusual in that that's the primary designation of that neighborhood. Everybody calls the 9th Ward the 9th Ward (and since Katrina, the whole world knows its name). The other wards have less name recognition. People tend to use neighborhood names: Faubourg Marigny, the French Quarter, Algiers, the Tremé, Esplanade Ridge, the Garden District, the Irish Channel, Central City, Lakeview, Lake Vista, Gentilly, Pontilly, Girt Town, Pigeon Town, Broadmoor, Hollygrove, etc. But still, people haven't forgotten the wards. There are endless bounce songs doing endless shout-outs to all the wards. And everywhere I've lived in the city, the neighborhoodod kids always seem to have an intense ward-awareness. They know what ward they're in. They know where the borders are. They know who's from other wards. I have any number of photos of kids flashing their ward signs (index and pinky extended - "11th Ward!"), doing their best little big man impressions.

Thanks, Mothgirl, for introducing me to this little slice of slang.


  1. Anonymous12:18 PM

    Thanks, Dr. Slim. Not only have you given me a new ward, but turned me onto to Juvenile's video.
    I'm not a huge hip-hop fan, but "Ha" is pretty hot. What I like about it is the unique beats and the Caribbean tinge that I think I hear in the beats. Compared to much of the dull repetitive melody-less stuff out there, this Dirty South stuff comes off fresher.
    Thanks again.

  2. I'm thinking it's spelled "whodi." Ya heard me?

    Another one you might explore is "chopper" for machine gun/assault rifle, I believe that's another N.O. hip hop invention.

    And of course, "bling bling" is the biggest contribution of all, but everybody knows what that means now.

  3. Marco,

    New Orleans has produced it's share of dull, repetitive crap, but I always was fond of that one.


    I think we have a legitimate subject of enquiry here. Hmm, how to determine the "proper" spelling of non-standard English in the 21st century? Count the Google-hits, of course! At first blush:

    wodie: 61,600
    whodi: 27,400

    "Wodie" takes the lead. Ah, but it's not so simple. The "whodi" hits seem to be predominantly true hits, whereas "wodie" is returning a lot of noise; Wodie, Liberia, Francis Wodie, politician of Côte d'Ivoire, and various other random hits including lots of foreign language junk cloud the picture. I decide to append "rap" in an effort to weed out the false hits:

    wodie rap: 6,510
    whodi rap: 969

    "Wodie" maintains it's lead, but both have entries in the Rap Dictionary and Urban Dictionary. Both have plenty of hits. I start to get bored with my exercise and vaguely suspicious of my methods and decide to chalk it up to a draw. Let's just call them legitimate alternate spellings. And since I'm too lazy to edit the above post, I guess I'm sticking with "wodie."

  4. Anonymous10:19 AM

    Mothgirl BE New Orleans slang.

    Thanks for the plug, Slim, and for more fodder for my interest in wodieism/whodism (in many instances, New Orleans is not a strict written language, which I've learned by trying to figure out how to correctly spell po-boy/poor boy/ po boy, sno-ball/snowball/snow-ball, braciola/braciolini/bruccialone, etc.).

  5. Anonymous6:56 PM

    When I was speaking of sayings I was referring to things like this:
    "It was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock". Though hip-hop terms are an equally fascinating source of language usuage, whodi.


  7. Anonymous10:21 AM

    thats what im talkin bout baby