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Chapter 6: Black on White (209-250). Black On White. The Story of English. By Don L. F. Nilsen Based on The Story of English By Robert McCrum, Robert MacNeil and William Cran (Penguin, 2003). West African Slave Trade (McCrum 198/214). The Slave Triangle.

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the story of english

The Story of English

By Don L. F. Nilsen

Based on The Story of English

By Robert McCrum, Robert MacNeil

and William Cran (Penguin, 2003)

33

the slave triangle
The Slave Triangle
  • England: Bristol & Liverpool = cheap cotton goods, trinkets, and Bibles
  • Africa: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast Slaves speaking Hausa, Wolof, Bulu, Bamoun, Temne, Asante, Twi, etc.) = Slaves
  • America: Charleston, SC & the Caribbean = tobacco, sugar, rum & molasses (McCrum 210)

33

pidgins creoles
Pidgins & Creoles
  • Pidgin is a simplification of the word business.
  • Creole comes from Portuguese crioulo meaning “house slave”
  • Other pidgin words in black English include pickaninny from Portuguese pequiño, and savvy from French savez-vous meaning “Do you know…”
  • In AAVE “He workin’” means that he is busy right now, but “He be workin’” means that he has a steady job.
  • Pidgin speakers also use “dey” and “de” for “they” and “the.”
  • (McCrum 212-216)

33

tense and aspect in aave
Tense and Aspect in AAVE
  • “Him go” means “He goes.”
  • “Him done go” means “He went.”
  • “Him binna go” mans “He was going.”
  • (McCrum 219)

33

language about the slave trade
Language about the Slave Trade
  • Blacks
  • Dozens
  • Negroes
  • Slave driver
  • Slave labor
  • To sell someone down the river (note that in Huckleberry Finn, Jim ran away to avoid being sold down the river, but ended up going down the river on his own, with Huck). (McCrum 228)

33

famous pidgin speakers
Famous Pidgin Speakers
  • Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s sidekick spoke pidgin.
  • Tarzen spoke pidgin.
  • Friday in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe spoke pidgin.
  • Uncle Tom in Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin spoke pidgin.
  • Uncle Remus in Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus Tales spoke pidgin. (McCrum 213 & 229)

33

brer rabbit and brer fox
Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox
  • “One day atter Brer Rabbit fool ‘im wid dat calamus root, Brer Fox went ter wuk en got ‘im some tar, en mix it wid some turpentine, en fix up a contrapshun wat he call a Tar-Baby, en tuck dish yer Tar-Baby en he sot ‘er in de big road, en den he lay off in de bushes fur ter see wat de news wuz gwinter be.” (McCrum 229)

33

joel chandler harris
Joel Chandler Harris
  • Joel Chandler Harris was not black. Mark Twain in fact describes Joel Chandler Harris not only as “white,” but also as “undersized, red-haired and somewhat freckled.”
  • This bothers many contemporary blacks.
  • However, he did have a good ear for language, as he continued (or exploited) the black story-telling tradition. (McCrum 229)

33

porgy and bess
Porgy and Bess
  • In 1915, Thomas Heyward and Ira Gershwin wrote the opera, Porgy and Bess.
  • One of the Gershwin pieces in this opera was “Rhapsody in Blue.”
  • In Porgy and Bess, Heyward and Gershwin tried to capture the culture and language of the Gullah-speaking Blacks.
  • For example, the laid-back Black blues rhythms can be heard in “Summertime.” (McCrum 233)

33

summertime
Summertime
  • “Summertime … an’ the livin’ is easy.
  • Fish are jumpin’ …an’ the cotton is high.
  • O yo’ Daddy’s rich … an’ yo’ Ma is good lookin’
  • So hush little baby … don’t yo’ cry.”
  • (McCrum 233)

33

the spread of aave part 1
The Spread of AAVE, Part 1
  • J. L. Dillard says that Southern Whites resent the charge that AAVE had a significant influence on white Southern English.
  • Dillard notes, however, that the Southern Dialect coincides perfectly with the Confederate States—the ones that practiced slavery. (McCrum 230-231)

33

the spead of aave part 2
The Spead of AAVE, Part 2
  • Black English became the language of entertainment:
  • Sports
  • Minstrel Shows
  • Vaudeville
  • Music Halls
  • The Stage
  • Night Clubs
  • Radios, and even
  • The Movies (McCrum 229, 238)

