October 7, 2010

Get up in your grill/grille.

I'm reading the transcript of the oral argument in Summers v. Phelps — the First Amendment case that we were talking about yesterday — substantively! — here and here. This post is about the English language. At page 40, Margie Phelps, arguing in favor of the right to express outrageous opinions in the vicinity of a funeral, is quoted as saying:
I think approaching an individual up close and in their grille to berate them gets you out of the zone of protection, and we would never do that.
(Boldface added.) Then, at pages 47-48, she's quoted saying:
Your body of law about captive audience... where they, by the way, specifically said at footnote this isn't about content. You've got to be up -- again, I will uses [sic] the colloquial term -- up in your grill. The term I think the Court used was confrontational.
And page 49:
I do think that you could have a public event where there was not an element of vulnerability in the people going in. You might even let them up in their grill.
So what is it? Grill or grille?
You cook on a grill (perhaps in a “bar and grill”), but the word for a metal framework over the front of an opening is most often grille. When speaking of intensive questioning “grill” is used because the process is being compared to roasting somebody over hot coals: “whenever I came in late, my parents would grill me about where I’d been.”
All right. So when you get up in somebody's grill/grille, what's the image: getting very close to the front of his car or somehow snuggling under the lid of his Weber? I Googled "what does get 'get up in his grill' mean" and – the world is so strange! — the second hit was to my blog:
k*thy said... I'd have no problem if she'd get up in his grill and then gone after his cycles with a bat.
Well, I didn't write that, and I think it's "grille." We're talking about the car, aren't we? Or do you think it has to do with that hip hop-style jewelry, worn over teeth? But what is that a reference to: the car part or the cooking surface? Wikipedia spells that "grill," but Googling around, I see a lot of pictures of Corvettes with "grille teeth." I even found one that I took:

1954 Corvette

Have I resolved it yet? If not, I submit the truly humble and unexceptionable request that spelling should be consistent within the transcript (and, if it's not too much to ask, all of the work of the Supreme Court). So pick one. I say "grille." (And I love those old Corvettes!)

50 comments:

Marshal said...

You're right. In your grille evolved from in your face.

The Crack Emcee said...

It's black slang for geting in someone's face or personal space.

Crimso said...

I've heard that a broiler is simply an upside-down grill. "Getting up into someone's broiler" doesn't seem to work, though, so it must be grille.

Synova said...

So... her argument was that they weren't actually *really* bothering anyone?

(I would suppose that grille is up face to face with someone... the noun... and grill is a verb... you grill someone... hotly interrogate. I've never heard "up in your grille" before that I noticed.)

Foose said...

Enclosed nuns traditionally have had to speak to convent visitors through a grille, so I guess "approaching ... up close and in their grille" might apply in that case.

BJM said...

Watch this week's episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta; NeNe gets all up in Dwight's grill.

deborah said...

Foose may be on to something there.

edutcher said...

Wasn't it fashionable in some quarters to have all kinds of fancy embellishment on one's braces so it looked as if the teeth had a grille?

PS I think grille is the correct spelling as it is an automotive term, as opposed to grill for cooking, but Ann's right. A little consistency would be nice - and professional.

James said...

Its grill. As in, "Why you all in my grill" by Missy Elliot.

E.M. Davis said...

Grillz.


WV: inaudis. How Germans get around?

former law student said...

I, too, remember when every car had a face, with the grille being the mouth. So I want to say grill with an e.

traditionalguy said...

Thunder, thunder over thunder road with grilles going by like they are standing still. I suspect that the phrase "getting into someone's grille" refers to going up to someone's eyes rather than to their their mouth. It is done to suddenly intimidate, and that requires a threat to disable their eyes. Anyway it is done, it is a control action. However, it is not really torture unless you do blind them.

E.M. Davis said...

You put Grillz in your mouf.

deborah said...

A dismally inappropriate phrase. Shocking, actually.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm suggesting that the dental jewelry ought to be spelled "grille" because of the Corvettes. I do understand that people transcribing spoken slang have generally spelled it without the "e" -- including the New York Times. Isn't the etymology that it comes from the car and not the cooking device?

madawaskan said...

The thing that gets me is the conservative blogosphere that thinks this is no biggie rests on-

"its 1,000 ft away."

Well actually if you read the transcript one side says 300 feet away.

E.M. Davis said...

Grillz (e or no e) have caused quite a bit of controversy.

traditionalguy said...

