Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pop Pop for Beginners

In '94 I was listening to a lot of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. I think everybody was. Between Thuggish Ruggish Bone and Foe tha Love of $ being some of the most requested jams on The Box—and I being 13 years old—it was hard not to.

One of the joys of listening to Bone was trying to figure out what these guys were saying (as anyone who has attempted to transcribe and decode a verse by Bizzy Bone can attest). But one Bone line that did not require an attuned ear was “pop pop.” This one was obvious. Pop pop was the sound of gunshots, as in, “We rippin' them guts with buck shots, pop pop.”

Per George Gerbner, my friends and I adopted pop pop into our everyday communication. We said it when Craig knocked Deebo the fug out, and we used it as trash talk when playing Samurai Showdown. For us, this phrase functioned not so much as the sound of a firearm but as the ultimate synonym for "in yo face!"

Over time, my use of pop pop faded. High school, college, marathons. All pop pop-less.

Years later, in grad school and in need a break from reading about Derrida (who, like Bizzy, requires a lot of decoding), I threw on some Bone, as those who need breaks from Derrida often do. The voices of Krazie, Lazie, Bizzy, Wish, and Flesh took me back to my adolescence—a time when I read comic books that were not about philosophers.

With Bone back in my life, the Bone-izms returned.

“What’s that?” Marj asked, referring to the two-count slap as we drove over a speed bump.

“It’s my antenna hitting the roof. Pop pop.”

Moral of the story? Language changes. The word "awful" was once favorable. Pop pop used to be rap lyric gunshot—now, it’s one of Derrida’s undecidables. People use it to describe sounds their cars make (ok, I use it to describe sounds my car makes), and cereals use it as their last line of defense. Pop pop is both accurate and un-accurate*, and neither accurate nor un-accurate, at the same time, both in the shower and out.

*Un-accurate is a Meta term. If Derrida is allowed to make up words, so am I. Pop pop, Jacques.

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