Date: Tue, 9 Jun 1998 10:03:23 -0400
From: Larry Horn
Subject: Re: "You the man."

At 7:12 PM -0500 6/8/98, Gerald Cohen wrote:
>---The expression is given in Clarence Major's _Juba To Jive: A Dictionary
>of African-American Slang_, 1994, although not with the specific meaning
>"Thank you":
> YOU THE MAN (1900-s-1990s) a phrase or response meaning "you're in
>charge," "whatever you
> say goes," " et cetera. This expression has changed in the ninety
>years or so that it has been popular
> in black informal speech. Originally a woman's line addressed to a
>man, usually her husband or
> lover, about half the time used ironically. In the thirties, black
>men used it ironically in addressing
> white men--and in come cases black men--who happened to be their
>bosses. In the eighties young
> black men began using it as an ironic compliment.
It has certainly spread (like our earlier street-savvy-wannabe "my bad") in
the last few years to the would-be-hip non-African-American community.
It's a favorite of certain Gen X radio "personalities" and also occurs in a
current commercial for a major business hotel chain (Embassy Suites or one
of that ilk), in each occasion in the form of exchanges between two
typically middle-class white guys along the lines of:

No, YOUdaman!

...sometimes elaborated (as in the practice on an obnoxious late-night
syndicated sports talk show called Ferrell on the Bench) into e.g.

How can *I* be the man when *YOU*daman!

It always seems on these occasions to be pronounced as indicated (except
that the middle vowel is of course a schwa): no pauses, voiced stop or flap
(always [d] rather than [dh]), and heavy stress on initial and/or final
syllable, depending on the discourse context.