Today, there are all sorts of phrases that some people say all the time, and other people don’t understand. One such phrase is “we been knew”, a phrase that seems to throw all the English language rules out the window. But despite how it might look, “we been knew” is not quite as complicated as you might think.
What does “we been knew” mean?
“We been knew” means “I already knew that”. It started off as a colloquial term, used within America’s African-American communities, but has since gone on to become a part of America’s Youth’s general lexicon.
In this article, I want to take a look at where this comes from and why it can help us to understand American society better.
What is African American slang?
Firstly though, we should talk about what “African American Slang” is. Generally, the people who speak this kind of language tend to be from working-class, African American communities. In fact, using this language is more of an indication of upbringing than skin colour.
As I’m sure you know, the language we use, we learn from our community. This could be our friends, family, school, etc. When the people around us start using specific terms, we tend to pick them up ourselves.
Throughout a large chunk of American history, segregation has caused black people to only interact with those of their same race. Even today, America has some “black areas” and some “white areas”.
Where does “we been knew”, and other African American slang come from?
It’s a matter of debate where much of the “African American” slang comes from. However, one of the most common theories is that it comes from Old Southern Slang.
Segregation began shortly after the end of the civil war, meaning that black and white people could not talk to one another for a long time. This lead to the kind of English they speak, taking slightly different evolutionary paths.
Why white people are saying “we been knew”
Phrases such as “we been knew” have taken on a new life outside of the communities they originally come from. This could be seen as a positive thing, as it indicates an end to the idea of “black slang”.
One of the key reasons for “black slang” becoming more popular among white people is that not only is racism far less prevalent than it used to be, but people of different races are also joining forces to fight against it.
On social media, people tend to use more slang terminology as it’s not a professional platform, so there is less need for people to talk formally.
Examples of “we been knew” in a sentence
To help you fully understand what “we been knew” means, let’s take a look at the phrase in a few example sentences.
“Did you hear Steve got a divorce from his wife?”
“We been knew they was having trouble! But I never expected him to walk away like that”.
In this example, the speaker says that he was aware his friend Steve was having issues in his marriage but never expected him to walk away from it.
“She’s just been convicted as a murder. We been knew for a long time”.
Here, the speaker says that even though the object’s conviction has just happened, he has known about her habits for a long time.
“I’m so proud of you! But we been knew you’d be a doctor since you were 5”
The speaker here is most likely a parent, explaining to their child that they have known for a while they would grow up to become a doctor.
Alternatives to “we been knew”
Here are a few popular alternatives to “We been knew” that some people might prefer to use instead.
- Well duh!
- No sh*t sherlock
- You don’t say?!
Should white people say “we been knew”?
With “black slang” now becoming more popular among white people, it does raise the question of “Should white people be allowed to use ‘black slang’?”.
Those who said they should argue that language is based more on community than skin colour. Language doesn’t have a colour, and we should use the language we have learnt, not the one that suits our skin tone.
However, others would say that white people have not had the same experiences as black people. They have not faced discrimination and do not have a long history of oppression. Therefore, they should not be able to “appropriate” the language of minority groups.
Stop complaining that “we been knew” isn’t proper English
Regardless of your views on white people using black language, there will be people who hear phrases like “we been knew” and claim the speaker doesn’t know “proper English”.
However, what these people forget is that language evolves naturally over time. The rules of what constitutes “proper English” are not determined by some kind of objective law of the universe. They are simply the product of how people talk in their day to day lives.
The purpose of language is not to impress some kind of “Official Council of Proper English” but to communicate our points to other people.
Other examples of African American slang
As well as “we been knew”, there are loads of other African American words and phrases that have become popular amongst America’s general youth. Here are a few examples.
- He been done X- He finished X a long time ago.
- He done been X- Until recently, he Xed for a long time.
- Woke- Aware of injustices in society
- Hella- Incredibly
- Basic- Boring and trying to blend in
- Salty- Annoyed and jealous
- YASSS QUEEEN! – I admire the confidence of this female.
“We been knew” is African American slang for “I already knew that”. It’s interesting to think about how the history of segregation has caused different communities to develop slightly different versions of American English, predominantly spoken by people of one ethnicity.
But I also believe it’s good that other races are now using “black slang” as it shows America is finally healing its racism. It’s an indication that the days of the races being segregated are finally coming to an end, and America can look forward to a happy and loving future.
Hopefully, now, next time a young person says “we been knew” to you, you’ll know what they’re talking about.