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Monday, April 10, 2017

Hit Da Right

Hit Da Right

From the ninth grade through college, I lived in a rather well-to-do town in central New Jersey.  In this town, your family was either really rich, wealthy, or doing-OK.  The doing-OK families would probably have been considered doing-really-well in many communities of the 1960’s.

The town was divided by railroad tracks into the north side and the south side.  The north side was almost all really rich or wealthy, the south side was mostly doing-ok’s.  I lived on the south side.  I guess my family was on the high side of doing-ok.  

We had two junior high schools in town.

The south side was Edison Jr high, the north side was Roosevelt.  Edison had probably 12 African Americans in the ninth grade, Roosevelt had none.  Edison beat Roosevelt in all the sports we played against each other…I’m just saying.  In those days, white kids referred to African American people as “Black.” Actually it might have been “Negro,” but I’ll choose selective memory loss on that.

I don’t recall any major racial discord or issues in those days.  This was 1960, 61 and as a white kid there were no racial problems.  I’m guessing the black kids had a much different opinion, but it was a few years before they found their voice. 

The school was probably about 20-1 white, but the black kids were definitely the coolest.  The white kids copied the black kids cool walking style, kind of an amble with an occasional limp thrown in.  We copied their clothes style, and we copied their speech.  We used a lot of “Ain’ts” “Yo’s” “Ah man’s” and “F-dat’s.” There were also two phrases that I still remember. 

“The hawk is out.”  Meant it was cold and windy.  This is actually a fairly common term, I believe from the black community, and I still hear it occasionally today.

“Hit da right.”  Meant tell the truth.  This phrase was used almost every other sentence in the ninth grade, and I don’t remember ever hearing it before or since.  It comes, I assume, from putting your left hand on the bible and raising your right hand when swearing in at court.  I don’t think any of the black kids in school ever had to “Hit the right” in court, but they used the phrase and soon we all used it.

“Yo man, hit da right the hawk is out today!”

“Hit da right you got a “B” in algebra.”

“Hit da right you skipped school yesterday.”

“Hit da right you got an apple with lunch.”

“Hit da right you hit da right.”

In the tenth grade we all went to the one High School where we were joined with the snootier Roosevelt kids.  Most of us never mixed a lot with the Roosevelt kids, but for some reason we did change our speech a bit.  I think it was to better impress the snooty Roosevelt girls…didn’t work for me.  

I never heard anyone say, “Hit da right” again.

I still think “Hit da right” was cool.


  1. My school district was on the edge of the inner city, so we were more integrated than other suburbs. Cant say I ever heard those two phrases though!

  2. Two phrases I never heard before, not even on TV. To me hit da right doesn't sound cool, it sounds pretty stupid, but I live in Australia, so I suppose "cool" is different here.

  3. Those are unfamiliar phrases to me. The first time I met a black person was in class in 5th grade in NYC. I was in awe and thought he was the most beautiful boy. I didn't understand what was cool until I was out of school ...

  4. We were sent to private schools and the African American students were from doing very well families like ours. They mostly talked like kids who were going to go to college, as we all did, because that's what was expected.

  5. Every generation has it's "cool" words and phrases.
    It seems to add to the mystique of being young.

  6. For some reason this made me think of making fun of David Eisenhower using using hippie terms like "right arm, man, right arm."

  7. I do not recall one single person of colour in our public or high schools. Now the schools are a veritable rainbow of it should be.

  8. When I was going to high school we only had a few Black students and they were school celebrities and usually held high student office positions like class presidents and so on.

  9. I went to high school with many black students, but I don't recall ever hearing any of those sayings. Maybe it was a regional thing.

  10. We didn't have any black students when I went to school. We were a farm community in Oregon. I remember seeing the first black person on a visit to Portland, Oregon when I was in high school. I didn't get the hip until much later. Now I don't see much of the really cool.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  11. There were always Black students in every school I went to, racial tension was not really more of an issue than typical student tension, although I will have to admit a lot of names we called one another is now thankfully a thing of the past.

  12. New to me terms but then I was in school a bit before you. We had one black family in grammar school that contributed one child for each grade. Then I finished up school in the south and never saw another. I kind of envy the diversity you got to experience.

  13. I went to school with lots of black kids but I never heard either of those phrases before!!

  14. I've never heard that phrase before. 'Course I grew up in a town with only one black resident and I don't think he ever married or had any kids.

  15. OK, Joe, I think I may be the only commenter here who MAY have heard a similar phrase. Kind of a long story, but you've got time, right?

    I went to broadcasting school when I was 32. Everybody else in my class was 18, 19, 20. About a third of the students were black and my best friend in class was a big black kid named Kenny Cumberlander; maybe 6'5" and 250, while I was 5'10" and 170. We were quite the odd couple, given our ages, skins, etc.

    Anyway, we worked on a lot of class projects together, and in broadcasting school those projects included writing and performing commercials in the school's broadcasting studio. One we worked on together was for a cold remedy. I had written it. It was - I hoped - funny. Anyway, Kenny and I were in the studio, doing the script live, and Kenny started ad-libbing.

    Until I read this post of yours, I didn't know exactly what Kenny was saying. And this was, God, 28 years ago! He said what I know think was something about needing to take the cold remedy because (and I'm working totally on very old memory here) of THE HAWK. At the time, I thought he was talking about HUCK, as in "huck a lunger", you know coughing up some nasty stuff like you'd get from a cold. I never asked him about it then because I thought I sort of knew what he was saying, and it got a laugh so that's all I cared about.

    So, yes, I've thought about that from time-to-time in the intervening 28 years, because I was fond of Kenny and I haven't seen him at least 25 years now. And I think you may have cleared it up for me. Damn.

  16. Never heard either one. Maybe it's an east coast thing...

  17. That's a great saying. I think I'll adopt it.

  18. The schools I attended K-12 had not a single black student. In the small private college I attended, there was one (1). Your post made me realize how much I missed by being so isolated.

  19. I think a lot of "in" or "cool" phrases and expressions were limited to certain locales. We had them in Germany, too, and if we visited relatives in another town, it was almost like listening to a different language. Now I wish I remembered some of those phrases from back then! Nowadays, anything that sounds cool or clever spreads like wildfire via the Internet.


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