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The Man

"The Man" is a slang phrase that may refer to the government or to some other authority in a position of power. In addition to this derogatory connotation, it may also serve as a term of respect and praise.

The phrase "the Man is keeping me down" is commonly used to describe oppression. The phrase "stick it to the Man" encourages resistance to authority, and essentially means "fight back" or "resist", either passively, openly or via sabotage.[1]


  • History 1
    • Use as praise 1.1
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4


As a phrase meaning "the boss" it dates from at least 1918.[2]

In the underworld code word for police, the warden of a prison or other law enforcement or penal authorities.

The use of this term was expanded to counterculture groups and their battles against authority, such as the Yippies, which, according to a May 19, 1969 article in U.S. News and World Report, had the "avowed aim ... to destroy 'The Man', their term for the present system of government". The term eventually found its way into humorous usage, such as in a December 1979 motorcycle ad from the magazine Easyriders which featured the tagline, "California residents: Add 6% sales tax for The Man."

In present day, the phrase has been popularized in commercials and cinema. It was featured particularly prominently as a recurring motif in the 2003 film

Use as praise

The term has also been used as an approbation or form of praise. This may refer to the recipient's status as the leader or authority within a particular context, or it might be assumed to be a shortened form of a phrase like "He is the man (who is in charge)."

In more modern usage, it can be a superlative compliment ("you da man!") indicating that the subject is currently standing out amongst his peers even though they have no special designation or rank, such as a basketball player who is performing better than the other players on the court. It can also be used as a genuine compliment with an implied, slightly exaggerated or sarcastic tone, usually indicating that the person has indeed impressed the speaker but by doing something relatively trivial.

See also


  1. ^ "stick it to the man". (English Dictionary - With Multi-Lingual Search). 
  2. ^ """Online Etymological Dictionary entry for "Man. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  3. ^


  • Lighter, J.E. (Ed.). (1997). Random House Dictionary of American Slang. New York: Random House.
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