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Homie (from "homeboy") is an English language slang term found in American urban culture, whose origins etymologists generally trace to Mexican American Spanglish from the late 19th century, with the word "homeboy" meaning a male friend from back home. The words had use Latino and chicano communities (Zootsuiters) in the United States, starting in the late 1930s/early 1940s and continuing up to the present. As slang terms, the words have come to have variations in meaning, depending on local subcultures in a region, without the stability provided for dictionary-defined words. The term has also been traced to military slang.
The late 19th century was a time when many Latinos were migrating to cities in larger numbers, and the word "homeboy" meant a male friend from back home. It was eventually shortened to "homie". The word is also a contraction of Mexican slang words "homeboy" or "homebuddies" which became prevalent among some of the youth in Latino and Chicano communities in the United States, starting in the late 1960s and continuing up to the present. Since the 1980s, the word has been particularly prevalent in hip hop subculture. The word "homie" was also commonly associated with gangs, gang symbols, and rebellious youth.
Some etymologists have said the term "home boy" may have had its origins in the Spanish word "hombre" which means "man".
Other sources state that "homeboy" originated during the Viet Nam War era in the military, and referenced two soldiers being from the same hometown. Once it was discovered that two soldiers were from the same hometown, they would refer to each other as Homeboy, which was later shortened to Homie or Home.
In an early use of the term "homie", Ella Mae Morse, a white singer, in the original 1946 version of the song "House of Blue Lights" asks, "What's that homie?" to Freddie Slack, the writer of the song.
In 1992, the Latino rap hip hop group called A Lighter Shade of Brown released the recording "Homies" on their Hip Hop Locos album, which describes what a homie is in the Latino community. The status of "homie" is similar to "my best friend" or "someone I can trust", as in, "This is my homie Alex, we've known each other since grade school", or "I won't be around this afternoon, but you can give the money to my homie James, and he'll give it to me later."
In the hip-hop culture the homeboy image is important for artists and audiences. The need to appear "hip" and "fresh" with attitudes, clothing, and jewelry is an important aspect as with other cultures and subcultures. The inspiration for this homeboy image can be traced to Malcolm X, who also rebelled against a tradition of being perceived as ineffectual. It has been argued that hip-hop has redefined the homeboy by providing him with functions that contradict society's view of him. Manthia Diawara, author of the article "Homeboy Cosmopolitan", writes, "Hip-hop culture gives aesthetic pleasure through ironic and parodic play with mainstream images of black people". Diawara argues that hip-hop permits the creation of a new image of black cultures, because it sharply turns against preconceived notions of African-American society and allows for the creation of a new image of black Americans. This image of staying hip is always evolving with new dress styles and sayings.
As a Mexican-American slang word created in Southern California by Rey Fierro in the early 20th century cholo-style generation, the term can be traced back to fact-based films such as Boulevard Nights (dramatizing their culture from 1975–1978), Blood In Blood Out/Bound By Honor (1972–1984 culture), and American Me (1940–50s culture).
The Southern California slang term "choloz", or Nahuatl for "it jumps", is inspired by cultural self-identity. The word originates from a commonly believed police mantra, "Get [to] home boy; before we beat you down". This stems from the practice of late night de facto detainment by the police in the chicano barrios; anyone found outside late at night would get a promised beating. Often it has been said that police would announce, "This is your new home boy so get used to it" when orientating detainees to the jail staff. Consequently this led to the creation of the Chicano Militancy movement and neighborhood street soldiers of "homeboys" who challenged against "[white]man, e.g., power" repression.
In humorous usage, the comedian Pablo Francisco has utilized the similarity between "homie" and "homo" in some of his stand-up routines. The trailer for a Francisco's fictional film about gay gangsters includes "They were homies … they were homie-sexuals."