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May 29, 2009

Slang of the Week: Miss Thang/Miss Thing (noun phrase)
a conceited woman

I’ll check my lipstick just as soon as Miss Thang here leaves the mirror.

Celebrity quote
“To the beanpole dames [very thin women] in the magazines,
You ain't it, Miss Thang.”
-Rapper Sir Mix-ALot

Miss Thang originated in the gay community, and in that context, it can be used as a friendly form of address. As a fan of the guilty pleasure reality show America’s Next Top Model, I tend to associate it with comments to contestants from Miss J. Alexander, the show’s vivacious, cross-dressing judge.

In its negative sense, it is used as shown in the quote above, which comes from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 hit song Baby Got Back. Both the rapper and the song have been in the news lately because of a controversial advertisement for Burger King. Baby Got Back means “the woman has a large butt,” and the entire song is about that part of a woman’s body. The new commercial is for a children’s meal. It features SpongeBob SquarePants, a popular animated character from a kids’ television show, and praises his square butt. (SpongeBob is a square sponge.)

Many (perhaps most) people believe the ad is inappropriate for a target audience under the age of ten. It uses sexy images similar to those in the original video, though in this case, the dancers have boxes inside their skintight shorts to give them square butts like SpongeBob. At the end of the ad, Sir Mix-A-Lot appears with two beautiful women and says, “Booty is booty.” (Booty is a synonym for butt that has sexual overtones.)

It’s hardly the first time the song has offended people. When it was first released, it was banned on MTV for its shocking content and condemned for its objectification of women.

But despite its adult themes, Baby Got Back has been referenced extensively in television and films, including some children watch, like Shrek and The Simpsons. In 2005, the song was used with different lyrics in a “Baby Got Pack” ad to sell Target children’s backpacks. (The content of that ad was innocent, showing happy children going to school.)

And not everyone finds it offensive. I found an opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun from 1992 that praised the song, explaining “Baby Got Back challenges the dominant standard for physical beauty in our culture.” That sentiment was also put forth by Aubrey Kaplan, who wrote an article for Salon last November extolling the generous proportions of Michelle Obama. The title? “First Lady Got Back.”

Sir Mixalot's original video
Burger King "I like Square Butts" Video
Target "Baby Got Pack" Video

What’s New?
I couldn’t possibly post this without a slang translation of the original song: Baby Got Back.

Take a look in our bookstore for books and DVDs on all kinds of slang! This week’s pick: Learn more vintage slang with The Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia (And Phraseicon) of the 1960s and 1970s.