What's the origin of the (I believe Brit) slang "L7"?

In particular what decade (or even century) did this come from?


Footnote - entirely possible it is not British; IDK. Could have an earlier origin?

  • 1
    What is L7?.....
    – user 66974
    Nov 5 '20 at 21:40
  • 2
    Could you provide some context? If you do that you should reach the 30 character requirement without having to add junk.
    – Barmar
    Nov 5 '20 at 21:44
  • 1
    You should still be able to provide some examples of how it's used.
    – Barmar
    Nov 5 '20 at 21:48
  • 2
    I'm not sure it's as well-known as you think. I've never heard of it. You mention a song and don't even give the song's title. Having now looked it up and found it describes a square I think I can guess where it came from.
    – nnnnnn
    Nov 5 '20 at 21:52
  • 3
    -1 to this question. It shows no research or context at all.
    – Nai45
    Nov 5 '20 at 22:21

Its origin appears to be from teen Black AmE, from the ‘50s. Is it used both as a noun and also as an adjective:

L-7 (noun) also l-seven

[the L and the 7 when put together form a SE square thus a pun on square n. (3b); the word can be accompanied by using thumb and forefinger extended at right angles, forming an L and a 7, and when the two are combined they form a square]

(US black/teen) a conventional, tedious person, unsympathetic to teen interests.

  • 1956 Artie Shaw in West Coast Jazz 79: Hollywood’s latest lingo for a square: for an L and a 7 with your fingers and that’s what you get [W&F].

L-7 (adjective) also l-seven

(US black/teen) unfashionable, unsophisticated.

  • 1972 D. Claerbaut Black Jargon in White America 71: L7 adj., completely out of style; not like the group.

(Green's Dictionary of Slang)

  • Since the L and the 7 are used for their shape rather than for their semantic significance, this is a rebus rather than a pun. Nov 7 '20 at 14:39
  • Correct. I'm old enough to have used it, as a teenager circa 1958. If someone expressed disdain for Elvis Presley or Cliff Richard - they were said to be L7.
    – WS2
    Oct 1 at 7:45

According to a Reddit post

A square.. hence shape of L7 {}

the origin is that the two adjacent characters L7 looks kind of like a square.

It doesn't look very square when the riser of 7 is on an angle (as in most modern computer fonts), but if you write it vertically it's pretty close.

I found a number of references with definitions (Urban Dictionary, Dictionary of Slang) but they didn't offer origins.

  • It might look square the way some people write it, too.
    – Barmar
    Nov 5 '20 at 21:56
  • That's certainly true and it's an amazing insight. However we truly need more info.
    – Fattie
    Nov 5 '20 at 21:58
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    Since no one else has explicitly noted this, you can also make the sign of L7 with the outstretched index finger and thumb of both hands, presumably to nonverbally indicate to a third party that someone nearby is a "square". Nov 5 '20 at 22:33
  • 2
    @DougWarren That's in the other answer.
    – Barmar
    Nov 5 '20 at 22:39
  • 1
    @WeatherVane The McCartney reference wasn't in the original question, it was added later when commenters asked for an example.
    – Barmar
    Nov 6 '20 at 2:23

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