As I turned back into the Language Lane, I was reminded of the continual vibrancy of African American Language when I was watching the video “Good Good,” featuring Usher, Summer Walker, and 21 Savage. Reflecting on a serious romance that has ended, Usher sings, “we ain’t good good but we still good.” In other words, a high level of being good is no longer in effect for the former couple, but good, in other words being all right with and supportive of each other, is still on the table. They good but not good good. The first good is an intensifier. It’s like very or extremely.
A few minutes later, I saw Armani White’s commercial for Taco Bell. He explains how those tacos were important to him earlier in his touring career when he didn’t have “like rapper rapper money.” There was the intensifier again, the first use of rapper modifying the second use of the word.
This all amounts to hitting an Africa-influenced refresh button. If you check out the HipHopera Guy on YouTube (8/23/2021), you’ll hear him explain how such use of double words is prevalent in Yoruba. He informs us that dáa means all right in Yoruba, but dáadáa means good, a quality beyond all right. He indicates how this construction relates to such phrases as we about to be late late and oh, it’s a baby baby. I assume that the influence stems from African languages beyond Yoruba given the historical interaction of languages on the Continent and in the west. I’ll have to hit the linguistics literature or find some informants to learn more.
While I’m at, I’ll probably check on the history of adding s to nouns. What drives the shift from handle to handles, for example, when referring to ballhandling ability on the basketball court? When I was coming up, a proficient dribbler was said to have a nice handle. Nowadays, such a person has nice handles. Plural. I haven’t really gotten used to the shift though I see logic in it because you must execute numerous dribbles, not just one. The same logic won’t explain the move from man to mans. Mans is not plural. It’s not equivalent to men or mens. I seen your mans is like I seen your boy. It’s not like I seen your boys. At least not yet.
I’m not sure I’ll find a pattern. One mother can be Mom or Moms. And we had the activist Mom Price and the entertainer Moms Mabley. One father or male can be Pop or Pops. We have had musicians Pops Foster and Pops Armstrong and football player Jaman “Pop” Dumas-Johnson. But I don’t think any one person can be Dads yet.
As we know, the language will express the creative impulses of the people. They’ll keep it fresh fresh and, for the most part, fun fun.