Control of others is not about controlling their mouth/dental braces. It is all about controling what the controllee looks at and whether their eyes lower and demur to the asserting master or are still cooly staring back and seeing weaknesses in the attacker.

Marshal said...

"Isn't the etymology that it comes from the car and not the cooking device?"

Yes, but in stages. First the car inspired grille became slang for certain dental presentations. Then the phrase "up in your face" was updated to the slangier "up in your grille" based on the dental tie in.

John Burgess said...

I've never come across 'grille'; it's always been 'grill'.

And yes, it's slang for 'up in somebody's face', with 'grill' metonymously serving for 'person'.

Are you sure 'grille' isn't the WV: anism?

Lance said...

Isn't the etymology that it comes from the car and not the cooking device?

I've always used "grill" to mean both the cooking surface and the car's front end. In fact, I've used "grill" to mean any metal lattice. If I'd ever stopped to consider it, I would have supposed "grille" was the British version of "grill", akin to "color" vs. "colour".

The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests I'm more or less correct. For whatever that's worth.

murgatroyd666 said...

If you get up in Obama's grille, you'll soon find yourself under the bus.

wv: creti

Are we playing Hangman?

XWL said...

"Grill" is slang for those awful, expensive, disgusting, and idiotic decorative teeth jewelry that began appearing in the 80s.

While the name was most probably inspired by grillework in cars, the term for this crap seems to have always been spelt grill (and pluralized often with a 'z', just because).

(Here's the Nelly song, "Grillz", with lyrics)

Just because it should have been 'grilles' all this time, doesn't change the fact that those things are referred to as 'grills'.

Still, isn't worrying about which spelling is correct, and expecting the transcripts to reflect a singular style, the sort of 'foolish consistency' that Emerson warned about?

dbp said...

The term does derive from a car's grille, but it was invented by people who are unlikely to know that grill (cooking) is spelled differently from grille (car or latice).

So it is grill. They invented it and therefore get to establish the proper spelling.

deborah said...

I don't suppose that a cooking grill can be a lattice figures in?

William said...

Perhaps it's a portmaneau word whose dual usage enhances the meaning. The hot spot is the point of impact. When Cuomo divorced his Kennedy wife, he was working close to the horns.

muddimo said...

You people are freaking annoying. The Crack Emcee gave you the answer, you don't have to suppose it.

muddimo said...

"I'm suggesting that the dental jewelry ought to be spelled 'grille' because of the Corvettes." Suggest away, middle-aged boomer white woman. Or, you know, listen to those that actually know what they're talking about.

Ann Althouse said...

"You people are freaking annoying. The Crack Emcee gave you the answer, you don't have to suppose it."

You're annoying. The original post understands that it's slang and what it means. The question is how grille ought to be spelled. The original post acknowledges the dental jewelry and that it's prominently spelled "grill" but questions whether that should be or should have become the right spelling. And in any case, the point is that the transcript alternates between 2 spellings.

Ann Althouse said...

"They invented it and therefore get to establish the proper spelling."

That's patronizing. I'm critical of the spelling of the local Irish Bar and Grille. I inquire into and comment on spelling and usage and metaphor. It's one of my main topics. Don't get me started on race and patronizing people. It is also one of my topics.

Ann Althouse said...

And -- hello? -- don't you think it's hilarious that Margie Phelps said it 3 times to the Supreme Court?

If you don't think this subject is interesting, just skip this post. And if you don't think my observations are interesting, go read a blog that you find interesting.

AST said...

Or do you think it has to do with that hip hop-style jewelry, worn over teeth?

That's the first thing I thought of. In that case it should be spelled "grille."

But thanks for bringing it up. I'd never thought about the spelling difference before.

deborah said...

Althouse, as I said above, it was inappropriate, and I will bet that she was not aware of the black meaning. Probably, like me, she thought it meant 'to get in another's face.' I would have thought it was more of a country/red-neck phrase.

The Crack Emcee said...

I've never heard "up in your grille" before that I noticed.

You guys really have to listen to more rap music.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse, as I said above, it was inappropriate, and I will bet that she was not aware of the black meaning. Probably, like me, she thought it meant 'to get in another's face.' I would have thought it was more of a country/red-neck phrase."

The fact that Phelps used it is some evidence that it actually is a country phrase. It could have dual origins or it could have migrated from one place to another. Maybe country folk were talking about their cars and trucks and used a phrase that then got caught up in urban slang.

