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  1. #1

    The Way Stevie Used The Word "UPTIGHT"

    In his song, UPTIGHT (EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT), has it been explained how Stevie Wonder came to use the word "uptight" in a positive light?

    Dictionaries seem to provide only a negative connotation: "tense" , "uneasy", rigid".


  2. #2
    I thought maybe it was an anomaly of Stevie's, but recently I noticed it being used in the same way here:


  3. This goes to show just how much language changes over the years (the clue is in the parenthetical title: "Everything's Alright".)

    Although I was born a year after this record came out, I do remember "Uptight" still being used as a slang or expression when I was a kid. As I remember it, if everything was "groovy" (there's another one for you that probably means absolutely nothing today), if everything was good, going well, working out, you said it was "Uptight".

    Marcus: Hey, man, how's it going?
    Leon: Awww man, everythang is UPTIGHT! I got a new car, my woman is comin' by tonight, it's ALL UPTIGHT, OUTTA SIGHT!

    You probably won't find this meaning of Uptight in any dictionary because it was slang usage. Just like for a hot minute, kids were calling anything good "Sick" or "Insane". If you're looking for a detailed explanation of Stevie's usage of the word, you won't find it. This is just one of those things where "you had to be there" and young person of those times.

    Outta Sight! Dig It! Way Out! Solid and Uptight, Baby!

  4. #4
    thanks WWLFAC.
    The use of "sick" or "insane" was the intentional inverting of those words' meanings , same as the way bad" came to be used to mean "good."
    Are you saying at the time Stevie's record came out , "uptight" was already commonly being used to mean tense and uneasy , but Stevie ( and others ) were reversing the meaning in a slang way?

  5. #5
    i found this:

    uptight (adj.)

    "tense," slang, 1934, from up- + tight (adj.). Meaning "straight-laced" first recorded 1969. It was used in a sense of "excellent" in jazz slang c. 1962.
    from:

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/uptight

  6. #6
    Also:
    Apparently "uptight" meaning "rigid" or "inhibited" has a hippie slang lineage.

  7. Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    thanks WWLFAC.
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Are you saying at the time Stevie's record came out , "uptight" was already commonly being used to mean tense and uneasy , but Stevie ( and others ) were reversing the meaning in a slang way?


    Pretty much yes. It's sort of a thing where if you go digging for some sort of scholarly explanation of this slang, it's like needing a college professor to explain the appeal of a Hostess Twinkie to children. "Uptight" was just one of those words with different meanings to different people.

    In a pejorative way, you used it to say someone was tense (or if you really wanted to cut someone down, you used it to say someone was just way to serious and dull.) In a street-cool way, It was just a slang for "Everythng's Alright" and nothing more, nothing deeper. Stevie Wonder didn't start the use of "Uptight" as a slang- it was just a street saying that had been going on.
    Last edited by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance; 09-14-2018 at 04:23 AM.

  8. This is a pretty fun thread! Are you from the U.K. (ok, I really hope I'm saying that right as opposed to asking if you're from England) or the U.S.? I ask because it's interesting how each has its own expressions and slang terms.

    (I admit to still slipping in the word Groovy every once in awhile just to raise eyebrows and sometimes "Gear" just to really get those eyebrows arching clear up to the stratosphere!)

  9. #9
    James Brown had used Uptight in a similar vein the year before (1964) in his song "Out Of Sight".

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    This is a pretty fun thread! Are you from the U.K. (ok, I really hope I'm saying that right as opposed to asking if you're from England) or the U.S.? I ask because it's interesting how each has its own expressions and slang terms.

    (I admit to still slipping in the word Groovy every once in awhile just to raise eyebrows and sometimes "Gear" just to really get those eyebrows arching clear up to the stratosphere!)
    Ha! I'm going to try using "groovy" just to see what kind of rise I can get! Here in California , that's where I am WWLFAC, maybe not as much.

    I was thinking, I can't think of any songs that use the word "uptight" in its more common way . (??)

  11. #11
    In the sixties and seventies to be "uptight" with someone meant to be close, together, friends,etc. At least that is what it meant to us where I lived which wasn't that far from Stevie and Motown.

  12. Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Ha! I'm going to try using "groovy" just to see what kind of rise I can get! Here in California , that's where I am WWLFAC, maybe not as much.

    I was thinking, I can't think of any songs that use the word "uptight" in its more common way . (??)
    Well, now you've got my mind racing to think of a song that uses "uptight" with its original meaning- tense or uneasy, etc. I'll bet there is a song out there, I just have to figure it out... the hunt is on.

  13. Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    In the sixties and seventies to be "uptight" with someone meant to be close, together, friends,etc. At least that is what it meant to us where I lived which wasn't that far from Stevie and Motown.
    Ahhhhhhhh! This is why it's great when others chime in! If someone has a gap in their memory, someone else can always fill in the blanks. I had forgotten that people used it that way too. Like I said, this is a fun thread!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    Ahhhhhhhh! This is why it's great when others chime in! If someone has a gap in their memory, someone else can always fill in the blanks. I had forgotten that people used it that way too. Like I said, this is a fun thread!
    If you also listen to James Brown's "Outsight" you will see he uses the word to convey the same meaning as Stevie does. Remember when the word "Bad" meant "not good". Well By the 60s, "Bad" meant "Great!".

