Origins of the word bling

Since I have done several blog posts about “bling” for pets, I thought I might give my readers the origin of the word. The info below is from the Wikipedia web site:

Origins and popularization of the term

Coinage of the term “bling” is often attributed to the rap artists Lil Wayne and Cash Money Millionaires, starting in the late 1990s. It was used on a song title by Cash Money artist B.G. and used in 1998 by fellow Cash Money Records artist Lil Wayne on the track “Millionaire Dream”- “I got ten around my neck, and baguettes on my wrist, Bling!”- from the Big Tymers album ‘How Ya Luv That’. “Bling Bling,” a track released in 1999 on B.G.’s album ‘Chopper City in the Ghetto’ also led to the rise of the term.

However, as early as the 1970’s, television commercials for dental products and chewing gum would accentuate the cleanliness of teeth with a “bling” or “pling” sound, accompanied by an imaginary starburst or ray of light emanating from an actor’s mouth. During the early 1980’s, toothpaste maker Ultra Brite ran a series of commercials stating “Ultrabrite gives your mouth…[pling]…sex appeal!” Before the words “sex appeal,” a “pling” bell sound would be heard as a young man smiles while kisses are blown at him. During the eighties and early nineties, comedians such as Martin Lawrence would parody the “Ultrabrite smile” by vocalizing the sound effect “bling.” The term “bling” would describe a smile or a gaudy piece of jewelry, for example, describing the otherwise rotten gold-toothed smile and stereotypical pimp jewelry of the character “Jerome,” on the television show Martin.

While the specific term bling was recently popularized in the hip hop community, it has spread beyond hip hop culture and into mass culture. In 2004, MTV released a satirical cartoon showing the term being used by a rapper, then several other progressively less “streetwise” characters, then finally by a middle aged white woman who is describing her earrings to her elderly mother. It ends with the statement, “RIP Bling-bling 1997-2004.” The term was added to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 2002 and to the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2006. Companies such as Sprint and Cadillac have used the word “bling” in their advertisements. In 2005, the rapper B.G. remarked that he ‘just wished that he’d trademarked it’ so that he would have profited from its extensive use. The term has also spread to Spanish: in Latin hip-hop and in reggaeton from both Puerto Rico and Panama, rappers also use the term, though it is usually written/pronounced as “blin-blin.” “Blinblineo,” another Spanish word, means bling-bling style or bling-bling, or blingin’ lifestyle. The word has also become a loanword into street slang/hiphop culture in many different languages.

It is thought that wearing expensive jewelry was the one way in which young and previously impoverished men, who had acquired riches through crime, could be sure of holding on to their wealth by wearing it for all to see. This marks the wearer of such jewelry, or of jewelry which looks expensive, as a person with ghetto roots. Hence ‘bling bling’, while widely regarded as a slang phrase, has been seen by some as manifestation of a deeper socioeconomic problem in the United States of America, trivialized by mainstream media and hip hop.

In a 2004 television interview, rapper Missy Elliott spoke out against ‘bling bling’ culture, saying that it encouraged young black men and women to spend their money irresponsibly.

Some fans have expressed disappointment with the increased amount of advertising for expensive hip-hop brands in hip-hop magazines, saying it may encourage low-income youths to commit crime to acquire expensive products.

The short film Bling: Consequences and Repercussions, shot by Kareem Adouard and narrated by Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, explains how diamonds, a staple of bling fashion, occasionally originate as conflict diamonds, fueling wars, poverty, and killings in Africa.

Bling: A Planet Rock directed by Raquel Cepeda (2007) documents the flashy world of commercial hip-hop jewelry against the significant role diamonds play in the ten-year civil war in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The movie follows three hip-hop celebrities: Raekwon (Wu Tang Clan), Paul Wall (maker of diamond grills), and Reggaetón king Tego Calderón as they visit the capital of Freetown to meet the community and survey the devastation caused by the diamond mines.

A few hip hop insiders, such as the members of Public Enemy and the Puerto Rican reggaeton star Tego Calderon, have made the deliberate choice not to don expensive jewelry as a statement against bling culture. Missy Elliott stated in the aforementioned interview that hip hop artists should act as role models in this respect and encourage young people to invest responsibly and sensibly in stable, long-term assets.


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