Michael from Sherman Oaks, California, says that as a teacher in New Jersey in the 1980s, he heard students saying My word is born, meaning “You better believe me,” and later shortened to simply word. The research of linguist Geneva Smitherman shows that word is born came from word is your bond. Clarence Major has found this phrase goes back to at least the 1950s. The exclamations Word! and Word up! found their way from hip-hop into mainstream culture in the 1980s, in part thanks in part to the popular song and music video by the group Cameo.

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