I have noticed a trend in some rap music where erry replaces the word every (see 1:35 of "The Motto" by Drake). Can anyone shed light on the origins of this pronunciation?

I thought it might trace to Southern (U.S.) rappers, although Drake is Canadian. I'm not sure if there's a regional basis, or if perhaps it spread through the subculture to facilitate rhyming. Is it considered Black Vernacular English? Can anyone provide some details about its origin–the dialect it may have come from or artists that may have propagated it?

  • 3
    No time to formulate a complete answer, but I assume it’s related to the loss of the v phoneme in e’er and ne’er in some dialects/styles. Every → *e’eryerry.
    – Jon Purdy
    Oct 12, 2012 at 18:19
  • @JonPurdy I think you're right, but I'm not sure where or when these dialects exist. I haven't traveled widely throughout the southern United States, so I can't attest as to whether some speakers drop their v's. Hopefully someone will bring some data to the table.
    – Zairja
    Oct 12, 2012 at 18:21
  • Speculating, it may have originated or have been popularized by texting, since 'erry' is easier to type than 'every.'
    – Merk
    Oct 13, 2012 at 7:26
  • Given the way answers have come up, is your question about the origin of the dialectic way of speaking the word 'erry', or the origin of its use by the pop-culture? Oct 17, 2012 at 0:06
  • @NewAlexandria The former. However, the latter may help to pinpoint the former before it became ubiquitous.
    – Zairja
    Oct 17, 2012 at 2:11

4 Answers 4


Shortening every to err appears to have been popularized with the St. Louis rap scene in the mid 2000's.

St. Louis rap group Da Hol' 9 released a song in 2003(re-released in 2009) titled "Urbody in the Club Up"

The first major charting single containing the pronunciation is the 2004 hit "Tipsy" by J-Kwon (also from St. Louis), where everybody is pronounced errbody.

In 2005, Nelly - perhaps the most famous St. Louis-born rapper - released a track titled "Errtime".

Prior to these songs (particularly "Tipsy"), references to the spelling are very scarce on Google - blog posts and YouTube comments show up, but with no regularity or connection. After "Tipsy", the spelling seems to have expanded quite a bit.

  • Great find! This may be the answer. I'm going to follow the leads you provided.
    – Zairja
    Oct 16, 2012 at 14:26
  • This answer is useful, but it still doesn't provide a background for erry. Keeping in mind that err (or urr) originates from a Missouri "Southern" dialect, perhaps going further south along the Gulf or Coastal South is where you'll find speakers say erry. Lil Wayne is from New Orleans. Antoine Dodson is from Alabama (says "erry" in the infamous news clip). I think it's safe to say that erry has spread throughout the Black diaspora and beyond, but its roots appear to be firmly in the South (perhaps Creole / Gullah influence?). Could you also provide early examples of erry in music?
    – Zairja
    Oct 16, 2012 at 20:57
  • 3
    I'm reminded that dropping the 'y' and 'v' syllables is common in 'Pittsburghese' - a dialectic way of speaking in the Pittsburgh / Appalachian area. I had a long-running discussion with a language-anthropologist from the Pittsburgh area on the topic of the origins of Pittsburghese. Regardless, the jazz community (predominantly African Americans) has strong roots in the Pittsburgh area and this dialect may have influenced the origins of these pronunciations. Oct 17, 2012 at 0:16
  • I wasn't able to locate any music that would indicate an origin of erry - there's lots of songs out there, but they're all recent enough to be a result of the trend, not the progenitor.
    – Marcus_33
    Oct 17, 2012 at 12:37

Marcus_33's answer led me to some interesting reads. Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide provides further details:

Mainstream America was first introduced to the St. Louis accent and slang—a mix of rural Southern and Midwestern terms and pronunciation—via Nelly. . . . "Hot in Herre" did not only send Nelly to the top of the charts, but it emphasized the way natives of this area pronounce words differently. Most notable is the pronunciation of the "e" sound in many words. Instead of saying "here" they say "hur." The words "thurr" (there), "wurr" (were), and "urr'body" (everybody) are also recognizable in lyrics from St. Louis.
. . . .
As a whole, the dialect situation in Missouri is diverse. The accent featured in the hip hop culture is exclusive to the large African American population. This speech creates a "country" sound by mixing "Southern drawl and Midwest twang." The rest of St. Louis has a distinctively different speech.

A post called "Right Thurr" on Dialect Blog adds:

Raymond Hickey, a linguist who studies Hiberno-English, notes a similar shift in middle-class Dublin accents in which the vowel in ‘square’ is pronounced (as in AAVE) with a vowel similar to American ‘nurse.’
. . . .
My only guess for how this might relate to African-American English is that it’s one of America’s non-rhotic (r-less) dialects. Is it possible that, for African-Americans attempting to speak rhotic English, they somehow make the same hypercorrective ‘mistake’ that Hickey’s Dubliners do?

  • A notable example of "Thurr" prior to J-Kwon's song was Chingy's 2003 track "Right Thurr". Chingy also hails from St. Louis.
    – Marcus_33
    Oct 16, 2012 at 19:03

Though 'AAVE' (African American Vernacular English) is a good general bet.

The recent popular use of this pronunciation (in media) may stem from a Bill Cosby performance, where he stresses that pronunciation heavily. Bill Cosby is a much-appreciated US phenomenon, by all races.

It has since become a meme.

  • Do you have a source (or at least name and date) for the Bill Cosby performance? Thanks.
    – Zairja
    Oct 16, 2012 at 8:03
  • @Zairja I'm still looking, but it's not searching easily out of Cosby history of performances. That-said, I think your and other answers are better, because they deal more with the root, than with Cosby (potential) popularization of the speech/dialect, and bringing it to the pop-culture (via a generation of rappers/musicians who grew up venerating Cosby). Oct 17, 2012 at 0:04

Every Christmas back in the 60s, a Scottish aunt used to send me that year's Oor Wullie annual.

As the Wikipedia link says, it's a comic strip that appears (or at least, used to appear) every week in The Sunday Post. I don't think I've ever seen a copy of the paper itself, so I've never seen the strip in its "natural habitat". But the front cover of each annual album always had the tagline...

Oor Wullie! Your Wullie! A'body's Wullie!

...where obviously A'body is intended to be the casual Scottish pronunciation of Everybody.

So black American rappers a couple of generations later aren't saying anything new there.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.