Wheelchair Junkie

From Rap to Rehab

A linguistics sample of slang transformations from hip-hop to the disabled community

Language, like a river, is always changing - it alters course, branches off, and is often rejuvenated by its sources. Because of this intrinsic transformation, the "prestige" dialect and lexicon within the United States, as spoken by what is generically termed the "mainstream," constantly has an influx of new words, both formal and slang. The slang word, "phat," for example, which dates back to 1963 within the African-American community, is now commonly used within "mainstream." But, like language as a whole, individual slang terms can change in meaning as they are passed from subculture to subculture, much like "phat's" meaning transformed from "wealthy" to "desirable," as it crossed in and out of African-American and white usages.

As a subculture, the disabled community is not exempt from borrowing slang from others and transforming words through culture-specific meanings. What's striking, however, is that in recent years, the disabled community, as studied by Professor I. P. Freely, has assumed and transformed many words from hip-hop culture. Still, because the disabled community remains so fragmented, many members remain unaware of the shared slang, ties that connect us.

With my level of interaction within the disabled community, I've been inspired that slang like "private stock" and "up north trip" have become connecting, culturally-identifying terms among us. I, however, also recognize the fragmentation within the disabled community, so I hope that if you're a little less in the know than others, the forthcoming dictionary of slang terms will bring you up to speed.

Dictionary of Hip-Hop to Disabled Community Slang Transformations

(H) = hip-hop meaning
(D) = disabled community meaning

Bling bling
(H) Jewelry.
(D) The annoying sound your powerchair makes when you turn it on.

Ghetto sled
(H) Car, usually American made, that generally sports a rusted body covered with house paint. Synonym of "hooptie."
(D) Any '70s wheelchair made by Everest & Jennings.

Around the way
(H) From the neighborhood. "From around the way" -- Beastie Boys (No sleep till Brooklyn [1986]).
(D) A catheter and leg bag.

Dropping a Dime
(H) Reporting someone to the police.
(D) A wheelchair user's nightmare, as in when a convenient store clerk tries to hand you change.

Beam me up, Scotty
(H) Asking for Crack.
(D) Taking Viagra.

Bust slugs
(H) To fire bullets. "And bust some slugs for South Africa" -- Heather B. with BDP (Seven MC's).
(D) Waiting for a paratransit van, as in running over snails on the sidewalk with your powerchair to pass time.

In the house
(H) Present, here. "Compton's in tha house" -- N.W.A. (Compton's in tha house [1990]).
(D) When your wheelchair dealer goes on a vacation, leaving you stranded in the house, with a broken powerchair.

Doing a buck 50
(H) To speed or get out of a bad situation.
(D) Driving excruciatingly slow in your powerchair, like a granny doing 1.5mph on a scooter in the mall.

(H) Female, generally sexually promiscuous, and not upwardly mobile "Homies in the hood labeled her as a hoodrat" -- Domino (Ghetto jam [1993]).
(D) A wheelchair user whom didn't make it across the busy street.

Catch the vapors
(H) To be caught up in someone else's popularity, hype or glamour and to want the same things this person has.
(D) Charging your powerchair too close to your bed while you sleep.

Hold the fort down
(H) To represent where you are from. "If so hold the fort down and represent to the fullest" -- Nas (One Love [1994]).
(D) When you can't find a wheelchair-accessible bathroom, and have to hold it.

(H) Port Arthur, Texas. Referred to throughout UGK and Point Blank albums.
(D) The sound a squirrel makes when run over by a powerchair.

(H) West coast slang for partying or having a good time. Comes from the French word "parler", which means talking.
(D) The act of having sex in a tilt and recline seating system.

Private Stock
(H) A brand of malt liquor.
(D) The six old wheelchairs in your garage.

(H) An abbreviation of "propers" or proper respects. A show sits on physical and non-physical props. At an award ceremony the winner gives props: "And I would like to thank..."
(D) The lateral side pads that hold you in your powerchair seat.

Quad City
(H) Orlando. Home of Quad City DJ's, 95 South, 69 Boyz and DJ Magic Mike.
(D) A rehab center.

(H) New York City borough. RUN-DMC are often referred to as the Kings from Queens.
(D) Three guys in powerchairs, wearing dresses.

Rat pack
(H) A bum rush -- N.W.A. (Gangsta, gangsta [1988]).
(D) The accumulation of crumbs beneath your seat cushion.

Scooby Doo
(H) A blunt -- Cypress Hill.
(D) A poorly-behaved service dog that solves mysteries.

Slow your roll
(H) Slow down whatever you are doing. "Slow ya roll like your leg was broken" -- Kurupt ([1993]).
(D) When a powerchair user sees a cop.

Soggy indo
(H) A joint that has been dipped in PCP or something.
(D) When your front wheel catches a hole in a wet lawn, and pitches you forward.

(H) Thing; "your own thang": your own way.
(D) A broken component on your wheelchair, as in, "This thang fell off."

The Boogie Down
(H) The Bronx.
(D) Lowering your tilt seating system back to the driving position.

Up north trip
(H) Being sent to jail. "Up north trip" -- Mobb Deep.
(D) Getting a suppository.

(H) Rolling papers. "Send some gin and a pack of zigzags" -- Snoop Doggy Dogg (Pump pump).
(D) A choice powerchair driving path, especially in crowds and around snipers.

Therefore, the next time you hear a fellow user say, "I'm chillin' in my ghetto sled from my private stock cuz I got no bling bling or buck 50," you'll know exactly what he means.