Friday, December 6, 2013

"Cut A Step" And Other Black Pentecostal Words, Phrases, & Sayings, Part I

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest revision: September 1, 2018

This is Part I of a two part series about "cut a step" and other words, phrases, and sayings that are used by African American Pentecostal worshippers in the discussion thread of the video "Foot Work- Praise break, Watch close!!!!"

As such, this series presents examples of words, phrases, and sayings that are commonly used by African Americans who are members of Apostolic, Church of God In Christ (COGIC), and other Pentecostal Christian churches. These terms may also be used by Baptist and other Christian congregations in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Some of these terms come from non-religious cultural sources and are also used in non-religious contexts.

Part I provides terms which begin with the letter A-L. Selected comments from the showcase video's discussion thread are included for most of these terms.

Click for Part II of this post.

Part II provides terms which begin with the letter M-Z. Selected comments from the showcase video's discussion thread are included for most of these terms.

I'm interested in documenting the use of these terms as found in YouTube video viewer comment threads for the folkloric, historical, and cultural record. While many YouTube video viewer comment threads contain profanity, racist, sexually explicit, homophobic, and other problematic content, those same discussion threads and other discussion threads may contain insightful, informative, well worded, and witty comments that I believe should be archived as part of the folkloric record.

I believe that the content of YouTube video viewer comment threads can provide insight about the lifestyles, values, and opinions of persons who posted to this particular YouTube viewer comment thread. I also believe that the way those comments are written (the slang and colloquial expressions that are used, the variant spelling, the inclusion of internet/text writing elements (such as acronyms and the lack of punctuation/capitalization which lead to run-on sentences), and even the commenters' screen names are worthy of documentation and study as part of the folkloric record.

In this pancocojams post, as in other posts such as, I include what I believe are the meanings of the vernacular examples that are listed.

Like other YouTube Praise Break videos's viewer comment thread, the comment thread for this featured video contains extensive doctrinal exchanges, including scriptural references pro and con "shouting". This post does not include any of those comments, unless that comment is used as an example of a vernacular word or phrase.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

I'm not now nor have I ever been a member of a Pentecostal church. I have attended such churches a few times, and I have pbserved people in those churches, and in my childhood Baptist church (in New Jersey) doing shout behaviors such as are described in this post.

I don't consider myself an etymologist. However, I'm interested in the origin, meaning, and uses of certain words & phrases.

Some of these vernacular words and phrases are used with the same meanings outside of religious services or religious events.

Additions & corrections are very welcome.

WARNING: In spite of the fact that it is a religious video, this YouTube video's viewer comment thread includes profanity, the use of the n word, and other content that I consider to be problematic. None of that content is included in the examples that are featured in this post.

FEATURED VIDEO: Foot Work- Praise break, Watch close!!!!

DeMario Jives, Uploaded on May 19, 2008

Give God a sacrifice of praise inspite of, just go for what you know!

(These words are numbered for references purposes)

refers to a person who has felt the Holy Spirit and therefore has been saved [has accepted Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior]

"Anointing, ]
in Holy Scripture, is either, I. Material--with oil--or II. Spiritual--with the Holy Ghost


Spiritual anointing with the Holy Ghost is conferred also upon Christians by God. ( 2 Corinthians 1:21 ) " Anointing "expresses the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit upon Christians who are priests and kings unto God." "

[no examples are cited from this video's discussion thread.]

“bruthas”, bru” are variant (Hip Hop vernacular) spellings of “brother”.

In the religious context “brothers” mean “males who are part of the family of Christ” (because of their belief in Jesus Christ).

KaraStarrAllen, 2010
“Brother Got His Praise In”
In standard American English this means “He is doing the holy dance very well.”
Got his praise “ is usually given as “got his praise on”.

“His” here refers to the man dancing.
"Brother" is also used as a prefacing "title" for adult males, similar to "Mr" - for instance, "Brother Davis", "Brother Johnson". I believe that this title can be used with last names and/or with first names.

