Following a link from Booker Rising, I ran up on this article describing Bill Cosby's critique of popular media as it pertains to language. Of all the things I talk about here, this is probably what I am most qualified to talk about. So you know I'ma break it down. I think the key to the whole discussion is contained in this paragraph:
Arnold Rampersad, Cognizant Dean of Humanities, School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and preeminent biographer of Langston Hughes, believes it is misguided to romanticize African American vernacular given the educational crisis facing today's youth: "Common speech is indeed vigorous and creative, but typically only someone who is educated can see the degree of creativity in such speech, and then romanticize what is essentially monolingualism. And people who romanticize monolingualism of the type attacked by Bill Cosby (the type founded on ignorance and the active disdaining of books) need to have a monolingual social class in order to satisfy their romanticism. Mr. Cosby is absolutely correct that monolingualism of this type is a guarantee of economic and other forms of poverty -- including intellectual and spiritual poverty."
It's all about style-shifting. When having discussions about this very subject, I've described language as a pair of shoes. You have to wear the right shoes to the right function. There are some cases where it's fine to wear sneakers, and some times you have to wear shoes. Then in some other cases, only full-fledged dress shoes will suffice. Same thing goes linguistically. There are some cases when it's just not appropriate to speak SBV (standard Black vernacular). That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it, it just means that a person is crippled if ze can't express zerself without it. At the same time, I must say that I get annoyed when I hear people say stuff like "talking proper(ly)." What is that? Going back to my shoe metaphor, while a person is more likely to run into difficulty trying to wear sneakers than shoes, there are some places where sneakers are not just the norm, they're the rule. Likewise, there are some (admittedly few) places where standard construction is contextually "improper." Being that I'm not a linguistic prescriptivist, all talk is valid to me, as long as it gets the point across. Which brings me to something I've been meaning to write about for several weeks. From Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun Times:
I don't know about you, but sometimes letting fly with a good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon expletive is just what the doctor ordered. I am -- and readers of the column, sadly, have no reason to know this -- a big fan and user of obscenity, lacing my conversation with it all day long, only holding back, or trying to, before, say, my kids' teachers and while on live radio. Some say to do so is undignified. Some say it is unrefined. To me, we have this wonderful set of short, crisp, time-honored-yet-fresh words, and it is a shame not to use it, now and again, or even all the live-long day.
Unlike Mr. Steinberg, I don't use obscenity regularly anymore, but there was a point when I was working on my Redd Foxx Junior License. When I was in high school, I went from one extreme to the other. There were some months when I would rather burn my lips than let a cuss word come out, and then there were some other months when I sounded like that Bernie Mac routine at the end of Kings of Comedy, saying the word "motherfucker" 32 times a minute. Now a lot of people I know call cuss words "bad" or "vulgar." Vulgar is probably more appropriate, since it literally means "of the people." Like I said before, it all depends on the context, but for everyday usage, I think "shit" is much better than its latinate alter-ego, "feces/defecate." If you step in a pile of doggie poo on the sidewalk, which one works better? "Shiiiit." or "Feeceees." Part of the value is that it's monosyllabic, which makes it ideal as a reactive interjection. The other value is that "shit" can fill so many parts of speech. Just like Magic Johnson could play all five spots on the floor, "shit" can fill almost every part of speech. Once in a discussion, somebody asked me whether I thought Jesus would've said "shit" - or whatever the equivalent was in his language. It's hard to guess because the difference between "shit" and "feces" or "spit" and "expectorate" is purely class-based. The words we regard as "right" or "proper" only have that value because the people who used them were in control of the society at that time. Had the Anglo-Saxons been running things, "feces" would be the "bad" word. I know Jesus wouldn't have cursed, but I don't know that "shit" is really a curse. Saying that is not condemning anybody or anything. It's just a word for a bodily function and the substance created by said function. So while I'm hesitant to say that he would have said it, I can't say that he wouldn't have. Anybody got any thoughts on the linguistic aspects of this question? (i.e., don't give me "Jesus wouldn't have said "shit" because "shit" is a bad word. The word's connotative value is arbitrarily assigned, so at that time it may not have