Sunday, November 2, 2014

Not as Turn't Up as I Hoped

As previously posted, I hate grading papers,but there is an exception: my students' personal statements for college. I enjoy these papers because I get to learn about who my students are as young men and women.  It is often enlightening, sometimes heartbreaking, and once in a while didactic.

One young lady wrote about her struggles making a new group of friends when changing high schools--quite a formidable one for a teen. (We all know the critical role our homies play during the adolescent years). She shared that unlike most of her peers, she doesn't like to get "TUed (turn't up)" on the weekends, so finding like-minded peers was difficult.

I had encountered "turn't up" before: the first time was a couple summers ago when one of my college students used it to help me understand "ratchet" when I was investigating that word (my investigation led to an article still in the revising process), but using slang to help define slang only increases confusion. Most recently, a student asked me how my weekend had been, and in response to my assurance that it had been good, asked "did you get turn't up?"

It doesn't take a linguist to figure out what it means. Hell, it only requires rudimentary understanding of teenage rebellion. But, I thought that the word's longevity might allude to a deeper meaning. (As with all things, the Internet speeds up the spread and burn-out of slang terms.)  I decided to do a little investigating.

I had a few minutes of class left after finishing one of my lessons, so I asked a group of seniors what "turn't up" meant.  After the laughter that inevitably results from my questions on slang died down, I get a mixture of voices yelling, "Partying," and "Getting wasted" paired with raise-the-roof gestures and bodies dancing behind desks.

I focus on the young lady sitting closest to me and hear her say, "It's like getting crazy."

"In my day, we called it 'getting amped', is that what you mean?"


I need to read my own blog posts. Not only was I trying to use slang clarify a definition of slang, but I was using slang of my generation. I probably could have said, "we called it 'getting ugga-bugga'" and would have gotten the same response. At least she wouldn't have known that "getting amped" ususally mean consumption of methaphentomine.

Lil Jon
Fortunately, I went in with a pretty good idea what "turn't up" meant: increasing the energy level of a social situation through being more boisterous and less inhibited, usually with the assistance of drinking, drugs,and music. Nevertheless, I wanted to clarify if, getting "turn't up" required drinking and drug use. Could one drink too many espressos, throw on the Motely Crue, and get "turn't up?" Do teens who do not experiment (or become dependent on) drinking and drugs use the term?

Several students said, "no" but with some hesitation.  My guess was that the answer was really "yes," but they were trying to protect me from the iniquities of teenage life. You know, because when I was in high school I didn't nothing more devious than drinking Diet Rite Cola and playing Candyland. On nights I really wanted to take it to another level, I busted out the Monopoly and regular Rite Cola.

While trying to get a consensus on the role of illicit party favors in the definition, a student said, "It's because of the song!"

Lil Wayne
"What song?" I asked.

" 'Turn't Down for What' by Lil Jon."

This brought on a couple more questions from me:  "Do you use 'turn't down' too?" and "I thought it was Lil Wayne."

No on both accounts.  Apparently there is a Lil Jon as well as a Lil Wayne, a Lil Kim, a Lil Fizz, a Lil Bibby, a Lil Boosie, and a Lil Bub. And while using "turn't up" is cool, "turn't down" is lame.

My students exhorted me to look up the lyrics to the song.  I did and they provided no further insight. In fact, the entire song is a repetition of these three lines:  Fire up loud/ Another round of shots/ Turned down for what?

"These lyrics aren't saying anything profound," I said.  "In fact, they aren't saying much of anything at all."

I am assured that if I listen to the song, it will enrich my understanding. I was not sure how, but I played the song.  As it turned out, I had heard the song before, quite a bit actually, but since my clubbing days are quite over and have been for several years, I related it to a funny cat video on Youtube called ""Kitten Jam Turned Down for What."  I admit, it does have a good beat.

But the lyrics = lame.

"Fire up loud" means smoke weed.

"Another round of shots" means another round of shots.

"Turned down for what?" has a couple interpretations.  One is "I am not turning down any weed or shots;" another, "why not get wasted?" If Lil Jon could let Lil Ol' Holly know which interpretation he meant, I would greatly appreciate it.

And the next time anyone makes fun of Whitesnake, Poison, or Warrant, I am just going to turn up Kitten Jam on Youtube.

1 comment:

  1. Lame is also slang, of course. It's just that it's in general use these days. In fact, unless we go back to the Middle Ages a lot of our language is slang. We have incorporated vocabulary (genuine and invented) and sentence structures from many other cultures and sub-cultures for centuries.


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