Archive for the ‘Language and race’ Category

Roll, Brittania

February 23, 2017

A piece in the NYT on the 20th, by Steven Erlanger, under the head

British Snobbery Still Found In Paychecks, a Report Says [in print]

Hear This: Class Pay Gap in Britain Shows Snobbery Persists [on-line]

To a (very) rough approximation: in the UK, the most significant social fact about a person, the thing you register first about them, is their class; in the US, it’s their race. What follows from this is that the most powerful forms of social discrimination in the UK are based on class, in the US on race. And while some advances have been made in reducing the baleful effects of these types of discrimination in both places, the fact is that great and shameful social disparities, seriously disadvantaging the disfavored groups, persist (and fuel angry backlash towards the favored groups). In particular, Britannia rolls on in her disdain for the working class, and the first and easiest signal of class identity (though not the only such signal) is language.

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Kadir Nelson

July 13, 2016

The cover of the most recent New Yorker, “A Day at the Beach” by Kadir Nelson:

(#1)

Françoise Mouly’s “cover story” from the 4th (in its entirety):

“I grew up close to the shore, and I have always loved spending time at the beach,” the Los Angeles-based artist Kadir Nelson says of his cover for this week’s issue. “When I was young it meant time with my dad, and now that I’m a father myself I relish the long summer days spent with my own children.”

Mouly and Nelson together are deliberately framing the painting as just another depiction of Americans enjoying summer pleasures, of the sort the magazine has done many dozens of over the years. And so it is. But of course it shows a black (or, as Nelson himself would prefer, Black) man and his children enjoying the beach — and in this season of Black Lives Matter, it’s a powerful assertion of the humanity of Black people. In this context, Nelson’s cover is a political statement, entirely in line with the bulk of his work, which affirms the dignity of Black people and celebrates their heroisms.

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Constructing a Voice of Authority through Persona

June 19, 2016

A highlight of Stanford’s graduation last Sunday for me was Andrea Lawson Kortenhoven’s “walking through” our departmental ceremony for her PhD in Linguistics, tentative title above. Something personal for me, since I had the pleasure of encouraging Angi when she was a BA student in Spanish at Ohio State (graduating 1995), before coming to Stanford. Her husband Matthew and their four kids were there to cheer her on; I wasn’t able to make it, but I was cheering.

First, a photo (courtesy of Lelia Glass) of Angi with her immediate academic family — her thesis advisers, sociolinguists Penny Eckert and John Rickford — then Penny’s summary of the dissertation, and then some remarks on Angi’s academic regalia in the photo (in black, green, gold, and red).

  (#1)

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Declaring your race

July 1, 2015

In the NYT on the 28th, this piece, “Driven by Love or Ambition, Slipping Across the Color Line Through the Ages” by Rachel L. Swarns, about white people who have declared themselves to be black, with a photo captioned:

Clarence King, a Yale-educated white man who worked as a geologist in the 1800s and dined at the White House, lived a secret life as James Todd, a black train porter with a wife and five children in Brooklyn.

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Allusion

April 15, 2015

In Kevin Young’s April 12th NYT review of The Sellout by Paul Beatty, a comic novel on black life on the outskirts of Los Angeles:

There are more mentions of the N-word than on a Sigma Alpha Epsilon field trip. But like early Richard Pryor, Beatty seems to wish to take the word out of the shadows

The reclaiming of nigger is certainly of note, but this posting is about the allusion, to a Sigma Alpha Epsilon field trip. Either you get it or you don’t; it’s not something you can figure out.

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Santa Claus’s helpers

December 15, 2014

Imagine a place with a holiday custom that Santa Claus is accompanied by one or more helpers whose tasks are to amuse children and to scatter Christmas candies to those who come to meet St. Nicholas as he visits stores, schools, and other places: elves, in effect. Sweet custom, right? But now suppose the helpers look like this:

Whoa!

There is such a place, the Low Countries of Europe, especially the Netherlands, and these guys are Zwarte Pieten ‘Black Peters’, currently the center of controversy in the Netherlands.

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Taking it Black

November 28, 2014

Though Black Friday isn’t actually named for Blacks (see this posting), that doesn’t stop the purveyors of gay porn from putting the Black into Black Friday, as in image #2 in this AZBlogX posting.

Absolutely X-rated, not for the kiddies or the sexually modest.

Annals of etymythology: to pass for

November 26, 2014

In a Harper’s Magazine review (Dec. 2014, pp. 84-6) of Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life (Harvard) by Joshua Cohen, we read about the sad history of “black” people passing as “white”, with a story about the origin of the usage:

The term “passing” seems to come from the passes that slaves had to carry, which allowed them to visit their relatives on other plantations or when they were rented out for day labor.

Lexicographers and linguists will immediately smell a rat: the story is detailed and grounded in a very specific piece of history (and so is attractive to many people). But it’s only too specific: in fact, the usage is quite general, not restricted to blacks passing for whites, or to situations where some sort of pass is involved. Cohen’s account looks like an etymythology (aka mythetymology).

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