Monday, July 16, 2012

On Digging It

   Berkeley Poets Judy Wells and Dale Jensen attended our Chester’s gig on June 29th and Judy was intrigued by the Chappell and Dave song, "Nobody Says They Dig It."

"I was raised a way up in the country, don’t you know,
We kept close to the earth on which we’d grown,
So when I say I dig it, it’s just plain speakin’ to me,
I’m back to my roots, a little bit like back home."

Judy Wells was born in San Francisco and raised in Martinez, California. She received her B.A. from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She has nine books of poetry to her credit. She wrote to us after our performance:

“I did do my research on 'dig it.'  Believe it or not, the phrase is from the Irish, tuig, (pronounced ttig, dig).  It's a verb meaning to understand, comprehend, have a feeling for; realize; discern, perceive. An dtuigeann tú (pronounced an dig'an tu?) do you see (understand)?  An dtuigeann tú leat mé?  Do you understand my meaning?  Are you diggin' me?

The musician Louis Armstrong popularized the New Orleans slang term 'dig' in the 1930s. 

It is probable that the Irish word tuig as 'dig' was introduced into the African-American community by Irish-and Gaelic-speaking family members. 

I'm quoting directly from Danny Cassidy's book, How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads, Counterpunch and AK Press, 2007."
   Danny Cassidy was co-director and founder of the Irish Studies Program at New College in San Francisco before the college had to shut down a while back.  (Unfortunately, Danny died of cancer not all that long ago.)
by Judy Wells

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