Read the related title "sister" in Part II of this post.

used in reference to powerful soulful singing [sanging] and/or preaching, testifying: brought down the Holy Spirit to the church's congregation; as a result people felt the Holy Spirit (went in, did the Holy dance etc)

[no examples cited from this video's discussion thread]

sitting back, relaxed, not involved, showing no intensity (with low energy).

“Chillin” is an extension of the word “chill”. “Chill” is the opposite of “hot” (caused by intense energy, being energized, heating up an environment, situation, or a person)

kragen05, 2010
“how are you gunna have the youth just chillin in their seats? youve gotta get in on that holy ghost movement! come on. i wish i had services like this”

down home Black [Southern United States] way of pronouncing "church"; when the word "church" is purposely written or pronounced this way as a form of code switching [from standard English to African American Vernacular English], it refers to a old school church which is filled with the Holy Spirit [or singing, preaching, etc. that is like those old down home churches which were filled with Holy Ghost fire]

Do the holy dance, shout, Praise [God] by doing the holy dance

“Cut a step” comes from the earlier phrase “cut a rug”. Read that entry below.

Also, read the entry below for the indirectly related phrase “tearing it up”

TheMysyfyer, 2010
“watching this makes me wanna CUT A STEP!”

in the context of this topic, this means "dancing very well"*

Dynasty Mays, 2009
“Now he cut n up!!!”
*cutting up can also mean “acting (behaving) like a fool”, but I don’t think that’s the meaning that was intended by that commenter.

to dance. I believe that this old, now little used secular term is the source of the contemporary term “cut a step”. I’m not sure if “cut a step” is used outside of its reference to doing the holy dance, but I don’t recall reading it or hearing it said anywhere else.

zareahbrown, 2009
“he cut a rug...... thats cogic footwork right there. i love to see men prasie god
Click for a pancocojams post on the saying “cut a rug” and similar colloquial expressions.

in the context of this example, this phrase means "to really dancing well in that corner". This phrase may not be used that often, but I’m including it as an example of how pictorial
some African American vernacular English is.

robblkva, 2009
“he is eating that corner up
This comment means “He’s dancing quite intensely in that corner”

fast paced dancing that emphasizes the feet’s movement; the soles of the feet usually remain on the ground with footwork (There are little to no kicks with this type of dancing.)

joshuaofjericho, 2009
“Chicago footwork” (also known as "juking") is a contemporary Hip Hop dance that is most closely associated with Chicago, Illinois. Read the comment below under “juking”. I wrote this comment in
"There's no way to verify which came first-the religious shout footwork or the secular dances that had the same or similar fast paced foot motions. This dance form almost certainly has its source in Black African traditional dances."
Also, read this witty comment that compliments the holy dancers and also includes a reference to the contemporary American movie Happy Feet

Cynthia Webb, 2009
“now this is the best version of "Happy Feet" i've ever seen lol”

"dancing very well"

The phrase "getting down" may have its source in the custom of dancers who are really ”in to” the dance” moving down to the floor, and then dancing back up. I also think that “getting down” is related to the phrase “I’m getting down to the real nitty gritty” (to the essence of something ). A person who “got down to the real nitty gritty” while dancing didn’t mind how he or she looked (or smelled) as nits are “funky).

Glamazon91, 2010
“dat man was gettin down... but watsz up with the music”
In standard English, “That man was dancing really well, but I don’t understand what is going on with the music.”

I believe that the use of the word “dat” is purposeful, not accidental, and not an indication that the commenter doesn’t know or speak Standard English.

"feeling the Holy Spirit" and expressing that feeling through testimonies, shouts, speaking in tongues etc.

[No examples of this phrase are found in that viewer comment thread to date.]
"Getting happy" is the phrase that I grew up which referred to people "feeling the [Holy] Spirit". I was surprised to find no examples of that usage in this particular Praise Break video's viewer comment thread and only a few examples of that phrase in other Praise Break videos. It appears that the phrases "getting your praise on", "getting your shout on" and other similar phrases have taken the place of "getting happy". Read the definitions for "shout" in Part II of this series.

