Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Brief Discourse On Bling

Bling-Bling

The percentage of consumer sales of hip-hop albums sold between 1995 and 2004 nearly doubled (“2004 Consumer Profile,” RIAA). By 2005, hip-hop spread throughout the world not only through compact discs, but through television, movies, music videos, clothing lines, dancing, politics, and even pornography (George, “Rhymin And Stealin”). It continues to be a growing market, as the hip-hop culture has spread to cellular phone ring-tones (Gundersen, par. 8). Currently, the number one album, according to Billboard, belongs to the hip-hop singer, Nas (“No.1 Albums”). One of the results of this growth of the hip-hop culture is that a transformation of the English language is taking place. Hip-hop is becoming ingrained into the English language, and the hip-hop term, “bling-bling,” is a prime example of the English tongue adapting to this revolution. In this paper, the creation and the definition of bling-bling, the spread of the usage of this word, and its relation to the English language will be discussed.

The word, bling-bling, was created by the Southern rap label, Cash Money Records in 1998 (Montcombroux, par. 4). Lil Wayne used it in the song, “Millionaire Dream.”(Big Tymers, How You Luv That?). He used “bling” instead of “bling-bling,” but this marks the creation or the root of the term. Bling-bling became mainstream when it appeared in B.G.’s album, Chopper City in the Ghetto, (“Bling-Bling”). The chorus of the song, sung by Lil’ Wayne, goes “Bling-bling, every time I come around your city, bling-bling. Pinky ring worth about fifty, bling-bling. Every time I buy a new ride, bling-bling. Lorinsers on Yokahama tires, bling-bling” (B.G., Chopper City). Urban Dictionary, an online dictionary composed by anyone, particularly those who are interested in street slang, defines bling-bling as “money or expensive jewelry” or a phrase trying to describe the “light hitting the diamonds, in turn making the diamonds bling in the light” (“Bling,” def.5; def 7 ). Source For Youth Ministers defines the word as “used to be jewelry such as silver, platinum, or diamonds and sometimes gold. Now the word expands to describe extremely expensive style of clothes, cars and general life-style” (Lynch). And Rap Dictionary describes it as, “Jewelry such as chains, watches, bracelets, rings, earrings. Bling is described as the shining light that appears on materials of great value such as jewelry, gold, silver, and platinum” (“Bling Bling”). The rest of the song lyrics help support these definitions, and helps give the word its meaning through context: “…my pinky ring is platinum plus, earrings be trillion cut…candy coated helicopter with the leather cover…diamond up, golds be shining up,…man I got the price of a mansion around my neck and wrist…” (B.G., Chopper City). From the start of its creation, bling-bling is given meaning and supported with song lyrics – it’s not just a random word thrown in by the artist. It has a purpose, and from the linguistics standpoint, bling-bling becomes attached to the English language and can be analyzed.

Bling-bling is a use of reduplication (Honnegger, lecture notes). “Bling-bling” can refer to money in two different ways. First, “bling-bling” is similar to, and rhymes with “ching-ching.” “Ching-ching” is associated with the noise a cash register makes every time a sale takes place. The sound of “bling-bling” represents the same sound that “ching-ching” creates (B.G., Chopper City). In linguistics, words that are almost identical are said to be ‘paronymous’ (Yaguello 44). The only letters that are different are the first two consonants. Secondly, the sparkling of a diamond is associated with the sound “bling.” Although a diamond’s sparkle does not actually create a sound, “bling-bling” was used to represent the sound of a sparkle of a diamond if it were to actually make a sound. A word that signifies the sound an object, an animal, or a human makes is said to be ‘onomatopoetic’ (Yaguello 80-81, 85). This ‘onomatopoetic’ use of “bling-bling” is best seen in cartoons and commercials. In a car commercial or a teeth commercial, a “bling” sound is made to show the cleanliness of the car or the teeth. In cartoons also, windows, diamonds, belt buckles, and other objects tend to always have a “bling” sound to represent the cleanliness of the object. The sparkle that Lil’ Wayne talks about comes from his diamond pinky rings, and his flashy new cars (B.G., Chopper City).

This is such a word that can easily be grasped, that several other rappers use it in their songs. It caught on quickly, thus allowing it to spread across the nation with force. In her album, No Place Like Bklyn, Jeannie Ortega sings, “you must really love your bling, got them tripping for your bling… girls be crazy for your bling…” (“Bling”). Black Chill, Jaz’ Mina, and Ebony Burks have a song on the New York Minute soundtrack with the lyrics, “so fresh, so clean, bring on the bling, step out in bling…bling bling honey…”(“Bring On The Bling). Perhaps, one of the greatest rappers to date, Jay-Z, also uses the word: “Step off in the club, so fresh and so clean, ladies be like, damn, bling, bling, bling…(“The Return,” Unfinished Business). But bling-bling doesn’t just stop with hip-hop – it also makes its way into Rhythm and Blues, Pop, and Country. The Rhythm and Blues group, B2K sing, “…with a crown on your head, ‘cause you’re a ghetto queen, like bling bling bling…, in their song “Bump Bump Bump (Pandemonium). The country band, Rascal Flatts, sing “your pretty little thing, your bling bling bling and a diamond ring…,” in their song, “Backwards” (Me And My Gang). And Ms. Jade collaborates with pop singer Nelly Furtado and rapper, Timbaland: “What about my ching ching ching? What about my bling bling bling? What about the money I spent up today? (“Ching Ching,” Girl Interrupted). There is also a Latino rapper who calls himself, Chingo Bling (Tamale Kingpin).

