Sunday, April 3, 2011

Embrace Our Tongues

Yesterday, I did something that most men must regularly suffer through: I waited on my girlfriend to get out of a public restroom.

Women's Restroom

Now, I have a short attention span and I don't have a smartphone to play Angry Birds on. To prevent myself from standing around like a worthless employee, I could either pretend to do something on my dumbphone, or stand against the wall and look aloof. I thought I would look cooler doing the latter. As I got into position, a generic group of friends walked by. A girl in the pack asked everyone a question.

"Hey, can you guys say the word, 'feel?'"

Everybody pronounced it as I would have: FEE-UL.

The girl then said, "Aw, you guys say it the right way. I say it as 'FILL.' Man, I talk like a black person."

How offensive and ignorant. First of all, the girl isn't black and neither are her friends. I doubt that she would have said said as much if there were more people around. Also, her accent isn't "black" or AAVE, it's a common Hoosier dialect. Contrary to what she believes, nothing is wrong with the way she speaks.

Ask any sociolinguist and he or she will say that all dialects are equal. Those that speak AAVE or with a Southern drawl aren't stupid. Our culture stereotypes these dialects which perpetuate the prejudices associated with them. Unfortunately, these stereotypes are reinforced every single day. From watching Disney cartoon movies to having "unoffensive" conversations like our friend above, we've been taught that anything other than "standard English" is wrong.

Think about your feelings towards AAVE, Southern accents, and even Valspeak. If any negative thoughts arise, stop and think about why you feel that way.

Before I started studying a little bit of linguistics in my classes, I was guilty of prejudice too. The important thing is that I now understand that speech and dialect derives from culture and not from intelligence. Slang, creole, and pidgin are not lesser than Mainstream US English.

Don't get me wrong—you should be aware of the context that you're using a certain dialect in. Speaking in the classroom or in a business setting is more formal than speaking with your friends. I'm saying that just because something is less formal, it shouldn't be considered "bad" or "incorrect." Otherwise, we would be putting down the culture that the dialect comes from as well.

The point of my rant is that we should stop judging and discriminating against one another based on the way that we talk. Instead, let's embrace our tongues along with rest of our differences.

Diversity is good.

Don't be a communist.

Communist Party