Friday, November 5, 2010


so i was in the language section of the library last week when i saw this book entitled Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner by Geneva Smitherman. sounded interesting. so i checked it out. it's basically a dictionary of terms used mainly by African Americans, or at times, people of color living in urban settings. in addition to words and some interesting etymologies, it also contains an introduction that speaks the issue of "talking black" in professional settings, the history of it, and the somewhat recent contriversy in the school system with teachers actually wanting to teach "Ebonics". heres some words in the book (some of which i find hilarious):

B- 1)a form of address for a male or female, though more common for males; probably a shortened for of "Blood". "yo B, wassup?" sometimes the initial of the person's first name is substituted for "B." 2)euphemism for bitch.
Bidness- any personal affair, event, experience, or activity one is involved in. "i got some bidness to take care of" might refer to anything from paying a utility bill to confronting somebody about a deal that's gone awry. bidness is the AAE [African American English] pronunciation of "business".
Bumping Titties-fighting.
Call Myself/Yourself/Herself/etc. -to consider yourself to be doing something; to intend to do a thing without actually acheiving your objective. "girls, what you call yourself doing?" that is, what do you think you're doing?; and "i call myself having this dinner ready on time," that is, i had every intention of accomplishing that goal, but i didn't.
check yosef- monitor your words, actions, or behavior. "Yourself" pronounced yosef in AAE.
cock sucker- a man who is weak, passive, emasculated. derived from the notion that a man who performs oral sex is a weakling; the myth is that African American men don't go down on women.
cracker- a white person; a derogatory term. possibly derived from the sound of the master's whip during enslavement; by extension, any white person.
down south- any place south of the Mason-Dixon Line, once consdiered the most racist part of the United States. However, Malcolm X coined the expression "up south", to signify on the mythical notion, held by blacks for over a hundred years after emancipation, that the US north was free of segregation and racism.
European Negro- an African American who thinks like and identifies with European Americans, and who rejects black casues and the black community. also Afro-Saxon (older term).
God don't like ugly- a popular saying from the Oral Tradition, meaning that some negative action, behavior, or attitude is displeasing to the Creator, and you will be punished.
HNIC- Head Nigger in Charge; a black person put in charge by whites, usually not in charge of anything meaningful; generally functions to keep other blacks in line. also BNIC (Boss Nigger in Charge).
honky- a negative term for a white person. probably derived and borrowed from the name-calling and expression of resentment by settled European Americans against central and Eastern European immigrants, who were negatively referred to as "hunkies" (from 'Hungarians'). blacks, in competition with these immigrants in the first half of the twentieth century, generalized the term to all whites.
hoochie- a sexually promiscuous female.
kitchen- the hair at the nape of the neck, inclined to be the most curly (kinky) and thus the hardest part of straightened hair to keep from "going back".

some of the words in the book i have never heard until i moved to New York, and some i have never heard ever (bumping titties??), and some i have attempted to remove from my vocabulary. it's also very telling how many words in this book reference drugs and sex (almost every other word is code for crack, heroine, or oral sex). i like how she included possible origins of some words like "Cracker", supposedly coming from the sound of a whip.....interesting.

in any colonized society, the colonized subjects all have to deal with assimilation, even in ways we may not even dream. it seems that language, even today as yet another barometer for genuine assimilation-those who speak properly (that is, as European as possible) are seen as more intelligent, more professional, and possibly even wealthier. and in some circles, language can be an indicator of where one stands-someone speaking too "white" can be seen as a sell-out or someone out of touch with their roots. Chican@s who speak English and Spanish can give much insight to how language can/has effected the colonized subject. although English and Spanish are both the languages of the colonizers, Spanish has come be viewed as the language of the uneducated/poor.

oftentimes, i think we assume that these slang languaages are the dialects of the poor and uneducated, but really, it is the normal meandering of language. all countries and all societies have and/or have had proper and slang dialects. the American English is actually a slang version of the English from England. as is the English of South Africa, Australia, India, and Jamaica. one dialect is not any more intelligent than the other. i think it's important to remember that language is simply a tool for communication. and if one cannot comunicate with their own people, what is the purpose?

comment. think. speak unapologetically.

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