Monday, May 31, 2010

Props for a Vocabulary Update

Back in February of this year I posted about the word props and an observant reader, Joseph Christina RN, sent me the following which I thought I would share.

I was recently asked the origin of the phrase “giving props” to someone. The general attribution on the net is to rappers in the 80’s. Some further digging indicated that the phrase came into broader use after Aretha Franklin used the phrase in her cover of “Respect” in 1967. Although the song was written and released by Otis Redding in 1965, Aretha added the line:

“I'm about to give you all of my money - And all I'm askin' in return, honey - Is to give me my props”

Apparently, I’m not the first person trying to track this down. Below is an excerpt from The New York Times:

Bernard Schneider of Falmouth Foreside, Me., recalled that ''during a recently aired Ed Bradley interview of the artist on '60 Minutes,' he inferred that her artistic plea for propers was for adoration and attention of a sexual nature.''
That torrent of informed correction drove me to J. Redding Ware's 1909 ''Passing English of the Victorian Era,'' which touches lightly on the term as ''erotic.''
Reached during a tour that took her through Washington, Franklin is having none of that. Her use of propers (which many heard as profits ) in the lyric was her own, not in the words originally written and performed by Otis Redding in 1965.
''I do say propers ,'' says the queen of soul. ''I got it from the Detroit street. It was common street slang in the 1960's. The persons saying it has a sexual connotation couldn't be further from the truth. 'My propers ' means 'mutual respect' -- what you know is right.''

The original version of the article is available at
Aretha’s version of "Respect" was recorded on February 14, 1967, and we have her stating that it was “common street slang” in the Detroit area at that time.

Thank you for sharing Joseph; you deserve props. This was much more information than I came up with during my brief search. Also, I have lived in the Detroit area all of my life and have heard Aretha's version of the song more times than I can count so I am amazed that I never noticed the word before. I must have heard it as a mondegreen.

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