Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hep adj.

[rooted in the 19C SE hep, shrewd, which comes in turn from Hep!, the exhortation of the ploughman or driver urging his horses to ‘Get up!’ and get lively; the suggestion, as in Gold, A Jazz Lexicon (1964), that the term was first used by jazz fans in the 1940s (but not the musicians, who only used it ‘derisively’) and that those fans simply heard a black inflexion of hip adj. (1) is erroneous due to the earlier dating; the suggested link to a real-life Chicago barman, one Joe Hep, is presumably a popular ety. only]

1. (also hepped) aware, sophisticated, in the know.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 31: ‘Terence!’ called the boss. ‘Go to the door and stop that ringing! Mind, admit no one.’ ‘I’m hep,’ said Terence.
[US]H. Hapgood Types from City Streets 247: He [...] was ‘hep’ to political economy.
[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Intermittent Fusser’ in Ade’s Fables 52: When he was 28, however, he had become Hep to the large and luminous Truth that the man who sits in his Lodgings reading Dumas may overlook many a Bet.
[US]P. & T. Casey Gay-cat 190: I was hep yer sure was no road-kid fer me to be travelin’ with, chummy.
[US]D. Hammett Red Harvest (1965) 33: Whisper’s hep [...] he’s going to stay in his joint.
[US]E.S. Gardner ‘Bird in the Hand’ in Goulart (1967) 288: He [...] tipped off the fence the bulls were hep. That kept the fence away.
[Aus]Queenslander (Brisbane) 2 July 4/4: Into the watchhouse, the way well knowing, / A rapid search, a list of scars still showing. / [...] / You bet, by this, I’m ‘hep’ to where I’m going!
[US]‘Digg Mee’ ‘Observation Post’ in N.Y. Age 22 Feb. 10/5: I may be wrong in my surmise, I ain’t as smart as you hepped guys [ibid.] 26 Apr. 9/7: I’m the heppest ‘cat’ you’ve ever seen.
[US]Z.N. Hurston ‘Story in Harlem Sl.’ in Novels and Stories (1995) 1004: How come I’m up here in New York? You don’t know, do you? Since youse dumb to the fact, I reckon I’ll have to make you hep.
[US]S. Longstreet Pedlocks (1971) 392: Sol Kramer is a better man than I am. Deep thinker. Has all the facts and a sense of humour. A real hep guy.
[WI]S. Selvon Lonely Londoners 28: From the very beginning they out to give you the impression that they hep.
[US]C. Himes Imabelle 31: There you is, ain’t got hep yet that you been beat. You has been swindled, man.
[UK]T. Taylor Baron’s Court All Change (2011) 62: ‘You all think you’re very sharp and hep or hip or whatever you call it’.
[US]C. Himes Rage in Harlem (1969) 32: There you is, ain’t got hep yet that you been beat. You been swindled, man.
[US]R.D. Pharr S.R.O. (1998) 60: I was hepped enough to know that S.R.O. managers put all the belongs of locked-up prostitutes in the storeroom until their release.
[US]Cab Calloway Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 182: You hep to what I’m puttin’ down?
[US](con. 1940s) C. Bram Hold Tight (1990) 88: Just wondering. I’m hep.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 222: I didn’t want them to know I was hep to what they were doing.
[US]J. Ridley Conversation with the Mann 89: Score some good drugs, have some loose sex, and just generally be hep.

2. (US black) excited, inebriated.

[US]E. Freeman ‘The Whirling Hub’ in Afro-American (Baltimore, MD) 15 Dec. 14/3: What lass got too hep celebrating her first day on earth day?

3. fashionable.

[UK]C. MacInnes City of Spades (1964) 23: ‘Where can I get a shirt like that?’ ‘Like this?’ ‘Yes. It’s hep. Jumble style, but hep.’.

In phrases

get hep (v.) (orig. US)

1. to find out (about).

