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Forum » Real HIP HOP Forever » Hip Hop History/Knowledge » Origins of the word Swag
Origins of the word Swag
EmSeeD Date: Monday, 22/Feb/10, 0:37 AM | Message # 1

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rofl

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-swa2.htm

Swag has a surprising number of meanings. It has been around for at least 200 years for a thief’s plunder or booty, the sense that C S Lewis was using. The idea of give-aways is more recent, but even that has a longer history than one might guess from the comparatively recent American usage you quote. And, of course, among other meanings, swag is also the Australian word for a bundle of personal belongings, especially a bedroll, carried by a traveller, tramp, or swagman.

It looks as though all these can be traced back to a word imported into Middle English from Scandinavian svagga, to sway (in fact, it’s the origin of sway as well). At first, the verb meant to rock unsteadily or lurch, but evolved into that of hanging loosely or heavily, to sag. Another sense of swag I haven’t yet mentioned comes from the same idea — for an ornamental festoon, or for fabric fastened so it hangs in a drooping curve; this was first recorded at the end of the eighteenth century. It’s also the origin of the American swag lamp sense you mention, in which the lamp’s electrical cable hangs in a swag.

Originally, a thief’s swag was a bag of stolen clothes or the like. This and the Australian swag derive from the idea of a bundle that sags or hangs down. Think of the stereotypical image of a tramp with his swag hanging from a pole over his shoulder; it’s not accidental that in cartoons the thief’s swag is always shown in a sack.

However, there’s some suggestion there was another word involved, also Scandinavian, the one that led to a citation for swag in the Oxford English Dictionary from 1303. In that it meant a bulgy bag. The evidence suggests it didn’t survive in its own right, but it’s possible that it influenced later senses.

One early glossary says that swag referred to any stolen goods except money, but the evidence suggests it altered through the nineteenth century until it meant small valuable items that could be easily disposed of, such as silverware.

That idea seems to have been picked up in North American youth slang comparatively recently to mean valuables or money. The sense of freebie stuff might seem to be a development of that.

However, Jonathon Green, the author of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang, has pointed out to me a book of about 1921 by Tom Norman, a travelling fairground showman in Britain, entitled The Penny Showman. He wrote about a stall that was: “set out with the usual showman’s swag, such as fancy cups and saucers, gaudy vases, shaving mugs, etc”, that is, the cheap and tawdry prizes that might be won. Eric Partridge, in his Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, also gives this showman’s sense, suggesting it dates from the end of the nineteenth century.

This is not so far distant from the advertising give-aways you mention, and may indeed be its direct ancestor.


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Chinita Date: Monday, 22/Feb/10, 1:46 PM | Message # 2

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haha this is interesting..

Aristotle Date: Monday, 22/Feb/10, 4:00 PM | Message # 3

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lmao rofl

But real talk, the U invented swag... B)




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Bape Date: Sunday, 08/May/11, 1:26 PM | Message # 4

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LMAO!!! HOW COME I NEVER FOUND OUT ABOUT THIS TIL TODAY!!!?!! :D

eboyd Date: Sunday, 08/May/11, 1:50 PM | Message # 5

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lol i think swag in the sense it is used in slang today has it's origins in the word swagger more than in the senses described above. they just got lazy and shortened it, not realizing "swag" already had a meaning outside of being a shortening for swagger. interestingly, the first recorded use of "swagger" is from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Shakespeare. it is today defined, basically, as cockiness or pompousness. interestingly enough i found that swagger also actually has it's origins in the original swag that is mentioned above though. i'm guessing it derives from the the definition of swag that is basically synonymous with sway as swagger mainly refers to someone who walks with an "insolent air" about them. so in a sense, someone who exudes cockiness when they walk often sways, so therefore they have a swagger about them. this use then got picked up by fuckheads in the rap game like Soulja Boy to talk about their style as the whole basis of rap today is rude cockiness and boastfulness (which is part of the second dictionary definition of swagger).

so in essence they all come from the same source which is the original version of the word swag, but it is important to highlight that today's common slang use is more related to the evolution from swagger than it is to the original swag.


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Ratmn Date: Sunday, 08/May/11, 7:35 PM | Message # 6

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Isn't swag a word used to describe awful weed?


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Adam Date: Sunday, 08/May/11, 7:47 PM | Message # 7

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its a name for bad weed. well cheap at least. I heard that from a kid at school like couple years before swaggsters were everywhere. Then I heard method man say it so yeah I am pretty sure it means cheap weed to.




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ilikebacon3000 Date: Monday, 09/May/11, 0:12 AM | Message # 8

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Nah ya'll are thinking of "schwag" (pronounced Shh-wag).

it can mean bad weed, but with most people it just means normal weed... lower grade, normal shit that is cheap, but not dirt weed either.


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Adam Date: Monday, 09/May/11, 7:38 AM | Message # 9

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yeah that...




I JUST EXPLODED INTO RAINBOWS AND LOLLIPOPS!
TheHipHopSpot Date: Monday, 09/May/11, 6:31 PM | Message # 10

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wow.

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Hoffen Date: Thursday, 13/Oct/11, 11:01 AM | Message # 11

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hmmm interresting facts i have to admit lol

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