|A linguistic observation
||[Dec. 13th, 2004|09:33 am]
In my last post, I initially wrote "Shit tastes good!" which I changed
to "It tastes great!" which leaves me pondering all the things in my
speech I've picked up from black english. "Shit" in addition to its
primary meaning, picks up a whole new dimension in Black English, where
it becomes a general purpose replacement for "It" or "That."
Now obviously shit does not taste good, but in the right context (i.e.
not in a live journal entry about walnut bars), the meaning is
immediately clear to whomever is addressed. Other profane substitutions
in black english include "motherfuckers" as in "Motherfuckers best step
I know that white people trying to talk black sound pretty silly a lot
of the time, but lots of black idiom gets appropriated nonetheless.
Even my wife Melissa, has taken to saying "I feel that," and "I'm down"
from Sean and I.
The attractions of black speech to everyone (or most everyone, Bill
Cosby is not, as they say, down) is inescapable. There is a conciseness
and idiomatic punch to it. It discards superfluous syntactic sugar in
favor of rhythmic integrity. And it encompasses both directness and
lateral thinking. A black guy in my old neighborhood in Cedar Rapids,
once told me "you been sleepin overtime" in reaction to something
ridiculous I'd said, meaning I'd been dreaming too much, believing in
In other words, visions of sugarplums danced in my head.
You should hear the lyrics to Ludacris' new track, "superfluous syntactic sugar". Shit is hot.