Friday - - Mind Games -

As we learnt last week, the Ur­ban Dic­tio­nary is a crowdsourced on­line dic­tio­nary of slang words and phrases, con­stantly grow­ing thanks to vo­lu­mi­nous con­tri­bu­tions from or­di­nary users and le­nient ad­mis­si­bil­ity shown by mul­ti­ple ed­i­tors who have no pre­scribed guide­lines. It is the world’s ul­ti­mate de­scrip­tive dic­tio­nary, and there­fore you might be led to think the one mil­lion or so daily vis­i­tors con­sist en­tirely of techno-savvy with-it young peo­ple keen to learn and use the new jar­gon.

For the most part, yes – but there have been some in­ter­est­ing ex­cep­tions, in­clud­ing a case where a Bri­tish high court judge was rul­ing on a copy­right battle be­tween two Bri­tish rap bands.

Jus­tice Lewi­son had been asked to rule on a case brought by the band Ant’ill Mob against a ri­val out­fit, Heart­less Crew. The lat­ter had recorded a remix of Ant’ill Mob’s 2001 garage hit Burnin , but An­drew Al­cee (who wrote the orig­i­nal) claimed that the ad­di­tion of terms like “shiz­zle my niz­zle”, “mish mish man” and “string dem up” re­ferred to drugs and vi­o­lence and so “dis­torted and mu­ti­lated” his orig­i­nal tune. The judge said the claim had led to the “faintly sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence of three gen­tle­men in horse­hair wigs [him­self and two bar­ris­ters] ex­am­in­ing the mean­ing of such phrases”.

Th­ese were murky wa­ters for the judge, and the Ur­ban Dic­tio­nary served as higher coun­sel to de­ter­mine that “shiz­zle my niz­zle” wasn’t a eu­phemism for any­thing lewd or las­civ­i­ous, it only meant “for sure”; there were no en­tries for “mish mish man”.

On the ba­sis of th­ese and other find­ings, the case was dis­missed. But surely the victory here was the ul­ti­mate one for the de­scrip­tive dic­tio­nary.

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