A Mythunderstanding of Slang

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by gendanken, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    So here's the dilemma:

    I hate bad grammar.

    Despise it.

    My ears burn at the common, linguistic strabismus of people modifying verbs with adjectives, and nouns with adverbs, e.g.: You're doing that good (burn) as opposed to You're doing it well

    To boot, like all self-respecting snobs, I've always abhorred slang most of all, specifically what linguists call Black English Vernacular, or what I call "Black Yak".

    We associate slang and poor language with savagery and the subhuman.

    Yet is it true that the lower middle class of which blacks comprise a large percentage are less educated, and therefore have more "primitive" languages like the creoles and pidgins and slang of phonetic slop pouring out their mouths when they speak?

    I'm beginning to doubt-- here's a sentence I heard today at the Wal Mart:
    "He be lyin', ain't it?"

    Impulsively, it sounds like a crude, almost alien grammar yet look at it: it has both a subject and a verb in the correct order, the 'it' recursively referring to the subject of 'he'.

    The speaker would never put the verb 'be' between the prepostion and the indirect object, but has appropriately placed it following the subject.

    This person is still subconsciously following systematic rules identical to contraction rules of the verb "is" or "am", as in He's or I'm.

    She would never say:

    "He be lying, ain't?"
    In the same way, a more "refined" or "educated" person would never say

    "He's lying, isn't?"

    Here's another: the negative concord of saying "You ain't got no ass" is identical to the negative concord of the French "ne pas", and you can also find an inversion of a subject and its auxiliary like here:

    "Don't nobody know"

    In what is a called a "nondeclarative statement".
    Yet we 'normal', more 'educated' people do the exact thing, inverting the subject of a sentence with its auxiliary, but only in question form as in:

    "Doesn't anybody know?"

    To put it succinctly-- having read countless theories on the instinct of language, an inner language 'machine' that like a machine can create the same product millions of ways but only within the strict confines of one, unifying method.....how can we possibly say black slang, or any "crude" form of language, like pidgins or creoles, is inferior to standard, grammatically "correct" language?

    They're built almost exactly the same way.

    I'm almost tempted to retire all my inherent disdain.

    Then again, you see something like :

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    So, which is it?
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
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  3. Bells Staff Member


    As above..

    That's alright. We still love you.


    The first.

    Unless of course you are trying to state that man has the right to rape his wife. In which case, it would be the second image.
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  5. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    Quite being a tool-- you do it as well, pouncing on people's grammar and 'too boots'

    I would, , " but this be a seriers thrad wundrin if sounding LLIke assgruard or loolol, guffaw guffaw Christa is turly subhuman or not a moar priMMitive form of launguadge.
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  7. Bells Staff Member


    Quit being a tool?

    Sorry, I was pointing out the irony of your claim and your own bad grammar. Welcome to being ordinary.

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    I would respond to that, but I have no idea what it is you are attempting to say.

    Now as to your thread..

    It isn't inferior. It just is not your language or, to put it bluntly, how you speak or use the language.

    Not long ago another member queried why I had used the American way of spelling. I felt quite shocked and then a tad ashamed for having given in and allowed myself to write in such a butchered manner. But the American manner of speech and, most importantly, written word, is not inferior to how those of the Commonwealth speak or spell. It is just your own. For example, there is a prevalence of Americans who say 'pain in the ass', meaning that the other is being a 'pain in the arse'. But somehow, cross between a donkey and a horse is now the same as one's backside. And 'ass' is distinctly American when describing one's buttocks. Does that mean they are inferior? No. Just different.

    I come from a country where slaves created their own version of the French language, and added English and Dutch words and sentences and twisted it around as they would use the phonetic version. It is called Creole. And it is a language in its own right. It is distinct to the island I was born on. Funnily enough, it is slightly similar to the Creole in Haiti (across the globe), but very different to a neighbouring Island. It does not make it inferior. Just native to a particular group of people. One thing that is interesting is that the more educated Creoles speak educated Creole, while those less educated have a tendency to pronounce their words in a manner that the educated Creoles consider crass.

    I would be interested to know if African Americans in New York have the same patois or slang as those in Los Angeles for example? Is it based solely off one's economic status in the community?
  8. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    Aha, she bit.


    I get what you're saying-- this goes deeper, though.

    No matter what aesthetic or moral objections, language is pretty much constructed identically-- similar to the human stomach digesting food in the same way all stomachs digest it, regardless of class.

    There's something that happens in the brain, unbeknownst to you and all speakers of language, that manipulates words and phrases in ways that the complex machines cannot.

