Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jive Speakers Wanted

You may remember this memorable scene from the hysterical movie Airplane! (one of my all-time favorite movies):



Pretty funny, especially for those of us who are actual, no-kidding, linguistics majors.

Actually, though, it's not quite as funny as you think. According to this article, forwarded to me by my daughter, the Drug Enforcement Administration is seeking translators who speak 114 different languages, including Ebonics, to help interpret hours of conversations caught on wiretaps during criminal investigations.

Ebonics, a word coined from the combination of ebony and phonics, represents an attempt to capture the distinctive linguistic structure and vocabulary of black American English. When the term was introduced in 1973, it was derided as an attempt to give stature to poorly-spoken English filled with obscenities and street slang, but by 1996, it had gained formal recognition by the Oakland, California school district as a dialect of American English. Many linguists, however, prefer not to use the term because of the political baggage it carries, preferring to refer to the dialect as "African-American Vernacular English." Regardless of the term used, it represents an attempt to capture a version of English used not just by blacks, but also by whites and Latinos. "It crosses over geographic, racial and ethnic backgrounds," according to Walt Wolfram, a professor of English linguistics at North Carolina State University quoted in the news article linked above.

So...

Whatever you call it - Ebonics, Jive, or African-American Vernacular English - Barbara Billingsley was a lady ahead of her time. Remember her the next time you apply for a job with the DEA that may require you to note that some "jive-ass dude don't got no brains anyhow, hmpf!"

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

7 comments:

Bandit said...

I heard about this, but that's not important now. Surely, you made a great analogy with Barbara (June Cleaver).

Bilbo said...

I HAVE made a great analogy. And don't call me Shirley.

Mike said...

I didn't hear about this. Or, maybe I did but didn't understand.

John said...

What's our vector, Victor?

Bilbo said...

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking...

KathyA said...

Love that scene -- love that movie!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I love that movie...I picked the wrong day to give up....