Archive for the ‘Language and race’ Category

Food and sex for the 4th

July 6, 2018

Running a bit late, but here are four (US) Independence Day items: two pieces of watermelon news (just food); phallic hot dogs (food and sex); and a go-to guy for holiday gay porn (just sex). The last two items involve men’s bodies and mansex discussed in street language, so aren’t suitable for everyone.

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punks

May 30, 2018

Or: new adventures in sexuality slurs. Brought to my attention by “Is Punk the New F Word?: The word has been used to bully gay black boys for decades” by Charles Stephens in The Advocate issue for June/July 2018:

… Of all the homophobic slurs thrown around, being called a punk is the one I recall the most vividly. It cut the deepest. I don’t remember the first time I was called a punk, but I do remember the faces of those who hurled the curse my way. I can still see how their mouths contorted as they pronounced the slur and the contagion that followed — poisonous words polluting the air, followed by the deafening silence of teachers and other adults watching passively. I learned two things from this: (1) adults don’t want to be punks either, and (2) you can fight back or run away, but no one will protect you.


(#1) Bikini boys: punks defiantly giving off “In yo’ face, bitch!”

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Bits of culture

March 29, 2018

… and truncated expressions. From Sam Anderson’s “New Sentences” column in the NYT Magazine on the 20th (on-line) and 25th (in print), “From Morgan Parker’s ‘There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé’”, about ‘Summertime and the living is extraordinarily difficult’:

Every culture is a vast carpet of interwoven references: clichés, fables, jingles, lullabies, warnings, jokes, memes. To be a part of that culture means that it only takes a few words, the tiniest head fake, to set your mind racing along a familiar track. You can lead a horse to. There once was a man from. When the moon hits your eye. If you liked it then you shoulda.

One trick of art is to constantly invoke — and then manipulate and complicate — these familiar mental scripts. The artist sets your mind on a well-worn road, and then, just as you settle into that automatic groove, yanks you suddenly in another direction. It’s the same trick as a crossover dribble. Great art is always, if you will, breaking your mind’s ankles.

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Talking Black in America, West Coast

February 11, 2018

Tomorrow’s signal linguistic event at Stanford:

(#1)

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Injurious language (and the Lawrence family)

May 21, 2017

Working to clear out four more file drawers of accumulated papers (more recycling fodder, to follow on many dozens of file drawers of stuff that have already been sacrificed to the Great Recycler), I came across a print-out of a 1991 posting “Injurious language” to the Usenet newsgroup soc.motss. Still, I think, entirely relevant — and it takes us to a fascinating set of people connected to Chuck Lawrence (Charles R. Lawrence III).

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Audiences

May 21, 2017

Two recent cartoons, a One Big Happy in which the grandmother copes with black street speech with an app for her audience; and a Doonesbury in which marijuana companies tailor their products and their advertising for gay and black audiences.

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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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