4

I've often heard, especially in songs where slang is commonly used (pop, rap, etc.), people use a weird structure: something like "A to the B to the C...", where A, B, C, etc. are usually letters of the alphabet that make up some word. To me it sounds like the speaker is spelling out a word, for example "YOU" would be Y to the O to the U.

What is the real meaning of that structure? Where does it come from? Does it have anything to do powers and exponents (say, n to the third power), is it short for "moving over to the next letter", or is it related to something else?

Edited to add examples

I didn't expect people here to not recognize this pattern. I see there are already 3 close votes, this is crazy. If you search for "x to the y" on Google, and replace x and y with various letters, you will find several examples, although the vast majority of them seem to be related to rap and hip hop. Some examples:

Fergie - Fergalicious
According to Wikipedia, "Fergalicious was a commercial success in the United States and moderately so in several other countries. In the United States, it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number one on the Pop Songs chart. "Fergalicious" was certified 4× platinum". In this song, you can hear "T to the A to the S T E Y, girl, you tasty", and the same goes for the word "delicious".

Eminem ft. Nate Dogg - Shake that
In this song you can hear "Two to the one from the one to the three", with numbers, so I'm not sure it has exactly the same purpose, but it definitely looks like the same pattern. I have no idea what it could mean though, and I can't find any info online.

Title of Reddit post
The title of this reddit post reads "M to the E to the M to the E", which spells out the word "meme", and apparently is used to introduce some kind of meme related to a show.

Modern Family (TV show)
In this video taken from an American sitcom, at 0:43, you can hear the man say "D to the Y to the L" to refer to Dylan, probably just as a way to appear "cool" and speak like younger people (I don't really know much about the context, I haven't watched the show, I just stumbled upon this example on the web).

Cheerleaders
Searching for "L to the E" (using two letters more or less at random), I found this video on YouTube where you can hear some cheerleaders say "L to the E T S G O" (let's go).

17
  • 1
    It sounds like a modern variant on the lyrical filler, just introduced for lyrical effects (hey-nonny-no; fol di rol, yeh-yeh-yeh ... ). So I've got to CV as off-topic, song lyrics, and intentionally devoid of semantic substance. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 22 at 13:24
  • 9
    @EdwinAshworth How is this syntactic phenomenon off-topic? A perfectly on-topic answer would be "This is just nonsense filler that occurs sometimes in poetry and songs" or "Yes, here's the history of its use in lyrics." – Mitch Apr 22 at 13:30
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth, if it was just a "stupid filler", then I guess I would have heard several random variations of it, but I don't think I have heard many others. Well, wait, there's also "give me an A, give me a B, give me a C..." But "give me" has a meaning that makes sense somehow, "to the" doesn't make much sense to me. – reed Apr 22 at 16:30
  • 1
    @YosefBaskin, you read as a part of a mathematical formula would tell me to multiply y, o, and u, not to add them up – jsw29 Apr 22 at 16:38
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth, I added some examples in my question. – reed Apr 22 at 22:01