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Dinge, pronounced, "dinj", is a relatively recent word of unclear origin and varied meaning. Merriam-Webster online1 claims the term first entered usage in 1846, simply means "the condition of being dingy", and is a back-formation of that word. Meanwhile, the American Heritage Dictionary2 says that dinge means "Grime or squalor; dinginess," while still keeping up the back-formation origin story. The great OED3, however, gets much more detailed. It lists dinge as:

The version of dinge as a derogatory term for blacks apparently was used as early as 1838, and refers to a style of jazz.4. While researching, I encountered the term dinge queen, which refers to a "white, male homosexual who likes and/or seeks out exclusively Negros for the purpose of sex; no derogation or compliment is intended whatsoever"5.

Despite its many varied meanings, dinge is a relatively uncommon word that is difficult to find examples of usage for. Perhaps the best-known use of the word comes from the They Might be Giants song "Everything Right is Wrong Again"6:

Everything that's right is wrong again
You're a weasel overcome with dinge
Weasel overcome but not before the damage done
The healing doesn't stop the feeling

This particular usage of the word seems to me to have the flavor of a disease, but it could simply be thought of as "dinginess". Another example I found in my (mostly fruitless) web search was in a criticism of the Clinton White House: "Start sending to the White House ... bars of soap, cleaning solutions, ... that the Clintons can use to scrub the dinge off of the Grey House."7


(1) http://www.m-w.com/
(2) http://www.bartleby.com/61/8/D0230850.html
(3) The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993 edition
(4) http://www.sptimes.com/News/041101/Columns/The_list_of_ugly_name.shtml
(5) http://www.aaronsgayinfo.com/AlphaMenu/Dterms.html (Google be praised)
(6) Everything Right is Wrong Again
(7) http://www.gamla.org.il/english/article/2000/jan/win5.htm

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