Monday, February 3, 2014

Linguistic Alert! Another Vernacular Meaning For The Word "Sang" (with videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Revised May 7, 2017]

This post features text examples of the word “Sang” from selected YouTube videos. Three examples of those videos are also found below.

The content of this post is presented for linguistic, cultural, religious, entertainment, and aesthetic 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.

Here’s the definition that I’ve written for the word “sang” and the other vernacular forms of that word that are the subject of this post:

“Sang” -African American Vernacular English (AAVE) verb; a present tense of "sing"- to sing very well, particularly to sing soulfully very well.

"Sang" refers to not just a singer's voice, but the singer's delivery of the song (the way the vocalist sings).
Example: Patti LaBelle can sang any song she gets a hold of.

"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 used.
Example He sangs this song.

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.

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.

"Sang" can also 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:
“touched them”,
“moved them”
"gave them goosebumps”
“gave them chills”
"made them cry" [tears of joy]
and/or caused them to feel the Holy Spirit.

Examples of the exhortation form of “sang” from religious videos

1. “ALL right yall got that old mass sound! yessah! SANG PAM!”
-Darnel Daniels, 2011 , “I Can Go To The Rock - Chicago Mass Choir featuring Pamela Crawford”

2. “Sang it! So beautiful.”
-Stephen Rodriguez, 2014; "Harlem Gospel Choir - Amazing Grace (EXCLUSIVE)"

3. "You had better SANG little girl..."
-msmiche1000, 2013 ; Hezekiah Walker sings "Souled Out"

4. "You better SANG Tremaine!!!!! My, my, my...I felt my help on this one!"
- Tonysings, 2012; “Tramaine Hawkins – Changed”
[This video is found below.]

Examples of the exhortation form of “sang” from secular videos viewer comment threads
1. “I still love this song. Sang it Sam!!!!”
- Derrick Brown, 2013; 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; “Etta James At Last LIVE “

3 “Sang Mama Patti!”
-jus4kayka, 2012; “Patti LaBelle - Somewhere Over The Rainbow LIVE London, 1986”

Examples of the statement form of "sang" from religious videos viewer 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, "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, “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;; “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; “Best Gospel Choir in Atlanta”

Examples of the use of “sang” in statements from secular video viewer 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; “Fantasia - Free Yourself”

2. “They don't sang like this no mo'!!!!!!”
- mantlecatcher, 2012, “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, "Aretha Franklin - A Change Is Gonna Come"

African American Vernacular Synonyms For “sang”
1. “[She or he or they] “killed it”(also “ murdered it”
“WOW!! Your aunt KILLED this song!! Took me back to church something CRAZY!!!!”
-Brent Foster, 2007; "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, “ Dottie Peoples "Testify"

3. “sung off the hook”, [she, he, or they] “put this [song] down etc [see comment above]

“Sang” – An Updated Form Of The Exhortation “Sing”
When it is used as an exhortation in African American Vernacular English (and I believe from that source to other forms of English), the word "sing" can have the same meanings as those that I wrote above for “sang”.

Examples Of The Use Of "Sing" As An Exhortation
1. “What a song. God Is my joy in the time of sorrow! Sing It!”
- Danielle Lewis, 2010; "God Is" (1979)- Rev. James Cleveland”

2. “SING !!!”
-saintemarion boddie-taylor, 2013; “Kurt Carr - We Lift Our Hands In The Sanctuary”

Also, 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; "A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke, 1963"

Dating When The Vernacular Use Of Sang First Began To Be Used
I believe that “sang” is an updated form of that vernacular use of “sing” and I think that this use of “sang” dates from the early 2000s if not somewhat earlier. I've come to this conclusion from that vernacular word being used in multiple YouTube comment threads. However, this is only a guess, and I'm very open to learning about earlier use of "sang" with this vernacular meaning.

The Musical Genres Where This Vernacular Form of "Sang" Appears To Be Most Often Used
As a result of reading a number of YouTube video comment threads, it appears to me that the vernacular meaning of "sang" is most often used in African American Gospel music, particularly in regards to Black Southern Gospel(mass choirs). This musical genre is also referred to as "old school (Black) Gospel. Note that every viewer comment thread of these videos that I've read (and I've read a number of these threads) doesn't contain this vernacular form of "sang", although those threads usually contain exhortations using the word "sing" (which I believe is the source of the vernacular word "sang") and/or comments that include vernacular phrases that I believe are synonyms for "sang" (as its meaning is discussed in this post.)

Person writing on some viewer comment threads for certain videos of contemporary African American Gospel also may use this vernacular form of "sang".

In addition, I've found examples of this vernacular form of "sang" on some viewer comment threads of certain African American soul/R&B singers whose church backgrounds is reflected in their style of singing (such as Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, Etta James, Sam Cooke,and Fantasia Barrino).

Furthermore, it appears to me that most of the YouTube video commenters who use this form of “sang” are African American (as indicated by these commenters’ screen names, screen photographs, comments, and/or other use of African American Vernacular English).

The 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”?
- mrbethel100, 2010"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" Used In Verbal Conversation
Because I rarely attend church anymore, I’ve never heard the vernacular word “sang” used verbally. However, I see no reason why “sang” (“sangin” etc) wouldn’t be used verbally.

Also, for the record (no pun intended), I also don’t see any reason why that word wouldn’t be use as an exhortation to or as a statement regarding a vocalist or vocalists who are non-African American.

(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


AIKAN74, Uploaded on Oct 27, 2008

Click 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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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Here's another example of the vernacular use of "sang" that I just happened upon in a viewer comment thread of a video of an African American church's mass choir;

    "comment posted by John Carter, 2012
    "This is some good Sanging... You don't hear too much of this sound in CHICAGO... DETROIT Is leading the list.."

    Click for a blog post about that choir.

    1. Here's a definition of "sanging" that I just happened to read:

      "Sing my brothers and sisters, SING! These people are sanging, Yes, you read it right, they are SANGING! Some of you educated fools may say SINGING but we say SANGING when they sound so good. AMEN"
      - Michael Bonner,, August, 2014