Pronunciation: eye-muh bee ree-ul wi-chew
“Imma be real witchu” is simply a different way of saying, “I’ll be honest,” or “I won’t lie,” and it is a phrase that is more common in the south (especially in urban areas). It combines a few examples of southern dialect with the use of “Imma” and “witchu.” “Imma” – – being a conjunction of “I’m and “gonna” – – is used in place of those words. “Witchu” is different in that regard since it’s not necessarily a contraction, but it’s more of an accent when those in the south say, “with you” to compliment the brief speech pattern of the south.
A scenario that “Imma be real witchu” could be used would look like this: you and a friend are having a conversation, and one of you may want to convey that you are not joking around with what you are about to say. You might start with “Imma be real witchu” to shift the tone of the conversation to something more serious or to make sure you have their attention.
The history of “Imma” as a contraction using two already existing contractions – – said contractions being “I’m and “gonna” – – has possibly influenced the phrase’s creation and use as a more convenient contraction. “Gonna ” and “I’m” are already contractions on their own, but “Imma” takes those contractions one step further to create a two-word phrase into one simple and easy-to-pronounce word. “Real” is interesting in that its history of meaning “no lies” dates back before the 1800s and is still used in the same context today. “Witchu” has a similar purpose with “imma”; it’s not a contraction of an already existing contraction, and its history as the two words “with you” seems unrelated.
“Imma” is also used commonly by rappers to help them rhyme. “Imma” is one of the many southern words used to assist in rapping,
“Witchu” technically is one out of three versions of itself. It is technically a contraction of “with” and “you”, which is similar with its other variations “Watcha” and “Watchu”, but those are contractions of “what” and “you”. All of them are used in different contexts.
“Real” has origins referring to royalty and money, but now it’s more commonly used to mean “not fake”. It’s Spanish translation still retains its original definition.
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 Kelley Crawford.