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Why it's slang

Posted by Smokey Stover on November 12, 2003

In Reply to: Put down - quit posted by ESC on November 11, 2003

: : Towards the end of a concert, bluesman Albert King assures his audience that they've been "mighty, mighty groovy people," and that he wished he "could take everybody from San Francisco with [him]." Having thus made explicit the bond between him and the audience, he says, to the audience's audible dismay, "It'll be October before I can get back." And then this: "I'm gonna plunge you now and dig you later, gator. Ain't gonna quit you, just gonna put you down for a while." At this, the audience are suddenly rather quite, so Albert shouts: "Can you dig it?" The last sentence, of course, is to ensure they understand. (They say "Yeah!") I'm wondering how well established is the expression, "put you down for a (little) while." It is found also in Led Zeppelin:
: : I can't quit you / babe / Woman I think I'm gonna put you down / for a little while.
: : ("I can't quit you baby," cf. albums I and Coda)
: : Regards
: : Anders
: : PS: The Albert King album is "Thursday Night In San Francisco" (recorded in 1968).

: "put down" has two meanings, according to one reference. 1. To criticize. 2. To stop doing something, as in "I'm trying to put down smoking dope." "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996).

: The image I get is a child putting down a toy, taking a break and coming back to play again later.

: I know that this is pedestrian and boring, but I don't think Albert King's remark that he'll "put you down for a while" is particularly slangy, merely a somewhat unusual context for the words. On the other hand, "plunge you now and dig you later" certainly is. To put something down is not really slang unless it has some non-standard meaning. Putting down a baby or a book is just what the words say. On the other hand, if a woman says "My mother-in-law is always putting me down," she means that her in-law is belittling her, or stifling her in some other way, presumably non-lethal. Hence the noun "putdown" for a belittling comment, perhaps a zinger, that puts someone in his place. Although not relevant to Mr. King, one also puts down horses and other animals, by euthanizing them. (Euthanize is one of those dreaded back-formations, but what else are you going to say? Killing them?)