Editor’s Note: The following series “Language and Culture in New Orleans” is a week-long series curated by Lucien Mensah as part of the Digital Research Internship Program in partnership with ViaNolaVie. The DRI Program is a Newcomb Institute technology initiative for undergraduate students combining technology skillsets, feminist leadership, and the digital humanities.
This curation of articles was created to recognize the deep ties with AAVE and Black culture into the mainstream and point out the linguistic influence within New Orleans and bring recognition to it. AAVE, or African American Vernacular English, is a dialect of American English molded by Black people’s experiences during slavery, as various communities of Africans were forced to the Americas. As AAVE terms become popular online, many non-black people use and appropriate these terms with little knowledge about where they are from or what they mean to their native speech community. As each article this week is presented, readers are encouraged to think about their vocabulary and whether AAVE is actively used – and are you aware of the words you’re using that might be “slang”?
This article discusses the phrase “you out your body” that the author notes is typically used within Louisiana, as a whole. Its usage and entomology is discussed, as well as some fun facts. This was originally published on February 11th, 2021.
Although the phrase “You out your body” can be used in the everyday language, of anyone, it is exclusive to the people who live in Louisiana (I haven’t heard it any where else.) It can mean that some one is intoxicated or enjoying themselves so much that they somewhere else.
Take, for instance, this scene: Let’s say someone is out at a Mardi Gras parade with their friends. If they had so much fun that they danced and sweat and kept going and going and then went home, fell asleep, and woke up the next morning not remembering the night, their friend would tell them “Girl, you was out yo body last night.” Then they would know they were going wild and having fun.
The influence of the word “out” in my phrase is brought on from the common usage of its definition of “away from a particular place.” It fits perfectly with the phrase in the way that it is used because the whole idea of the phrase is going “out” of yourself. The word “body” is and has been used to describe the corporeal existence of a person. Both “body” and “out” still represent the meaning of the phase. If you are away from your body, then that means your soul –which embodies your body– is not in your body as it normally would be.
The word “out” comes from the word “outside,” which I find very strange; it is not ideal for the word “out” to come from “outside.” The word “outside” dates back further than “out” itself, which pretty much blows my mind. Since we are taught the idea of compound words at a young age, we grew up thinking that they are always separate before they were compound words. The idea that “outside” came first betrays what we knew — well, what we thought we knew — growing up.
The word “body” died out in German and picked up a new meaning. The word body was replaced by “der Körper,” which translates to “body” in English. Now in German the word “body” means “bodysuit.” It is strange how languages are so closely related yet retain differences that keep to their culture. Although the word “body” died out in German, it continued in English — holding the same meaning it had before.
This piece is part of the “Language Lab” series where Bard Early College (BECNO) students investigate the etymology of modern phrases to identify their roots.This series is part of the composition course taught by Dr. Jessie Morgan-Owens and Kelley Crawford.