My family spent the past week at the lake with my parents and my sister’s family. Before we left, my husband and I both independently and together read our 11-year-old the riot act about this: Absolutely not, under any circumstances, was he to say the phrase “Deez nutz” to his grandmother.
[I do deeply apologize and ask forgiveness of all of you lovely people for the unsolicited “Deez nutz”-ing. I should tell you that my own mom, the same aforementioned grandmother, did not want me using the words “Deez nutz” in this story.
“I think you should write it without saying it at all,” she had told me. “Try describing it, like ‘It’s similar to the Spanish word for ten and something squirrels eat.’”
“Yeah, maybe,” I had said.]
If you have a son (or maybe a daughter, although girls seem to have risen above this nonsense) between the ages of 10 and 12, chances are you have also interacted with “Deez nutz.” I was standing with another mother at baseball not too long ago and her kid threw the ball from the outfield while yelling,
And his mother sighed the type of mournful, painful of sigh that can only come from the most profound exhaustion and said,
“Frickin’ A, ‘Deez Nutz.’”
My son, as seems to be the case with all similarly-aged children everywhere, claims he heard “Deez nutz” from one of his friends. If we tracked every friend of a friend of a friend back to Friend Zero, we’d probably find some little boy sitting on a bench in a locker room jacking around on his phone when suddenly the clouds parted and the heavens opened and the trumpets rang and the angels sang and some dude on TikTok or YouTube intoned, “Deez nutz.” And henceforth, “Deez nutz” was born.
What none of these children realize is that “Deez nutz” was invented many moons ago, long before TikTok or cell phones even existed. While the first use was more than likely some guy on a street corner shouting something untoward to his buddy, the historic record (aka my brother-in-law telling me this) points to The Chronic.
The Chronic, as we know, was Dr. Dre’s debut solo album. The chart-topping “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” was the fifth track; Track Six was called “Deeez Nuuuts” and started with a prank phone call by Warren G which concluded with the title phrase. The Chronic was released in 1992; and my brother-in-law and his other twelve-year-old friends immediately took “Deeez Nuuuts” for a spin all over Raleigh, North Carolina, probably to their own mothers’ chagrins.
I was also twelve in 1992; I, however, didn’t hear The Chronic until I was almost in high school. Back in the pre-Internet days of yore, music and slang and tight-rolled jeans traveled at the speed of Teen Beat magazine. Something on the mainstream in North Carolina might take two years to Pony Express its way up to North Dakota – be it by radio, MTV, or someone’s cousin who went to sleepaway camp and also scored a pack of menthol cigarettes.
Nowadays, of course, the only barrier to information is how fast someone can scroll. The only issue with this (obviously) is that the recipients of this knowledge don’t have the background to apply it appropriately. As grownups and communicators of the English language, we know that “Deez nutz” has a specific application in order to make it the punch line of a joke. As 10-to-12-year-old boys without a lot of introspective thought rolling through their brains at any given time, the hilarity of “Deez nutz” is not in the meaning, but in the word “Nuts.”
Case in point: We went to Michigan earlier this summer to visit Kyle’s relatives. When we got there, Eleven bounded out of the car to see his 12-year-old cousin-friend.
“Hey,” Eleven said.
“Deez nutz,” Twelve said.
Another case in point: My own son and I have had conversations such as this:
Me: “Do you put on socks today?”
Eleven: “Deez nutz.”
Me: “Please stop saying ‘Deez nutz.’ Also, that doesn’t make any sense.”
This situation is not unique to this particular phrase. The Summer of “Deez nutz” was preceded by The Winter of “Yo’ Mama.” My son and his friends would emerge from the hockey locker room in a fog of Axe Body Spray and noise and then proclaim to one another, “Yo’ Mama is so dumb that she brought a spoon to the Super Bowl.”
To which one of the mothers would point to That Mama (who, by the way, was quite intelligent) and say,
“Do you mean Jessica? Because she’s his mother.”
And then the boys would look at Jessica and then look back at their own mothers and say,
On more than one occasion, my son said to me, “Yo’ Mama is so fat that when she fell the ground cracked up,” and I’d say, “My Mama is Bubbe.” And then he’d say, “No, ‘YO’ Mama,’” because the lights were on, but ain’t nothing was connecting the wires.
Speaking of My Mama, as we were packing up to leave the lake I asked her what she thought we should feed the boys for lunch.
“Deez nutz,” she said, winking.
“Let’s get the boys in here and you can do that again,” Kyle said. “That’ll for sure ruin it for them forever.”
The photo above is of one of my nuts.
I’ve mentioned this before but I don’t typically read the news while I’m on vacation – so I don’t have any nice news to share this week. I’m sorry. (Also, I’m not sure any nice news would like to be associated with this dopey story.) I will provide double the news next week.
Let’s Be (Official) Pals!
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