    I want you to read this sentence, a declarative one, and make a question out of it by moving the verb:

    "A gerbil is in the asshole."

    You have one verb-- 'is' -- and all you had to was move it to the front of the sentence: "Is a gerbil in the asshole?"

    Now, take the following declarative sentence and make a question out of it exactly the same way, by moving one single verb "is":

    "A gerbil that is chewing on a polyp is in the asshole"

    Which one do you move?

    There are two verbs 'is' here, yet you and I know which of the two you just moved.
    You did not move the second one, you moved the first one:

    Is a gerbil that is chewing on a polyp in the asshole?

    How did your brain, all on its own, do that? Your brain almost instinctively knew which verb to move.

    You've no idea what grammatical rule you just followed as children automatically providing the right tense for wrong words have no clue as well.

    The mind, be it via slang or 'refined' prose, doesn't just string words along in terse, linear machine speak-- the best computer would have failed the test your brain just passed subconsciously.

    It somehow builds these invisible algorithms of words and phrases and governs all language to sound the same way, regardless of what nationality or class it was learned from.

    Someone drag Fraggle in here to drop us a morsel.

    That'd be a creole.

    Creole, like pidgin, is a classification, not a language.


    Come on people, post!! Any blacks from New York?
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
  9. Bells Staff Member

    I will get to the rest of your post later. I wanted to address this now:

    In the country of my birth, Creole is a language and racial classification. If you speak Creole, you are speaking a very distinct language. And it spoken by not just Creoles, but by those of other nationalities who have been there long enough to pick it up and actually understand it.
  10. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    Ah, from Wikipedia:

    The 'a' before every 'creole' is a way of distinguishing it from more solid languages like English or Russian.
    We don't say an English or a Russian

    This is not to say creoles aren't unique or not languages-- a type of language is still a language with all its syntactical sweets, so I mispoke.

    There are everything from Dutch to Spanish to even German creoles.

    (Island, huh? Totally fucks up my "bells" diode-- always pictured you as a ditzy, freckled firecrotch, for some reason.)

    (Where are you from?)

    (Tell me or die.)
  11. Bells Staff Member

    Yes, but we are taught to manipulate words and phrases. Just as we learn as babies how to digest food (think breast milk, ground rice mush, mashed up apple and pumpkin, mashed up pumpkin with mashed rice, and so on). You can't give a baby a hunk of steak and it will automatically know how to eat it. It is automatic now, but we had to learn how to eat, just as we had to learn how to use the language and manipulate the words and phrases so that they are coherent.

    It is not automatic.
  12. Bells Staff Member

    I am a Mauritian Creole of African, French and Dutch ancestry. I migrated to Australia when I was 8 years of age.

    We do speak 'Creole'. Here is the funny thing. Because we are of light skin tone, and apparently, more educated than the more darker skinned Creoles, the way in which we speak Mauritian Creole is quite distinct from the more darker skinned Creoles, in that the manner in which we pronounce our words and primarily the letter 's', for example, is quite different... As my mother puts it when I speak Creole in a rougher manner, '"Creole ordinaire" is what those without education speak. Creole Mauricien is what you should speak, if at all'..

    But it is quite distinct. A perfect example, funnily enough, was found in Wiki, where lighter skinned and more educated Creoles would use the more "Gallicized Spelling" and pronounciation. The Mauritian Creole cited in the example given in the Lord's Prayer (scroll down) is what the darker skinned Creoles speak.

    So even amongst African Creoles, the language is quite distinct.

    It becomes even more interesting when one travels to islands off Mauritius, less than 1 hour by plane, with Creoles of the same descent and their Creole is vastly different.
  13. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    But its strangely-- deliciously-- elusive.

    That's what's strange-- the first language a child is exposed to is Motherese.
    Its a nonsense tongue of dangling verbs, irregular nominatives, and prepositonal phrases with weird tenses--not to mention the cloying coo coos.

    In other words, the child is not being formally taught at all.

    For example, he's not being taught to agree all his "s" suffixes to all his verbs, yet by the age of three he's already formed a general rule, or "feel", for where an 's' should go even in places it grammatically shouldn't but sensibly, very well could.

    He'll say his mamma feed's' him or that his bottle look's' like a duck-- he can take any phrase and place the 's' on the verb exactly as it should be.

    You don't teach him that.

    Do you seriously remember being taught to chew?

    I'm actually curious here, you've a child-- you have to teach him to chew?
  14. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Consider also, the practice of tense.

