This is the latest installment of our weekly series, The Language of the Blues, in which author/rocker Debra Devi explores the meaning of a word or phrase found in the blues. To learn lots more about what your favorite blues songs really mean, grab a signed copy of Devi’s award-winning book The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to ZuZu (Foreword by Dr. John) at Bluescentric.com. “One of the wittiest, bawdiest, most fascinating dictionaries ever.” (Reuters)
In the blues, to grind means to have sexual intercourse, specifically to enhance a partner’s pleasure by grinding in a circular motion against him or her. In “Coffee Grindin’ Blues,” Lucille Bogan bragged, “Ain’t nobody in town can grind a coffee like mine.”
In his Lexicon of Black English, scholar J.L. Dillard speculated that this sexual use of the word “grind” may stem from grayna, which means “to eat” in Krio, the English-based Creole language of Sierra Leone.
From “Bawdyhouse Blues” (composer unknown):
I got an all-night trick again
I’m busy grinding so you can’t come in
A grinder is a man (although the term sometimes refers to a woman) who is so good at making love that other men fear losing their women to him. In his article “What Happened to Jody,” in the Journal of American Folklore, Bruce Jackson argued that this term may be derived from the tale of Joe de Grinder, a man with such magical lovemaking powers that other men feared losing their women to him because he would visit them during the day while their men were away at work.
Dillard noted that this tale may also be the source for the current use of the slang term “Jody” in the armed forces for a man who makes love to enlisted men’s wives while their husbands are away on deployment.
“All Around Man”- Bo Carter (Armenter Chatmon)
“Grinder Man Blues”- Memphis Slim (Peter Chatman)
“What’s the Matter With the Mill”- Memphis Minnie (Lizzie Douglas)
Memphis Slim – “Grinder Man”