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Diction

January 22, 2011

I just want to point out that some English words have different connotations across dialects.  And while I know a lot of English-speaking white folks from the UK and Australia pick up on this fact when it comes to Americans, white English-speaking people in general, no matter where they’re from, don’t seem to want to understand that dialect also has a racial component.

That is to say that English-speaking nonwhites often use the language differently than their white counterparts.  Black Americans often speak English in a discernibly different way than white Americans, and the same is true of black Brits of Caribbean origin and of black indigenous Australians.   This is not simply a matter of accent, but of the meanings and connotations of words.  (For example, the word ‘worrisome’ has entirely different meanings, and pronunciations, for white Americans and for black Americans.)

I think this should be taken into account when white English-speaking “feminists” are admonishing nonwhite women for their choice of diction.

 

13 Comments
  1. Mary Sunshine permalink
    January 23, 2011 12:17 am

    Interesting. 🙂 I had a sense of that just from reading women’s comments over the years.

    Dialects are music to me, I love them. They sing to me of the lives of the women speaking them, and carry me in that small way into their worlds.

    Thanks.

  2. January 23, 2011 1:03 am

    Thank you for that wonderfully on-point observation Margaret! I’m still working on a post about exactly that! As a Black child of the Deep South whose roots run deeply in the Sea Islands, your point has been one that has been “stuck in my craw” for some time. Hopefully I’ll get it done soon and I hope you don’t mind if I link to this little pearl of wisdom when I do!

  3. January 23, 2011 1:05 am

    White people assume that language should not only be used the same way as they use it, but that they are the dictators of what anything and everything means. To assume a word or phrase may have a different connotation than what they know of, admits that they are not in control of every little thing, including how a people decide to use a particular word and/or phrase. When/if they are hemmed up, then they retort “so and so people should learn how to speak English or use the ‘correct’ meaning.”

    Labeling someone as worrisome can be very therapeutic, especially when in company of others who understand the intended meaning. I know a few worrisome people.

  4. January 23, 2011 2:26 am

    Thanx, Margaret! You and “Fabulous” always keep me grounded! 🙂

  5. January 23, 2011 3:07 am

    Absolutely, Miss Kitty! Though I’ve never experienced the “never responds to emails” thing, as far as being aloof? – I strongly believe in that “you teach people how to treat you” thing 🙂 I keep reading the posts at AROOO because you, Margaret and most recently, SoulSis, adhere to that belief as well. To paraphrase my decidedly controversial, home-boy, James Brown (attribution is honesty, no?) – my “Sistahs Don’t Take No Mess!” You tell it like you see it and let the chips fall where they may – and if one can listen without preconceived notions or judgement – you learn a whole buncha shit! I just greatly respect and appreciate that.

    • January 23, 2011 3:47 am

      Back at ya, Sweetie! 😉

    • soulsis permalink
      January 23, 2011 12:52 pm

      I always miss the good stuff! Lol

      Spot on, Deb! 🙂

    • January 23, 2011 4:39 pm

      Hey soulsis! You didn’t miss a thing – I’m always here, lurker that I am! 🙂 Not too many women I know have the depth of conversations – on their own terms – that I find in AROOO’s conversations (even me sometimes!). Anytime I drop in, I always leave with something to chew on!

    • Edna permalink
      January 23, 2011 9:45 pm

      What Deb said.

    • January 24, 2011 5:20 pm

      Hey Edna! Just acknowledging that I heard ya! 🙂

  6. Mary Sunshine permalink
    January 24, 2011 5:23 pm

    Huh. I just realized that I speak several different dialects on the internet, as well as while traveling.

    Anybody else do this?

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