    If language were just a form of mimicry, learned from adults, then children would not coin grammatically incorrect verbs like 'ated' ,yet they do.

    The tense of the verb has this strange, instinctual 'feeling' of right-- its grammatically wrong, but sensibly appropriate.

    Like slang.
  15. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Ooops-- missed this post:
    My head is droopy and I'm tired.

    I'll address it on the morrow.


  16. Spud Emperor solanaceous common tater Registered Senior Member

    Farkenell weesbimissinya 'rounere. Wadidyafuggndo? insullda morrater ah suppem?
    Darngarl friggin sofdonaznair
    dunby sgaredovva nuvver fung ban
    juzfung gedinnair navver crack an siefwe carnall geddalong.
    Something about a passed participle (dinfuggenurt, gotter coight like fugg'n 'sbestos.

    Bloody hell, I could barely understand it myself on proofing (there's a concept)

    p.s I just repeated all this to my fifteen year old son who said what?

    What was that last bit?? ( wawazat lassbid eh!)
  17. Gremmie "Happiness is a warm gun" Valued Senior Member

    I actually had to read that 3 times..

    I guess I'm bored... I can't think of any other reason, to do so..

    Funny thing is, I could actually understand what you said...

    That old commercial comes to mind.. ( I assume it was only broadcast in the U.S., maybe not. ) "Hooked on phonics, worked for me". LOL.

    OK, time for bed..


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  18. superstring01 Moderator

    Are you from New Caledonia? It's French. Has Creoles. Is close to Oz.

    Edit. You gave the answer later on.

    Very cool, though!

  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Him, who thinks that our best hope for understanding language is studying parrots??
  20. superstring01 Moderator

    Fraggle knows his shit.

    This, from me, a young aspiring linguistics autodidact. So I can generally sniff out the bullshit and the well informed.

  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member


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    Same difference.
  22. Bells Staff Member

    Actually we do teach our offspring all of "that". When they are very little, their speech is quite undeveloped to our ears. But as they get older, we correct them and their pronounciation. And it also happens in school as well. It is subtle but it is still taught.

    In a way, yes. You basically have to teach them how to eat. As babies, their natural habit is to suckle and you have to virtually teach them how to take a spoon into their mouth and keep the food in their mouth. And then you start with slightly chunky soft food to teach them how to mush it up in their mouth. It is a process that takes several months. It does not come naturally and there will be many occasions where one has to stick their finger into the child's throat to get the food they are choking on, out of their mouth.

    I mean for goodness sake, babies actually learn how to get used to urinating, pooping and farting.

    Everything is learned, even if it is not directly taught. It is still learned behaviour. The same applies for a child's speech and ability to read, write and comprehend and their use of language.
  23. Liebling Doesn't Need to be Spoonfed. Valued Senior Member

    I always found that interesting in my children, and they still do it to this day when they can't think of the right word, they make one up entirely and will continue to use it until someone corrects them. It's not that their grammar is off, just that the word they needed and made logical sense does not exist in any current lexicon.

    Consider the following; the (non) word miracuous

    Miraculous is the nature of a supernatural event or miracle.

    What do you call the possibility or perception of possibility of a miracle occurring? My fifteen year old says; miracuous. He will explain quite calmly that the l in miraculous gives the miracle life and reality, but assumes that it exists already.

    The Latin root of 'mirac' has a definition of; to wonder at, wonderful; causing one to smile.
    And 'ous' being an adjective suffix meaning; full of or possessing the qualities of.

    So miracuous has the qualities needed to wonder at or cause you to smile, but that nothing has taken place because the miracle doesn't exist yet. It's mere possibility.

    Should I correct him this? It makes clear logical sense even if there are other words to describe the same phenomena. I could correct him every time, but I applaud his creative license with the English lexicon. Then I go out and buy condoms to keep in the medicine chest in his bathroom because he's usually referring to a girl when he uses the word. (Oy. Teenagers)

    But I think that our lexicon can give way to less structure and often as humans we create words that don't exist instead of trying to fit everything into a structured little box. Especially smaller children because they have never learned about boxes. I hate boxes.

    Slang can fit into this category when it's given this kind of logic to it, but often times we find in reading older books that much of the slang in time periods fades when it no longer makes sense to use the word thusly or is replaced by a more common sense alternative.

    I ignore most slang, adopt words I hear that make sense and I smile when I hear something new. While I do love the English language, I don't want to keep it too rigid or it becomes stuffy. I'm a filthy hippie, I don't do stuffy.

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