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Re: "the man"

Posted by SR on March 21, 2005

In Reply to: "The man" posted by Steven O. Spurger on March 21, 2005

: This weekend while discussing where to get coffee my daughter said, "let's get it from some small independent place, not from "the man". I've heard this before in reference to large corporate entities, but where does this phrase come from. Someone thought from the Black Panthers in the 70's. Any ideas?

This is from the 'Word of the Day'...
"What is almost always accepted as slang is the use of man in a broad spectrum of senses having the basic meaning 'a person (esp. a man) or a group in a position of authority or control'. Common subsenses are 'the Government' ("The avowed aim of the 'Yippies' is to destroy 'the Man'"--U.S. News & World Report, 1969), 'a police officer', or 'a drug dealer' ("I'm Waiting for the Man"--The Velvet Underground, 1967).

One of these subsenses is 'a person (esp. a man) who is highly respected; a person of great accomplishment'. An especially colorful example: "I got a pair of $600 lizard shoes and I got silk shirts. I'm the Man, boy. I changes my clothes 15 times a day" (Time, 1981).

While this use dates to the early 1950s in jazz circles, the affirmation "You the man!" appears to have gotten popular in the mainstream only since the early 1990s. The expression originated among black speakers, and the use of the verb-less "You the man" instead of "you're the man," and the pronunciation "You da man," are both intended to reflect a common Black English usage.

The use of the man in the broadest sense of 'a man in authority or control' dates from the 1910s."
I hope this helps. SR