  15. #15
    "Groovy" brings to mind the Brady Bunch for me. A friend of mine still uses the word every now and again.

  16. Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    If you also listen to James Brown's "Outsight" you will see he uses the word to convey the same meaning as Stevie does. Remember when the word "Bad" meant "not good". Well By the 60s, "Bad" meant "Great!".
    Oh my! I remember very well how some 70's sitcoms got a lot of stale mileage out of someone not understanding that "BA-A-A-A-D" meant "Great!" I'm thinking of shows like "Good Times", "The Jeffersons" or some show where an African American would say something like, "Man that's BAAAAD" and someone would be completely baffled by it- "Oh I'm sorry, I seemed O.K. to me!" "No man, BAD is GOOD!" cue the overdose of audience laughter.

    Good memories!

  17. Quote Originally Posted by lockhartgary View Post
    "Groovy" brings to mind the Brady Bunch for me. A friend of mine still uses the word every now and again.
    O.K. I'm going to admit that I still like watching the Brady Bunch and THAT'S exactly what I think of every time I say that word! The B.B. is one of those shows that's SO safe, you can watch and just not have to think about anything at all, lol!

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    Oh my! I remember very well how some 70's sitcoms got a lot of stale mileage out of someone not understanding that "BA-A-A-A-D" meant "Great!" I'm thinking of shows like "Good Times", "The Jeffersons" or some show where an African American would say something like, "Man that's BAAAAD" and someone would be completely baffled by it- "Oh I'm sorry, I seemed O.K. to me!" "No man, BAD is GOOD!" cue the overdose of audience laughter.

    Good memories!
    As 100Proof (Aged In Soul) sang on Hot Wax, "Everything good is bad, and everything bad is good".

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    As 100Proof (Aged In Soul) sang on Hot Wax, "Everything good is bad, and everything bad is good".
    Exactly 144man..........

  20. Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    As 100Proof (Aged In Soul) sang on Hot Wax, "Everything good is bad, and everything bad is good".
    Sharp minds rule here! Great song quote!

  21. #21
    I was perusing Facebook and was presented with this '70 slang quiz. Thought y'all might enjoy:

    https://play.howstuffworks.com/quiz/...b4a1bb6198956f

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Ha! I'm going to try using "groovy" just to see what kind of rise I can get! Here in California , that's where I am WWLFAC, maybe not as much.

    I was thinking, I can't think of any songs that use the word "uptight" in its more common way . (??)

    I'm sure there are others but has anyone forgotten the song Giving Him Something He
    Can Feel from the film Sparkle? Aretha recorded it too...I guess as far as uptight is concerned it's a generational thing...Some of us are just one step far back enough to remember when uptight was a positive term..I'm still surprised at how long "word"
    has survived. I remember my crew making fun of kids using it over 30 years ago....

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Ha! I'm going to try using "groovy" just to see what kind of rise I can get! Here in California , that's where I am WWLFAC, maybe not as much.

    I was thinking, I can't think of any songs that use the word "uptight" in its more common way . (??)
    I'm 53 years old and I have an 11 year old son. Any time I attempt to use any current slang he CRINGES bigtime! I CAN get away with the time-tested slang, lol.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by splanky View Post
    I'm sure there are others but has anyone forgotten the song Giving Him Something He
    Can Feel from the film Sparkle? Aretha recorded it too...I guess as far as uptight is concerned it's a generational thing...Some of us are just one step far back enough to remember when uptight was a positive term..I'm still surprised at how long "word"
    has survived. I remember my crew making fun of kids using it over 30 years ago....
    Oh how well I remember Aretha's "Giving Him Something He Can Feel". She made you feel it we sang that song! LOL!

  25. Quote Originally Posted by lockhartgary View Post
    I'm 53 years old and I have an 11 year old son. Any time I attempt to use any current slang he CRINGES bigtime! I CAN get away with the time-tested slang, lol.
    That is a lesson that it seems every generation has to learn over and over; if you are an adult, you should NEVER EVER try to use any kind of current slang of your children's generation, lol! It just never sounds good. I've yet to see a parent who can get away with it and have their kids think they are "cool" for doing so.

    In spite of what I just wrote, I have and will probably continue to fall right into that trap over and over, ha ha!

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by lockhartgary View Post
    I was perusing Facebook and was presented with this '70 slang quiz. Thought y'all might enjoy:

    https://play.howstuffworks.com/quiz/...b4a1bb6198956f
    fun list!
    I'd completely forgotten about using the word "boss" in the early 70s when describing something cool! I think its popularity came and went pretty quickly.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    fun list!
    I'd completely forgotten about using the word "boss" in the early 70s when describing something cool! I think its popularity came and went pretty quickly.
    I remember "boss" as cool in 1965-66. There was a top forty LA station called Boss Radio 93KHJ. Yeah, it probably came and went quickly. I don't think "boss" was cool by the 70's. Lol.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by lucky2012 View Post
    I remember "boss" as cool in 1965-66. There was a top forty LA station called Boss Radio 93KHJ. Yeah, it probably came and went quickly. I don't think "boss" was cool by the 70's. Lol.
    "Boss" radio was a popular format across the country in the late 60s to roughly the mid 70s. Fast talking DJ's that announce the name of every song and artist played. It helped record sales tremendously.

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