Publicly tell (testify to) when and how God saved you or publicly tell what God has done in your life.

[Given without examples from that comment thread]

a complimentary exclamation for doing something really well

majenkns1, 2009
“All i wanna know is did the brother in the cormer have to pay the pastor back for tearing up his carpet like that? He was getting it!!!”

dowlingus1, 2010
“he is getting it!”

BaptistBoi, 2008
“O boy in da corner was mos def gettin it in but I coulda done without them "horns" on the keyboard...the piano setting works just fine for me and the camera was a lil shaky so it was kinda hard to focus in some spots...but it was still an overall good clip!!!”
“mos def” = most definitely (meaning “really”). This is the source of the Hip Hop artist’s name.
o boy =old boy. “Old” is commonly spelled “ole”. “Old” here isn’t an age referent.

mrfreez05, 2008
“Man bruh was gettin it in that corner! Good God”


a complimentary exclamation to a holy dancer. In the context of this discussion, “Him” means “God” and I think this phrase is another way of saying “Give God the praise”

JehovahSham, 2013
Btw, I don’t think that “sham” in this word means “fake”. It may be a word that may be uttered while speaking in tongues. Alternately, “give it to him” may mean to continue stomping on Satan’s head. Then “him” would mean “the devil”.

16. GLORY (also spelled “GLORAY” & similar other phonetic spellings)
an exclamation that is short for “Give God the glory”

[Add commenter’s name and year]
“man i sho' like to watch people shout...glory!!!”

a complimentary exclamation

Judging from its use in numerous [Black] Praise Break viewer comment threads, “Go head” is the most commonly used exclamation to compliment someone who is doing the holy dance.

Note= Unlike when this phrase is used in “the world”,
meaning at non-religious events such as fraternity/sorority step shows, onlookers in churches or other religious services don’t shout out encouraging or complimentary remarks such as “Go head”

Devin Kelson, 2009
“yall praisin furreal but dat music is way to fast its so fast yall keep messin up lol but its unto the Lord so yall go head”

32pedalnotes, 2010
“WOW! Now dats CRAZY praise! Well... He is WORTHY! If I could dance that fast, I'd set the spirit of obesity on the run! LOL! Go 'head yall. Give it to HIM!”

B4RBI3gyrl, 2010
“Yall Betta Go Head And Praise The Lord!”

babygirl00432, 2010
“i watched this video like 7 times, loved it, so many comments about the music, the camera, those things arn't even the point. They r there giving God the praise n thas all tht tht shout on tht brutha GO HEAD!!:)”
I think that the words “that shout on tht [that] brutha” means “ the way that brother shouted [danced].” However, the use of “on” here may [also?] refer to the belief that the praiser felt the Spirit on [in] him, and that is what caused him to do the holy dance [shout].

Also, read this related exclamation of support and praise for the shouter (the person doing the holy dance)
joshua whitaker, 2011
“Go boy Go!!!!!!!!”

18. GO IN
Read the entry in Part II for "Went in"

doing the holy dance well

I think that this saying comes from sayings such as “Get it!” where (I believe that ) “it” originally meant “winning the game" or "the points scored”.

AnointedGifts, 2012
“He is going for it!!!!Lol, Praise HIm!!!!”
“Him” with a capital “h” means God. I think that “God” in most if not all of these comments is also a referent for Jesus.

