Blacks Can Move In and Out of Ghetto Behaviors

A commenter asks if Blacks switch back and forth between Ebonics or AAVE (African American Vernacular English):

Do a lot of black Americans switch between dialects depending on their audience?

Oh yeah! One of the young women in the Blacks 🙁 post (the one holding the baby in the first anecdote), well, I know her just a bit. She’s really pretty nice, and she’s good friends with this one heavy set White young woman. She’s really quiet and nice around her White friend. She also hangs out with some others I know, mixed Hispanics, Blacks and Whites. She’s really quiet, nice and normal when she’s around them. She doesn’t act ghetto at all. It’s just that that one young Black women she was with (the one with the young boy and young girl) – she can be pretty ghetto at times. So it’s like the nice Black girl goes into ghetto mode when she’s around the ghetto chick. I gave these two young Black women a ride a while back. My neighbor and her friend. They were doing some shopping and didn’t have a car. The friend had her 3 very young boys with her, nice, sweet, quick, intelligent boys. The two women were speaking the most insane Ebonics the whole time, and it may as well have been Greek to me. It sounded like they were mumbling plus their mouths were full of marbles. You could barely make out a word of it. After three straight hours, I wasn’t hearing it any better. But every now and then I would turn around and talk to them, and they would switch totally out of Ebonics and speak absolutely proper and normal well-spoken English. It was weird, like they were switching between 2 different languages. A lot of them can basically turn it on and turn it off, you know. That’s why I don’t buy that there’s some gene forcing them to act this way all the time.

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11 thoughts on “Blacks Can Move In and Out of Ghetto Behaviors”

    1. Given his upbringing, I would be very surprised if Obama spoke AAVE with much fluency. On the campaign trail he certainly switched the accent of his otherwise standard English based on the ethnicity of the crowd, but all politicians do this. For example, white Republicans will often switch into more “redneck”-like English pronunciation when speaking to their core constituencies.

      1. For that matter, almost everyone code-switches some aspect of their idiolect based on who they are interacting with. Code-switching (both inter and intra-language) actually is a very interesting linguistic phenomenon, as it affects every aspect of speech, from prosody to phonetics to lexicon to syntax.

        1. I can do this and use to do it all the time. It was more about comfort and fitting into both worlds. Remember: many CBCs usually have to exist in both GBC and White Culture every single day so this becomes a natural in-and-out type of thing (almost like swerving between lanes in a car). Keep in mind too, some GBCs know how to code switch as well, they just choose not to do it ever (very dumb move).
          Now that I don’t live in a GBC neighborhood, I almost never do it now and feel a little silly when I do even if I have to go back to the GBC neighborhood for family reasons or interact with GBC folks on occasion. My speech is now consistent CBC and whoever doesn’t like it just has to deal with it. I guess because I no longer care about their approval anymore. My wife and I always speak to each other in CBC fashion and my children have never heard GBC language spoken – ever.
          The funny thing when code switching used to be when you were walking down the street with someone from the GBC or White Culture and bumped into someone from the other culture. Now a choice had to be made!!! CBC always won out for me and I just got ridiculed by the GBC person for “Talking/Acting White” or “Using school words”

    2. I’ve seen Clinton do it(both Clintons) as well as Al Gore do it when talking to black audiences. Not that they are speaking ebonics, but they try to talk with this sort of jive in their tonation. Kind of like the way Tim Wise talks. Then when around whites, they speak like regular white people.

      1. >I’ve seen Clinton do it(both Clintons) as well as Al Gore do it when talking to black audiences.
        Do you think when white politicians do it it is perceived by blacks negatively (i.e., in a patronizing sense) or positively (i.e., appealing to the broader black oratory tradition)?

        1. I find it patronizing myself, but it doesn’t ruin my day either. Politicians will be politicians and they are in the business of trying to be all things to all people when it’s election time.

      2. Yeah, I’ve noticed that when speaking in front of non-white audiences, Tim often resorts to black preacher/ebonics cadences.
        Although I don’t know if it’s him necessarily being condescending and trying to fit in.
        I honestly think that he sees himself as a white martyr and savior, and feels that it’s his duty to preach the gospel.

  1. rosa, whats really sad is that this guy has 13,000 fans on Facebook. thats really a testament to the pervesiveness of PC left-wing extremism and anti-white hatred and thinking in this country. on the top of his website hes called “brilliant”. really? this man is a bigot and not a smart one either. thats why racist “people of color” love him. they think, well if we do this its just another angry minority, but if even a white guy says it, it must be valid. i would get a huge kick out of watching tim wise debate someone like Dinesh Dsouza, Larry Elder, Walter Williams, or Jesse Lee Peterson. you know, FOX or CNN or someone should really set that up, it would be hilarious.

  2. Actually, ebonics can be a disability, but where I live the Appalachian dialect of some people is incredibly difficult to understand. It would definitely be a block to them if they ever went into radio or television, I mean unless they are making some Duck Dynasty type show. But actually, those guys speak understandable English. But some Appalachians need sub-titles, as funny as that sounds.

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