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Can you dig it?

Posted by Baceseras on June 18, 2011 at 18:20

In Reply to: Can you dig it? posted by Schmidt4Brains on June 17, 2011 at 17:53:

: Can you dig it?
: I can dig it.
: You dig it?
: I dig it.
: You dig?
: Dig?
: etc.

: I've always had the impression that it came from the hippie movement in the 60's. But I can't figure out what the act of digging has to to with comprehending or appreciating something. Or why the expression seems to have these two separate meanings. You dig?

[For the slang usage, the OED has a citation from a New York newspaper (The World Telegram) in 1936: “‘You dig?’ is a short cut for ‘You understand?’” The figurative use of “digging,” as for knowledge or understanding, which are not to be found on the surface of things, goes back centuries. It was an innovation of U.S. English to leave off the indirect object and let the verb “to dig” stand by itself for “to know, to understand.” Already in 1827 (again according to the OED) the Harvard Register gives: “the sunken eye and sallow countenance bespoke the man who _dug_ sixteen hours per diem.” There “to dig” means “to study hard,” and from there to the slang sense is a short step. - Baceseras.]