Not only did rappers use the word, but it became a part of the American lingo with non-rappers. Athletes and well known TV personalities, such as Shaquille O’Neil and Barbara Walters used it. The word has been used at least 14 times in different magazines and journals by 2002, and this has most probably increased at an exponential rate since then, as we are constantly surrounded by the use of it by radio, friends, and television (Carter, par. 6). At Rice University, students of Linguistics 215 – Words In English: Structure, History, Use have set up a neologism database where they define new words they hear. One student heard bling-bling, when asked, “what do you think about my new bling-bling” (Kemmer, “Bling”).

In 2002, bling-bling was added to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Ask Oxford, 2). In 2003, the word could be found in the Oxford English Dictionary (Oh, “Bling-Bling Added”). It also appears in the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary and on MSN Encarta (“Bling-Bling,” Merriam’s; “Bling-Bling,” MSN Encarta). This shows that the word has fully become accepted into the English language. It was created in 1998, in a rap song, as a word to creatively describe being rich, and it made its way through at least the United States, and finally became recognized as a word in the dictionary. Bling-bling is just the beginning. There are several other hip-hop words making their way around the world. “Jiggy,” meaning, becoming energized and eager, has made its way to various online dictionaries including the Oxford English Dictionary Online. The word, “phat,” which means ‘”gratifying or highly attractive” can also be found in the same dictionary (Oh, “Bling-Bling Added”). Another term, “ice,” which means diamonds, can be found on the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, amongst other places (“Ice,” Merriam’s). If the hip-hop culture continues to push for originality, and, with its growing trends throughout the world, perhaps more boundaries can be crossed, and hip-hop can maintain a strong presence in the English vernacular.

Works Cited

“2004 Consumer Profile.” Recording Industry Association Of America. Recording Industry Association Of America. 3 January 2007 < http://www.riaa.com/News/ marketingdata/pdf/2004consumerProfile.pdf >.

B2K. “Bump Bump Bump.” Pandemonium. Sony, 2002.

B.G. “Bling-Bling.” Chopper City In The Ghetto. Universal, 1999.

Big Tymers. “Millionaire Dream.” How You Luv That? Cash Money, 1998.

Black Chill, Ebony Burks, and Jaz’ Mina. “Bring On The Bling.” New York Minute. Elektra/Wea, 2004.

“Bling.” Def. 5; Def. 7. Urban Dictionary. 2003-2004. 1 January 2007 .

“Bling-Bling.” Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. Springfield, MA. 1 January 2007 <>.

“Bling-Bling.” MSN Encarta. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 1 January 2007 <>.

“Bling-Bling.” The Rap Dictionary. 2006. 1 January 2007 .

Carter, Lyndsey. “All About The Bling.” Ryerson Review Of Journalism. Toronto: Ryerson U, 2004. 9 pars. 1 January 2007 <>.

Chingo Bling. Tamale King. Big Chile Enterprises, 2004.

Furtado, Nelly, Ms. Jade, and Timbaland. “Ching Ching.” Girl Interrupted. Interscope Records, 2002.

George, Nelson. “Rhymin And Stealin.” The Observer. London: Guardian News And Media Unlimited, 2005. 3 January 2007 < http://observer.guardian.co.uk/omm/ story/0,,1393768,00.html >.

Gundersen, Edna. “Mastertones Ring Up Profits.” USA Today. McLean, VA: Gannet Co. Inc., 2006. 3 January 2007 < http://www.usatoday.com/life/ music/news/2006-11-28-mastertones-main_x.htm >.

Honegger, Mark. “Word Formation Processes.” Class lecture. Griffin Hall, Lafayette. 24 Feb. 2003.

“Ice.” Def. 5. Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. Springfield, MA. 1 January 2007 <>.

Jay-Z and R.Kelly. “The Return.” Unfinished Business. Def Jam, 2004.

Jeannie Ortega. “Bling.” No Place Like Bklyn. Hollywood Records, 2006.

“JEDI Enter The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.” Ask Oxford. Oxford UP. 1 January 2007 .

Kemmer, Suzanne. “Bling.” The Rice University Neologisms Database. Houston: Rice University, 1999. 1 January 2007 <>.

Lynch, Fred, ed. “Slang Dictionary.” The Source For Youth Ministry. Orangevale, CA. 1 January 2007 <>.

Montcombroux, Bruce. “Bling-Bling, Same Old Thing.” The Manitoban. Winnipeg: The Manitoban Newspaper Publishing Corporation, 2004. 21 pars. 1 January 2007 <>.

“No.1 Albums.” Billboard. New York: VNU Business Media, 2007. 3 January 2007 <>.

Oh, Minya. “Bling-Bling Added To Oxford English Dictionary.” MTV News. 2003. 1 January 2007 .

Yaguello, Marina. Language Through The Looking Glass. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.



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