The firmness of Obama’s speech surprised me. Obama’s a badass.
“Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”
John McWhorter suggests that some of its power comes from Obama’s use of ‘Black [American] English’.
Even more provocatively “what makes Obama’s linguistic repertory especially resonant as an American phenomenon is that he speaks Black English as a second language.”
Obama’s frontin’. Or rather, he has adopted elements of a resonant popular culture as part of his persona. In some sense, this is the opposite hip-hop’s crude appropriation of (or capitulation to) the suit.
Meanwhile, Biden’s been overlooked. He’s an eloquent speaker, an estimable character and a smart oke. And he looks good. Though I worry Jill Biden looks a little too red and too bronzed.
I have no idea what you and John McWhorter
are talking about regarding President Obama and his so called “black english”. The Republic is an ultra conservative publication, so there is no wonder that they would cast Mr. Obama’s words as a mix of “black english” and standard english. Since when did the Republic become an authority on “black english”?
Mr. Obama’s speech is mainstream without the hint of “black english” in official matters. As a U.S. resident, I have heard him speak on a number of occasions and I can not recall any spate of “black english” speaking by him.
I thing it might be worthwhile for you to find an authority on “black english” before you come to the wrong conclusions about speech patterns.
I agree with Malik — not exactly sure what you meant by Obama’s “black English”. Which words and idioms would serve as an example?
John McWhorter has a PhD in linguistics and writes extensively about race. That doesn’t mean that he’s right, but it does make him as good a candidate to be an ‘authority’ as anyone else. For what it’s worth, he is also an African American.
I have misgivings about his piece, but I think there might be something to the idea that the cadences of Obama’s speech took something from the rhetoric of an African American reverend (in addition to the proceedings of the Harvard Debate Council).
While rap artists are looking more and more like any other consumer (but hyper-successful, and therefore dominant, versions) Obama is loosening the terms of rhetorical acceptability at the highest level (from inside his restrained suit).
Note, by the way, that McWhorter is not expressing a genetic component to language (which would be straightforwardly objectionable) but about a cultural component (which is still controversial). A distinction that, amongst America’s younger generations, is becoming blurred, largely because of hip-hop’s influence. My worry is what hip-hop is doing with that influence.
What is ‘Black English’?
‘black english’= ebonics
Ebonics = coined by black intellects and represents a view of the language of Black people as African rather than European or can be used in reference to the collective languages of the African diaspora
Nothing offensive about the term guys. Lets all back off slowly from Simon’s head, k!
Slowly backing off Simon’s head. I am now at the neck, and here I will stay.
African American Vernecular English?
I agree Obama has brought black english to the mainstream, you would have to understand a Little bit of Linguistics and NLP.
Neuro linguistic programming? natural language programming?