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B-Flat Meaning Ordinary

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Rachel from Harrogate, Tennessee, says when she was growing up in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, she and her fellow musicians used the term B-flat as slang for “ordinary” or “average.” In the 1938 publication New York Panorama, a guidebook to New York State put out by the Works Progress Administration, there’s a section on the language of jazz in New York City, which includes a definition of B-flat as “dull” and another for G-flat, meaning “brilliant.” B-flat is also slang for “bedbug.” This is part of a complete episode.

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1 comment
  • I use the phrase “b-flat” to mean average, ordinary, or every-day all the time. And with the exception of fellow (former) band members, I get that look of “are you speaking English?” I picked it up in high school band. I remember using it during high school orchestra rehearsal with a string player who was not also in band. I got a confused look. When I explained, they told me that b-flat is NOT an easy key for string players like it is for woodwind/brass band players. Maybe that’s why the musicians Rachel used it with didn’t get it: It’s a band thing – they wouldn’t understand. 🙂

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