Thursday, May 26, 2005


For those of you neeky enough to enjoy the study of slang, here’s a whole load of links to articles about it.

First off, there’s a piece about Lilian Baylis school which claims to have banned slang in its classrooms in an attempt to make Standard English the norm for its pupils. The second article includes quotes from Bill Cosby, superannuated African-American “comedian”, bemoaning young black people’s reliance on slang.

It’s an interesting debate: is using slang or other non-standard forms, holding back already marginalised groups in society? Put more bluntly, is “talking black” holding back young black people?

It’s ironic that one of the aspects of what we might lazily term “black culture” (which is about as meaningless as talking about “white culture”) that seems so attractive to many young white people could be the thing that actually keeps black people in a lower social position. The third link looks at young people’s slang more generally but asks a similar question: is it making young people unemployable?

Should we be teaching Standard English in schools and treating it as the *only* acceptable form of classroom discourse?

Another article looks at how young Americans have developed a taste for British slang (or “Brit-speak”, if you will) thanks to the fictional diaries of a 14 year-old. I think I might stick to Adrian Mole...

Finally there’s a link to one of those horrendous test yourself pages where you can check whether you’re a real teen or just a balding 35 year old, clinging desperately to their rapidly disappearing youth … or whatever.

Useful for:
ENA5 Language Varieties (accents, dialects, sociolects)
ENA5 Language Change (prescriptive/descriptive attitudes to language, the Standard English debate)
ENA6 Language Debates


*Chrissyfloss*- ex SFXian said...

this is in ref 2 the 2nd article:

BRICKIES WATCH OUT! (lol this should hav sfxians in a fit)Bill says "In places like Brixton, you need to hear this:.. (your) language (which by the way is "a vocabulary based on a mixture of Creole patois and rappers' slang")
only makes you THINK u r hip (o look how with the times he is!) but really you are squandering opportunities and "going nowhere. It isn't a language that has anything to do with the credentials of higher education"

Nice to know these stereotypes still exist and that someone has faith in us Londoners. It's now not just 'cause i'm black' its cause your from brickie.

I guess no matter how much an area has fixed up and how many good qualities and people it has, attitudes are forever fixed, and people are always going to generalise and stereotype the entire population of that area. I just found this sad, and had to comment.

*Chrissyfloss*- ex SFXian said...

in resonse to the Lilian Baylis article:

"Children will speak to each other how they wish - that's part of being a child"

- is slang generally associatted with childish atitudes and behaviour? sounds like a good research proj to me.. (else i am obsessed with slang argh!!)

seriously wish i had discovered this to aid my coursework tho.. *crying in a corner*

Dan said...

You don't need to worry about your coursework now (or ever, in fact - it was fantastic).

The stuff about Brixton just strikes me as a fairly old American man trying to think of a place where he reckons there are a lot of black people, but getting it a bit Peter Tong (if I may say so).

Like a lot of people, he makes sweeping generalisations about areas based on their perceived ethnic composition, without appreciating that places aren't just a sum total of the majority colour there but a patchwork of different groups (ethnic, age, sexuality and class being factors as part of this).

Now my littlest brother lives in Brixton, I'm sure I'll be getting the latest word about local slang straight from the (embarrassingly-whiteboy-dreadlocked) horse's mouth.

Dan said...

Slang and childish behaviour /attitudes - it's an interesting one to think about.

I think there's a certain amount of truth in this, but maybe it's down to people of certain generations (25s/ 35s) trying to cling on to their youth by using the slang they spoke when they were young but also the slang around them now, because of the covert prestige that slang might give them.

Maybe there's also a certain amount of self-conscious/ self-mocking use of slang from older people too. Or maybe that's just a get-out clause for those of us who try too hard to use youth slang and get it wrong, so we can then waggle our fingers ironically when we get caught out.

And of course, I speak this as a resident of "Bow yard" where my "homey" Dizzee is "wetting MCs like rainy weather".

I'll get me coat...