33

new orleans from 1870s on
New Orleans from 1870s on
  • Double Meanings
  • Covert Sexuality
  • Black Liberation
  • African Rhythms
  • Jazz, Scat, and Syncopated Rhythms
    • A musician who didn’t like to improvise was considered “up tight”
  • Jazz was “hot” and it was also “cool.”
  • (McCrum 236)

33

black sexual allusions
Black Sexual Allusions
  • Cookie
  • Cake
  • Pie
  • Angel Food Cake
  • Jelly roll (from Mandingo “jeli” which refers to “a minstrel who gains popularity with women through skill with words and music” (McCrum 237)

33

coded messages in negro spirituals
Coded Messages in Negro Spirituals
  • I ain’t never been to heaben but Ah been told,
  • Comin’ fuh to carry me home,
  • Dat de streets in heaben am paved wif gold,
  • Comin’ fuh to carry me home.
  • Swing low, sweet Chariot,
  • Comin’ fuh to carry me home.
  • Swing low, sweet Chariot,
  • Comin’ fuh to carry me home.
  • (McCrum 235)

33

in such spirituals
In such Spirituals…
  • “Steal away to Jesus” was an invitation to a gathering of slaves.
  • “Judgment Day” was the day of the slave uprising.
  • “Home, Canaan” was the Promised Land
  • “Heaven” meant Africa, and
  • “A-gwine to Glory” referred to the boarding of a repatriation ship bound for Africa. (McCrum 235)

33

inverted messages
Inverted Messages
  • As with the American Indians known as the “Contraries,” many AAVE words were antonyms of themselves.
  • Thus “ugly” meant “beautiful,”
  • And “bad” (pronounced baa-ad) meant “great,”
  • And both “fat” and “mean” meant “excellent.” (McCrum 237)

33

before and after the age of six
Before and After the Age of Six
  • Up to the age of about 6, Black & White children played together and learned together.
  • There were more Black children than White children.
  • All of the nursing was done by Black wet nurses so that Southern Belles could be Southern Belles.
  • But at the age of six, White boys (but not White girls) were sent to Northern boarding schools so as not to be influenced by Black speech.
  • (McCrum 231-232)

33

after the civil war
After the Civil War
  • “Civil Rights” became an issue.
  • In 1867 there were more Southern Blacks registered to vote than Whites.
  • “Jim Crow” laws were established to abridge the rights of blacks.
  • These laws led to “segregation” and a “separate but equal” education. Blacks who didn’t believe in these laws were considered “uppity.”
  • (McCrum 233-234)

33

civil rights in 1963
Civil Rights in 1963
  • People started talking about “civil rights.”
  • The word “black” replaced the words “negro,” “nigger,” and “colored.”
  • “Black history,” “black studies,” “black theatre,” and “black power” became issues.
  • “Sit-ins,” “blood brothers,” “soul,” “backlash” “bussing” “take the rap,” “the hood”and “nitty gritty” became indispensable English words.

33

slide28
The best talker of a gang was known as “the prince” and this gave us the name for the sit com, “The Fresh Prince of Belle Aire.”
  • “Funky fresh” means excellent.
  • “Crib” is your house.
  • “Maxing (out)” means “relaxing.”
  • “Chill” is a cold shoulder.
  • “Biting” is copying, and
  • “jonesing something” means to want it really badly (from the expression “keeping up with the Jones”). (McCrum 248)

33

whites also adopt jive and hip language
Whites Also Adopt Jive and Hip Language
  • This same jive and hip black language was also supported by white performers such as the Beatles in England, and the Beat generation in the United States.
  • (McCrum 243)

33

martin luther king 1963 and black preacher talk
Martin Luther King (1963) and Black Preacher Talk
  • “I say to you today…that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream…
  • I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood...
  • I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin…

33

slide33
!Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York…
  • When we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children,
  • Black men and White men,
  • Jews and Gentiles,
  • Protestants and Catholics,
  • will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last, Free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last!
  • (McCrum 246)

33

powerpoints
!!PowerPoints
  • African-American Contrastive Analysis
  • African-American Humor

33

guest lecturer if possible
!!!Guest Lecturer if Possible
  • Neal Lester is the Chair of the English Department. He is excellent in discussing black language play, and is an excellent code shifter. He is especially good at “preacher talk.”
  • I’ll try to get him as a guest lecturer if possible.

33

works cited
Works Cited

Marckwardt, Albert H, revised by J. L. Dillard. American English, Second Edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1980.

McCrum, Robert, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil. The Story of English. New York, NY: Penguin, 1986. (source of map citations)

McCrum, Robert, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil. The Story of English: Third Revised Edition. New York, NY: Penguin, 2003. (source of text citations)

33