It’s not too often that we see the birth and early infancy of a new phrase in English, but I am indebted to Christopher Phin @chrisphin for helping to parent this one. In a tweet on 23 January 2015, he wrote:
At first I wondered if “all proper and shit” was a misprint, so I put it in a search term in Google, and got 96 hits, mainly dating from 2010. None of them had been written by the good Mr Phin either!
A little rummaging around reveals that the first time this phrase seems to have appeared in print was in Miles, Miles Davis’ autobiography published in 1990. There are virtually no other hits until 2008, and plenty in the last few years. Entering the phrase into the Google Ngram viewer (which searches Google books up to about 2008) drew a blank, so it has clearly not been in wide use for long. I suspect that it may have come to other Englishes from African-American English, but would love to hear from anyone with better information.
Almost all the hits that I could see showed it in a similar context, referring to language or manners which were “all proper and shit”.
Who thought that a single tweet could be so linguistically exciting?