The Root Presents: It'S Lit!

Posted WedWednesday 17 JanJanuary 2018 at 3:35amWedWednesday 17 JanJanuary 2018 at 3:35am, updated WedWednesday 17 JanJanuary 2018 at 5:26amWedWednesday 17 JanJanuary 2018 at 5:26am

Geoffrey Tolhurst's Flat 4 Kings Cross contains an early citation of the slang term "lit".(

Supplied: Austlit


Walter Downing, a law student-cum-lexicographer who served in World War I, would later write of a particularly Australian use of "lit up", meaning infected with venereal disease.

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Another meaning of "lit" that has developed over the last decade is an adjectival one, meaning that something (usually an event or situation) is hyped or outstanding.

Commonly, this sense is found in the phrase "it's lit" — or, khổng lồ go whole hog, "it's lit fam" (that lattermost word being a contraction of family).

A precise origin eludes lexicographers: Google trends data shows a spike in lookups beginning in năm trước, but Urban Dictionary entries for this sense date baông chồng lớn 2009. At the same time, this sense appears in West Coast rap music, though it had shown up on the East Coast as early as 1997.

It's lit blows up

While he certainly didn't invent the phrase, the phrase "it's lit" has had a substantial champion over the last five sầu years in the khung of Houston-based rapper Travis Scott.

You see, in addition to lớn being a phenomenally successful producer (và, it should be noted, Kylie Jenner's boyfriend) Scott is a prolific ad-libber.

A brief side note: ad-lib is something of an unusual term. Most words that entered English through their use in musical notation come through Italian (tempo, soprano, sotlớn voce).

Ad-lib borrows directly from Latin, being a shortening of ad libitum ("with pleasure"). Its purpose in sheet music was to lớn indicate that any given performer could ignore a written part at their discretion.


In rap — a genre where "freestyle" is the term more often used lớn describe an improvised movement — ad-libs generally refer khổng lồ short vocal drops that are specific to lớn each rap artist.

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Kendriông chồng Lamar has lately taken lớn pre-empting his verses shouting "Kung Fu Kenny", an alternate moniker. Jay-Z exhales in a particularly distinctive manner. Rap wunderkind Desiigner uses a gunshot noise.

And Travis Scott — on his own works, & his prolific guest features — says "it's lit".

While he doesn't have sầu a trademark on the phrase (Eminem has also used it in his work) Scott's usage is so distinctive sầu that the scholars over at open-source lyrics trang web Genius have sầu listed "it's lit" as a pure Scottism.

Scott joins a prodigious crew: up there with rappers A$AP Mob yelling "Yamborghini", or kích hoạt Bronson starting every song shouting "Mr Baklava".

Death by corporate adoption

There was a time where a slang term's time of death was dependent on when parents start using it.

But in the opening decades of the 21st century, the death of popular slang items is more often predicated on their adoption by brands.

So it is with "it's lit", a phrase which has since năm trước been used everywhere from Canadian educational television khổng lồ perhaps the platonic ikhuyễn mãi giảm giá of corporate monolithery: a Google advertising document called "It's Lit: A Guide To What Teens Think Is Cool."

According lớn Google, Oreos and aaaarrghh.comflix are "lit", lifestyle clothing brand Patagonia is not.

It seems Travis Scott (or anyone else striving khổng lồ sound hip with the teens) may have lớn find a new ad-lib.

Tiger Webb is a researcher with Language.

Posted 17 JanJanuary 2018WedWednesday 17 JanJanuary 2018 at 3:35am, updated 17 JanJanuary 2018WedWednesday 17 JanJanuary 2018 at 5:26am

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