Or the N E D for the 21 Century
That cat is bad(d)
How you be (question)
If you think what you have just read is slang and slang only, think again. It could be poetry, but its not that either. These are all dictionary entries in some of the newer and less mainstream dictionaries. Our newer dictionaries have included what we once called “street”. Meaning the tongue that was spoken on street corners and private social events. Not any longer. The question we must ask is, why has ‘formal American English, gone the way of the 15 cent slice of pizza, or the 5 cents cigar, and is that a good thing?
As our society has become more inclusive, other cultures we have welcomed into our mainstream have contributed a variety of languages and metaphors with far different rhyme and meter that once was the case . These cultures are leaving their mark and getting credit for it. The important words here are ‘getting credit’. Think of music, dance, sports, design, business, and even a President. Where has that credit been for the African American culture?
Certainly we are not painting a picture of an ideal society, but in reality when the squeaky wheels have been greased a lot of good gets done. Although most of the news reporting is on the negative side, if you look you’ll be amazed how many advances we’ve made in equality, justice and civil respect. We now have laws protecting our civil, social and racial integrity. We have made strides in caring for the poor and the elderly, we have programs to feed and house the homeless, we have people who are “otherly abled” now working and learning in our culture, on the way to becoming valuable assets and model citizens.
(We are not saying we live in Utopia, but after all the harping and carping let’s look at some of the positives, so our collective blood pressure doesn’t blow through the roof.) And while we’re at it, let’s see what part language plays in creating this Global Culture we all crave.
It’s no longer a sign of superiority to speak what was once known as the ”king’s English”. Young people are growing into a new paradigm where parts of eastern and western thought, are designing how we communicate. The study of structural linguistics is offering various ideas about how we think and how we respond to others.
This is true in many cultures, not only our own. When Castro took over in Cuba, he changed the way workers spoke their superiors and the way their superiors answered back. The language actually brought equality, at least in verbal interactions. The ancient Hebrew language not spoken for thousands of years, when revived was a language not to be read in a Biblical text, but rather to be spoken on the bustling streets of Tel Aviv. The sounds are softer, and more conversational. Here in the USA Latin culture has created new rhythms and tones which we in the mainstream have quickly adopted
In our mainstream culture, only a handful of us literary nerds can still decipher anything from the earlier bard Geoffrey Chaucer’s middle English. We have adopted what was once “black speech”, into every day vernacular. This acceptance has created an atmosphere which includes all races and colors. We have appropriated words that not only take on new usages, but actual new meanings. Perfect example is the word ‘woke’. It now identifies a part of our culture that depending on which side of the fence you sit, has a distinct, often argued over meaning. For some it is enlightening, while for others, unfortunately it is horrifying.
Certainly the words with which we began this article have been totally appropriated into this culture. Hearing them on the streets is one thing but hearing them on the radio or TV is entirely another. What was once big city talk, now spreads its wings over Iowa, Kansas and the entire American Bread Basket.
Our job is to decide if this is a good thing or is it defaming the “King’s English” (If there really is such a thing in these colonies) to where it may be no longer recognizable! Is it forward looking, or disruptive….that decision rests in the hands (and mouths) of all of us.