Edited by Azizi Powell
[Latest Revision September 2, 2018]
This post was originally titled "Linguistic Alert! Another Vernacular Meaning For The Word "Sang" (with videos)"
This pancocojams post features information about the African American originated meaning of the word "sang".
Examples of this African American Vernacular English word and forms of that word are included in this post from various YouTube videos. Three examples of those videos are also found below.
The content of this post is presented for linguistic and cultural purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all the vocalists & musicians who are featured in this post and to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
AFRICAN AMERICAN VERNACULAR ENGLISH DEFINITION OF "SANG"
Here’s my definition for the African American Vernacular English meaning of the word “sang”:
“Sang” -African American Vernacular English (AAVE) verb; a present tense of "sing"- to sing very well, particularly to sing soulfully very well. Example: Patti LaBelle can sang any song she gets a hold of.
SOURCE FOR THE AFRICAN AMERICAN VERNACULAR MEANING OF "SANG"
I believe that the extended meaning of “sang” as defined above comes from African American Vernacular English via Black Pentecostal/Church Of God In Christ (COGIC) churches. I also believe that this vernacular use of “sang” is an updated form of the African American Vernacular English meaning for the word "sing" and the exhortation “Sing!”.
The word "sing" has the same meaning as "sang" i.e. to sing very well, particularly to sing soulfully very well.
Also, the exhortation "Sing!" as in "Sing it!" means to continue to sing very well, particularly to sing soulfully very well.
A person who is said to "sang" religious songs vocalizes in an anointed manner (i.e. is full of Holy Ghost fire). That person sings with intensity, but without showy theatrics, and also sings without concern for performing in a tightly controlled manner.
Although "sang" may have first been used to describe religious vocalists, people can "sang" religious or non-religious songs.
WHEN WAS THE AFRICAN AMERICAN MEANING OF "SANG" FIRST USED?
I'm not sure when the verb "sang" and its noun form "sanger" were first used. However, here's one of the earliest examples, if not the earliest example of that verb that I've found [in the same discussion thread for the 1985 Patti LaBelle concert that is given above::
"When you can get on the floor and SANG that good, you are BADD to the Bone! Luv Ms. Patti"
Please share any information that you have about when the African American Vernacular English use of "sang" first began. Thanks!
COMMENTS ABOUT THE AFRICAN AMERICAN VERNACULAR MEANING OF THE WORD "SANG"
Here are some comments about the word sang (given in no particular order)
People who sang are vocal powerhouses who FEEL their songs and whose singing moves their audiences, giving people goosebumps, chills, or makes some people cry because it's so good
"Sang" refers to not just a singer's voice, but the singer's delivery of the song (the way the vocalist sings).
"Sang!" can be also be used as an exhortation for the soloist (or choir/group) to continue singing powerfully and soulfully.
Example: "You betta sang!" [This is the most commonly heard or read exhortation that includes the African American use of the word "sang".]
"Sangin'" is another AAVE form of "sang"
Example - They are sangin that song,
They are really sangin that song.
The word "sangs" is also sometimes used.
Example He sangs this song.
"Sanger" is a noun form of the African American meaning for "sang". A sanger is someone who sangs.
Tanya Lake, 2008
..."And don't forget those background sangers. PATTI KNOWS HOW TO PICK HER SANGERS!!!!!!!!!" from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVhUPpChcSI for a 1985 video of Patti LaBelle singing "Isn't It A Shame".
An African American saying that's a synonym for "sangin" is "singing [her, his, their] ass off".
People can sang religious songs (Gospel songs) as well as non-religious songs (particularly Rhythm & Blues and Jazz songs).
The word "sang" can be used as a statement of fact, i.e. "That girl can sang" i.e. That girl (woman) can really sing soulfully, with lots of power or it can be used as an exhortation.
A common form of that exhortation is "You betta sang!" i.e. "You better keep on singing soulfully, with lots of power."
People who are said to "sang" really impress their listeners and move them emotionally & spiritually. This is done not just with the quality of their singing voices, but also in the realness of the vocalists’ wholehearted, consecrated delivery of those religious or secular songs.
The following comments are often written on YouTube discussion threads to describe the effect that hearing a soloist or choir sang has upon them:
The song -and/or the singers' delivery of the song:
"gave them goosebumps”
“gave them chills”
"made them cry" [tears of joy]
and/or caused them to feel the Holy Spirit.
This vernacular use Of "sang" is purposeful and not a grammatical error.
People who are unaware of this particular vernacular meaning of “sang” (sangin, sangs) may think that the person using that word made a grammatical error – i.e. using a past tense of “sing” when they are referring to vocalization that is still being done. However, the commenters' use of "sang" is purposely done to convey an added meaning to the word "sing". If this isn't known, that added meaning is missed.
Of course, this use of "sang" (like the vernacular use of the word "bad") can cause confusion. For instance, did this commenter mean to write “sung” or did he mean the enhanced meaning of the word “sang”?
“For me, listening to this song is like haering it for the first time EVERYTIME! REV. JAMES CLEVEND (R.I.P) REALLY MUST HAVE AT LEAST SCRATCH THE PORTALS OF HEAVEN WHEN THEY WROTE, SANGED, AND FINISHED THIS SONG! IT'S HONESTLY THE "MOST BEATIFUL GOSPEL SONG" EVER WRITTEN! WELL THATS MY HONEST VIEW AND THOUGHT ON THIS , ITS JUST SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL!”
- mrbethel100, 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GauUHGDiTXk&list=PLfzFBN4M6YbHaHQtXRq_mWrCrKOMUH-d_"God Is" (1979)- Rev. James Cleveland”
My guess is that mrbethel100 really meant "sanged" as a past tense of the vernacular use of the word "sang". However, one of the problems with doing online research is that it's difficult to do follow-up that would hopefully clear up these kinds of "what did you mean" questions.
