What’s the BUZZ Word?

MONDAY 11/7/2016 – “RACE”

Race is such a difficult concept for us to get our heads around.  Partly because it is socially constructed, but as I’ve said before, socially constructed or not, race matters.  Some of us are okay with stating that we are Black or White or Asian.  Some of us don’t know, understand, or care which race to identify with.  What about my friend’s kids whose mother is of Filipino American background and a father who is of Jewish American background, what race do they fall under? Some of us would prefer to be called only by our ethnic heritage.  But for those of you who are curious:

Race: refers to a group of people who have similarities in physical (i.e., phenotypical) traits (e.g., skin complexion, hair texture) that are deemed by society as socially significant

Under this definition, people from America who identify as African American are the same race as people from Nigeria, as some people from Panama, as some people from Jamaica, etc. — mainly, people from all of these backgrounds who resemble each other physically would be categorized as Black.

Same as grouping some people who are from Spain, or Americans and Canadians of European descent, even some people who are from parts of North Africa, etc. — researchers and governments currently identify the race of such persons as White or Caucasian.   HOWEVER, then you will hear that some people from North Africa consider themselves Caucasian of African descent.

ARGH!

It’s such a complex subject.  The government wants to label race one way.  People want to identify their race another way.  Society deems race yet another way.

Here’s what I say.  For those of you who like to say we are all of the same race, the Human race…well, I applaud you for your Utopian mindset.  But…

1) I, for one, like the differences that exist within our species (it’s the discrimination of these differences that’s the problem!)

and

2) please understand that if your physical appearance is different from someone else’s, especially when it comes to phenotypical traits like skin complexion and hair texture, then you and that other person walk very differently in this world and as a result have had very different experiences.

And that matters.

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MONDAY 10/10/16 – “DIALECT”

Somehow we as Americans don’t really understand what a “dialect” actually is.  I’ve spoken with people from other countries and they have a much better grasp of what it means to speak a language in a variety of ways.  I think the best concepts we Americans can seem to wrap our heads around are the Boston dialect or someone having a Southern accent.  We are aware that people *do speak different ways, but we ignorantly assume that these other ways are wrong, uneducated ways. So let me me make it very clear here…a dialect is:

a variety of a language that is distinguished from other varieties of the same language by features of phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, and by its use by a group of speakers who are set off from others geographically or socially

Another definition that should help is that a dialect is:

a systematic, rule-governed way of speaking.  RULE-GOVERNED people!

African American English/Ebonics is a dialect.  Chicano English is a dialect.

It’s not just any ole willy nilly way of speaking.  There are rules.  It is systematic.

Got it?

Good. :)

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MONDAY 9/27/16 – “PIDGIN” 

I think that so many of us use language so easily that we don’t truly understand the nuances and mechanisms behind such linguistic feats.  We often think that there is usually one correct way to speak and for those who do not speak that way, they are “less than” in some way.  This kind of thinking of “less than” of “deficient” usually concerns people who have a language disorder or for people who do not speak the mainstream dialect or language.  This kind of thinking is also the result of the purest definition of ignorance in my opinion, people just don’t know.

Pidgin is an example of a way of speaking that many people in the masses find as random or haphazard, and the people who speak it are regarded in low prestige.  When in fact, it’s another systematic way to effectively communicate.

I asked my friend who has a background in linguistics to give me a concise definition of “pidgin” -here’s what he told me:

“a simplified version of a language used for communication among speakers of different languages who only have common access to that language.”

So, if one group of people speak language x and another group of people speak language Y and the two groups of people want to communicate together, then a pidgin forms as a way so that communication can happen effectively.

That’s simply brilliant.

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MONDAY 9/12/16 – “THEY”

In writing, lovely grammar elitists despise when someone writes a sentence using “they” versus a form of “he or she”.

For example, “A kindergartner should always know his or her address.”

But guess what? That’s annoying and impratical IMHO.

So, thanks to the Dialect Society of America, it is now official (meaning you have some evidence to back up why are using it), “they” can be used as gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, particularly as a nonbinary identifier.

Olde definition =

1) used to refer to two or more people or things previously mentioned or easily identified. “the two men could get life sentences if they are convicted”

2) used to refer to a person of unspecified sex (okay, so clearly it was always being used this way by the masses, it’s just those damn elitists wouldn’t accept it)

NEW definition use of they: “A kindergartner should always know their address.”

You’re welcome!