This means that God has blessed the the praiser for doing a holy dance (cutting a step).

superiorbandgeek, 2009
“that's that footwork right there. You know he got his blessing from that.”

same as "got his shout on", read that entry below, and read the entry for the word "Praise" in Part II of this post.

a phrase that means "doing a shout". Read the entry for "shout" in Part II of this post.

tallapril, 2010
“That was some Memphis COGIC Holy Convacation footwork going on in that corner. Brother really got his shout on.”
COGIC=Church Of God In Christ; “convocation” a convention (assembly of members); Brother here means “a male who is a church member)

"doing something very well"

ernest core, 2009
“Dude was over there in the corner givin it up!!! It looked like he was burning holes in the carpet. LOL He didnt miss a beat. Yall better praise him!!!”
Using the informal referent for man “dude” isn’t a put down (insult), but just indicates the informality of the online discussion setting. This referent would not be used in public to refer to that dancer.

“burning holes in the carpet” refers back to “cutting a step”, “cutting a rug”

“Him” in the sentence “Yall better praise him” refers to God.

"beat the floor with the soles of your feet (while doing the holy dance)", also given as “stomp the floor”

Orbot, 2010
“Love to see my brothas hit the floor!!”
This comment may have been made because there are more females than men who attend church and it's therefore more common to see women do holy dances than men.

This saying is from the Gospel song "Shouting John" which was popularized by Shirley Caesar.

"Shouting John" is a fictitious character who was a member of a "dead church" (a church that didn't permit people to "shout" (get happy, cut a step, praise God when they felt the Holy Spirit). When church representatives came to John's farm to tell him that he couldn't belong to their church if he shouted, he didn't accept what was said, and instead told one of them to "hold his mule" while he danced for the Lord.

Therefore, telling people to "Hold my mule" means that you are getting ready to "go in" (shout). It's likely that "Hold my mule" is only used in written communication.

One source of this saying is a version of the Old Time African American non-religious song “Jim Along Josie”: “Hold my mule while I dance Josie.”. A version of "Jim Along Josie" is included in Dorothy Scarborough’s 1925 book On The Trail Of Negro Folksongs.

Terry Crews Jr, 2010
“I'll hold your mule!

a spontaneous, unrehearsed, dance that is done in praise of God
(shout, cut a step,praise)

[given without examples]

the spirit that emanates from the Holy Ghost is equated with fire’s energy

COMPASSION2611, 2010
“You better get it Mastro, love it! Even the coat got a dance!!!! Round two. FIRE, HOLY GHOST FIRE!!!

a fast footwork dance (Chicago footwork)

Comment example:
evry1slilsista, 2009
“jukin' fah jesus......lolol i love it.....
I don’t think this comment was meant to be taken seriously. I think that it was made to point out the close similarities between holy dancing and jukin.

"doing something very well"

pmc53, 2011
“Ole boi KILLED that dance”
Notice the variant [Hip Hop vernacular] spelling for “boy”. Calling a man “boy” or “ole [old] boy” online isn’t an insult. This comment is complimentary towards the man who is dancing

Myles Sewell, 2012
“lol ayyee pastor was killin it”

30. LAWD
a variant spelling for the word “Lord” (meaning God, Jesus); often used as "My Lawd"

I believe that it and other “down home” dialectic terms and grammatical constructs are used on purpose, and not because the commenter doesn't know how to spell that word the Standard English way.

zgirlizfine, 2012
“lawd the devil has to have a concussion from that brother's shoutin
Read “hit the floor” for my comments about stomping on the devil’s head”

This concludes Part I of this post.

My thanks to all those who were featured in this video, to the publisher of this video, and to all those who I quoted in this post.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Here's documentation of the phrase "cut a backstep" used as a referent for Black Americans dancing in 1940:

    Library of Congress document- interview conducted by Alan Lomax with Hudieee Ledbetter (Lead Belly) :

    Lomax: What were some of the dance steps, Huddie, when they were playing some of these fast tunes?

    ...Lomax: What about "knocking the pigeon wing?"

    Ledbetter: . . . pigeon wing and . . .

    Lomax: . . . cutting the back step?

    Ledbetter: . . . cutting the short dog, well, you got to cross your legs."...

    end of quote from Library of Congress document quoted in Excerpt #2 in this pancocojams post Lead Belly's Comments About "Shoo Fly" & Other 19th Century & Early 20th Century Dances