Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 19:42:09 -0500 From: Ronald Butters Subject: Re: street slang On Mon, 22 Jan 1996, Mary Bucholtz wrote: > I'm doing some pro bono work for a public defender, and I'd like to know > what the expression "break yourself" can mean, especially in its > use among African American urban youth (but other groups' use of it is > also important). I'd appreciate any citations anyone might have, including > music or pop culture attestations, as well as anything scholarly that may > have been written about it. I don't have time to quote the passage for you, but if you look in Geneva Smitherman's new dictionary, BLACK TALK (Houghton Mifflin) s.v. BREAK you'll see that at least one highly important meaning is 'embarrass yourself' or possibly 'fake yourself out'. This appears to be the way that BREAK YOURSELF would most likely be used in African-American vernacular today, according to Smitherman's book. I suppose it could also mean 'run yourself down; talk negatively about yourself', given what Smitherman says in the dictionary (page 69). The use of linguistics to answer legal questions is one of my chief interests. If you can send me further particulars about the case I would really appreciate it.