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 44: (Vicious, Gory Prizefight To A Knockout On Barge In Shadow Of Palisades) Here the guide said, Take it easy now fellers, one of you stay behind so that no one will get hep.
[US]S.F. Call 3 Aug. 12: [advert] Prince Albert the national joy smoke [...] Get hep to P.A. [...] get tobacco-wise and smoke-happy.
[US]Washington Times (DC) 12 Nov. n.p.: He turns out to be a bank clerk all right [...] and he is here to get hep to the bank game.
[US]J. O’Connor Broadway Racketeers 182: The D.A.’s are getting hep to the Racket, and horse flies and wised-up D.A.’s are hard to fool.
[US]P.J. Wolfson Bodies are Dust (2019) [ebook] ‘If they get hep, good night!’.
[US]T. Thursday ‘Billy the Kidder’ in Blue Ribbon Western Nov. 🌐 [He is] just sitting in the sideshow for a cover-up, so the marshals won’t get hep to his game.
[UK]Observer Mag. 15 Aug. 8: Get hep, sista. Missy Elliot is the Iron Lady of rap.
M.H. Greenberg et al. 100 Crooked Little Crime Stories 87: ‘That’s something you wouldn’t get hep to,’ said Nails.

2. to see one’s own interest, to learn what is going on, to become aware.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 282: I wouldn’t a’ got hep if I hadn’t got a flash a yuh connin’ the chambermaid.
[US]Sun (NY) 9 Sept. 1/3: None of ’em’ll get hep.
[US]S. Lewis Main Street (1921) 119: My tootsies never got hep to what pedal perfection was till I got a pair of clever classy Cleopatra Shoes.
[UK]P. Marks Plastic Age 195: Unless some of you wake up and, as you would say, ‘get hep to yourselves,’ you are never going to be anything more than human Fords.
[US]C. Himes ‘Prison Mass’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 163: That was how her husband, ‘Slug’, had got hep to their little affair.
[US]D. Hammett ‘His Brother’s Keeper’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 162: Maybe you won’t live forever even if Big jake don’t get hep to the missus.
[US]J.H. O’Hara Pal Joey 38: I have a slogan ‘put your band on the bandwagon’ before the others get hep.
[US]C.B. Davis Rebellion of Leo McGuire (1953) 162: Even if something happened while I’m in stir so they got hep, they still wouldn’t whisper.
Carl F. Burke God is Beautiful, Man 99: Get hep to what God wants you to do.
[US]T. Pynchon Gravity’s Rainbow 124: Turn off that faucet, Dorset, and get hep to this.
Emerson Damerson in Dusted Mag. at 🌐 Poring over these jazz sides now, one gets hep to the mixed emotions that fogged up the tea pad as youngsters of all sorts got their first blast.
heptalk (n.)

(US Und.) bragging, boasting.

[US]Spokane Press (WA) 22 Sept. 7/3: If you’re gling to be a crook [...] you know must know [the] lingo [...] Heptalk — Bragging.
hep to the jive (adj.) (also hep to the groove, the jep, hep with)

aware, informed, sophisticated, in the know.

[US]L.A. Times 7 May 51/4: ‘I’m hep to the jive’.
[US]Cab Calloway ‘Are You All Reet?’ 🎵 I’m like the tree, / I’m all root, / Hep to the jep / What it’s all aboot!
[US]I. Shulman Cry Tough! 128: All the new kids were loud-mouths, hepped with jive talk.
San Bernardino Co. Sun (CA) 22 Oct. 39/2: Some persons term a square as not being ‘hep to the jive’.
[UK]Guardian Guide 28 Aug.–3 Sept. 12: I wrote surreptitiously in case they spotted that I wasn’t ‘hep to the groove, Jackson’.
put (someone) hep (v.)

to render (someone) knowledgeable.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 205: We’re to elope and leave you [...] and put you hep afterward.
[US]A. Baer Two & Three 18 Apr. [synd. col.] Bill was wondering about his old job but nobody could stop cheering him long enough to put him hep.
[US]J.B. Hendryx ‘System’ in Underworld Sept. 🌐 I’ve got something to tell you. I’m here to put you hep.
[US]S. Ornitz Haunch Paunch and Jowl 69: I puts him hep to easy money, makes him the best little dip (pickpocket) in the business, and why don’t he stick to it?
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves in the Offing 88: I put him hep on the Wilbert-Phyllis situation.