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A Unique Dictionary Documenting African American English to Be Released 2025

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What does “bussin” mean?

Well, if you don’t know, then the first-of-its-kind Oxford Dictionary of African American English, slated for release in 2025, can answer that for you. The project, edited by Harvard African American History professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., goes beyond defining words and into documenting the history and origin of words either created or evolved by the Black community.

Ten of the 100 words to be included in the dictionary have been release and they include “bussin”, “pat” and “kitchen.”

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“Every speaker of American English borrows heavily from words invented by African Americans, whether they know it or not,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., “Words with African origins such as ‘goober’, ‘gumbo’ and ‘okra’ survived the Middle Passage along with our African ancestors. And words that we take for granted today, such as ‘cool’ and ‘crib,’ ‘hokum’ and ‘diss,’ ‘hip’ and ‘hep,’ ‘bad’, meaning ‘good,’ and ‘dig,’ meaning ‘to understand’- these are just a tiny fraction of the words that have come into American English from African American speakers, neologisms that emerged out of the Black Experience in this country, over the last few hundred years.”

“The further back in history, the less we can find Black people having agency over how we’re written about,” Bianca Jenkins, a lexicographer working on the project, told The New York Times. “Dues to enslavement, Black people were prevented by law from being educated, from being taught to read. Black people had to really take it upon ourselves and educate ourselves.”

Although the first edition of the dictionary will be released in March 2025, the project will be an ongoing on and the public can submit entry suggestions.