I wouldn't assume you know the origin -- certainly not from checking Urban Dictionary and the voting that takes place there.

Often an old phrase, like "hoist by his own petard" gets used by people who don't know what the image is and over time they end up with quite the wrong image, but it becomes the right one. Think about how people say "toe the line" and would spell it "tow the line."

Maybe some country guy who said "up in your grille" moved to the city and said it a lot, where it was heard by people who knew about the dental jewelry and imagined teeth rather than the front of cars, and they went on to spread the phrase in the new context.

But I still get back to the point that I think the origin of the word for the dental jewelry is the car and not the thing you cook meat on. The pictures of Corvettes are so persuasive to me.

The Crack Emcee said...

You people are freaking annoying. The Crack Emcee gave you the answer, you don't have to suppose it.

I keep telling them the same exact thing, but they don't listen.

BTW - one of the other things I've told you about is happening in Russia, when it should've happened here, already.

You will listen one day.

deborah said...

Yes, I agree with all you say, especially that the meaning in both senses rests on the car grille. Which, I will admit, I did not know ended in an e. But I would still say that car grille and BBQ grill have the same origin (as I'm sure probably do to).

deborah said...

Crack, get out of my grill...we heard you the first time.

dbp said...

So Althouse wants to take the spelling used by people who have actually been using the expression for years and change it because they didn't spell it rationally. And I am being patronizing? I call it respect for precedent.

This is not to say anything against the post itself--it is interesting and funny. I just think the spelling should remain as it has been. The post entertains, it does not convince. Except that, yes the spelling should be consistent within a transcript.

jaed said...

Grilles - car grilles, that is - resemble a mouthful of teeth. (The resemblance may be more or less obvious depending on exactly what kind of old grille you're looking at.) To my recollection, the expression goes back a lot farther than the teeth-jewelry fad, although that probably made an old-fashioned phrase more popular among people with such jewelry. (Which is why Crack Emcee thinks it's "black slang".)

muddimo said...

Muddimo strikes an Althouse nerve.

muddimo said...

"Which is why Crack Emcee thinks its 'Black slang'." Yeah, him a few million other folks. Lol, that sentence just sums up this whole thread.

deborah said...

Okay. A long time ago when my daughter was in about the 4th grade, and my son in the 8th, my daughter asked him angrily, 'why are you getting up in my grill?' My son and I burst out laughing because it sounded so funny coming from her. As I said I hadn't heard it before, and figured it was country/red-neck. I just asked my son, as non-leadingly as possible, if it was a country thing, and he said, 'no, it's definitely gangsta.'

So Crack and muddimo, excuse the hell out of me (that's a white saying).

The Crack Emcee said...

It's interesting how the mere suggestion it could be black, as opposed to country, gets some people a little hot under the collar. It reads like that, anyway. I'm not suggesting racism so much as pride. It's weird. We're all Americans.

I'd bet "grille" is both black and country - resulting from us spending so many happy times together - and it's definitely a reference to cars.

JonMichael S said...

Our take...

Bonfyre

Tex the Pontificator said...

I agree with "grille" as being the better choice, but that you must analyze it so intensely means it's not an evocative metaphor.

Marshal said...

"It's interesting how the mere suggestion it could be black, as opposed to country, gets some people a little hot under the collar."

People here seem to have a hard time believing that something which started as urban was adopted so readily outside, including in rural areas. This track has been becoming more common since at least the 80's, and with greater speed. The fact that something appeared in rural or country culture doesn't make it less likely it began as urban.

deborah said...

Crack:
"I'd bet "grille" is both black and country - resulting from us spending so many happy times together - "

Crack, please don't get a little hot under the collar. Pride in being country is the last thing you can accuse me of. I'm a Yankee longing for home.

Funny how Althouse and I can't muse upon the possibility of teeth-decoration grill originating from a country origin without an insinuation of racist motive.

Mike said...

Nationally syndicated radio host Jim Rome, who's patter is so filled with stylistic patois that his Web page used to (sorry didn't check its present state) have its own glossary (or "gloss" in his gloss). Anyway, Rome has used the term "grille" interchangeably with "face" for 20 years -- at least. Much of his gloss is derived from slang slung by Black athletes. Tracing the etymology through Romey, I would lean more toward the Black than the country origins explanation. Of course, many athletes come from the country too, but Romey has a special fondness for the patois of Black athletes.

Wedded Bliss said...

My black clients tell me it is 'grille,' as in automotive.