“Sang” can be an equivalent, updated form of the exhortation “Sing!”
When the word "sing" is meant to convey the same meaning as "sang", it may be written in capitol letters.
Read this comment from a commenter that differentiates between the standard meaning of “sing” and the vernacular enhanced meaning of that word:
“He doesn't just sing this song he SINGS this song, he has projected the sentiment of this song with so much emotion, every word he sings you can hear it Clearly and he gives it meaning, that is why Sam Cooke is one of my favourite singers.”
- Nadia Nomad, 2014; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbO2_077ixs "A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke, 1963"
EXAMPLES OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN ORIGINATED STATEMENT MEANING OF "SANG" FROM RELIGIOUS YOUTUBE COMMENT THREADS
1.“MY MY MY This girl is sanging!!! Got me in tears! I have been going thru! Now its time to break every chain!!! There is power!”
- Dawn Clarke, 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vjlpg9i2Bg "Break Every Chain" Tasha Cobbs, First Baptist Church of Glenarden”
2.“I love this lady!!!! You can feel every word that she sangs! IM NOT TIRED YET”
- MrAchieveGreatThings, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFKAO5k7-V0 “Mississippi Mass Choir Live I’m Not Tired Yet”
[This video is found below]
3. “Who is that lady???? MY GOD she can Sang!!!”
- Mshow22, 2012; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2wCBAdT6FI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2wCBAdT6FI; “The Georgia Mass Choir – Joy”
4. I was listening to this play while in another room of the house and I swore it was at least 60 ppl in this choir. They sangin'.
-Tony Collins, 2011; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0k-iin5fsA “Best Gospel Choir in Atlanta”
EXAMPLES OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN ORIGINATED STATEMENT MEANING OF "SANG" FROM NON-RELIGIOUS YOUTUBE COMMENT THREADS
1. “This song gives me goosebumps!!! She doesn't SING oh no she SANGS!!! Her voice is so pretty. All the haters need to step aside and let her do her thing.”
- Ronie Randolph, 2010; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWs3fs9nnzc “Fantasia - Free Yourself”
2. “They don't sang like this no mo'!!!!!!”
- mantlecatcher, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on0FIPOTG2I “Patti LaBelle & Luther Vandross performance / The Aretha Franklin Years"
[This video is found below.]
3. “she put this down! off tha hook! she know she can sang!"
-TheDEES3, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6YCxXQ6Scw "Aretha Franklin - A Change Is Gonna Come"
EXAMPLES OF THE EXHORTATION FORM OF SANG (FROM DISCUSSION THREADS OF RELIGIOUS YOUTUBE VIDEOS)
1. “ALL right yall got that old mass sound! yessah! SANG PAM!”
-Darnel Daniels, 2011 , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qthktb-JbpQ “I Can Go To The Rock - Chicago Mass Choir featuring Pamela Crawford”
2. “Sang it! So beautiful.”
-Stephen Rodriguez, 2014; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaKf6P2nhKg "Harlem Gospel Choir - Amazing Grace (EXCLUSIVE)"
3. "You had better SANG little girl..."
-msmiche1000, 2013 ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEp1Lx31hx0 Hezekiah Walker sings "Souled Out"
4. "You better SANG Tremaine!!!!! My, my, my...I felt my help on this one!"
- Tonysings, 2012; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G78TpSwN5s “Tramaine Hawkins – Changed”
[This video is found below.]
EXAMPLES OF THE EXHORTATION FORM OF SANG (FROM DISCUSSION THREADS OF NON-RELIGIOUS YOUTUBE VIDEOS)
1. “I still love this song. Sang it Sam!!!!”
- Derrick Brown, 2013; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbO2_077ixsA Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke, 1963
2. “Those low notes! Those notes are so rich. You've got to EARN those low notes, you hear me? You've got to earn the right to lean back and handle it like that! SAAAAANNGG ETTA!!!!!”
- DEFinitivelyHis, 2011; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwxM--iDH2c “Etta James At Last LIVE “
3 “Sang Mama Patti!”
-jus4kayka, 2012; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlXmKVe0wJU “Patti LaBelle - Somewhere Over The Rainbow LIVE London, 1986”
AFRICAN AMERICAN SYNONYMS FOR "SANG"
1. “[She or he or they] “killed it”(also “murdered it”, "slayed"
Example: “WOW!! Your aunt KILLED this song!! Took me back to church something CRAZY!!!!”
-Brent Foster, 2007; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxtGRab3cxU "The Edwin Hawkins Singers-Father's House/1971"
2. “tore [it] up”; “tearin up” [that song]; tear a church up [with her or his or their singing]
“Thank ya Jesus... She sure knows how to tear a church up!!!! WALK!!!!”
-TheBobbyDLewis, 2010, “ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GCzJlhrRV4 Dottie Peoples "Testify"
3. “sung off the hook”, [she, he, or they] “put this [song] down etc [see comment above]
4. "sung her [or his] ass off
(These videos are presented in chronological order with the oldest dated videos given first.)
Example #1: Tramaine Hawkins - Changed
holyrollersoldier, Uploaded on Aug 9, 2007
Gospel Celebration 1988
Example #2: MISSISSIPPI MASS CHOIR LIVE - I'M NOT TIRED YET
AIKAN74, Uploaded on Oct 27, 2008
DOING IT OL SCHOOL!
Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk_1ZE7Rwcg for the extended version of this song as sung by the Mississippi Mass Choir
Example #3: Patti LaBelle & Luther Vandross performance / The Aretha Franklin Years
Ramsey Jackson. Uploaded on Feb 29, 2012
enjoy this duet performance from Patti & Luther and also enjoy a look back at The Queen of Soul on the show
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