The word hip-hop dates from at least 1671. Yes, you read that right.
In 2012 or some time before, I bought David Crystal’s introduction to and anthology of Samuel Johnson’s A dictionary of the English language (1752). I was surprised to find an entry for hip-hop, which Johnson illustrates by a quotation from William Congreve (1670-1729):
Your different tastes divide our poets cares;
One foot the sock, t’other the buskin wears:
Thus while he strives to please, he’s forc’d to do’t,
Like Volscius hip-hop in a single boot.
This began a lot of research at the time and again while drafting this blog post. In 1695, Congreve wrote an “epiloge” to a play by Thomas Southerne (1660-1746) based on the short novel Oronooko (1688) by Aphra Behn (1640-1698). The epilogue, spoken by one of the actresses to the audience, addresses the poet’s task. It starts:
YOU see, we try all Shapes, and Shifts, and Arts,
To tempt your Favours, and regain your Hearts.
We weep, and laugh, joyn mirth and grief together,
Like Rain and Sunshine mixt, in April weather.
then continues with the four lines above.Continue reading