Language That Doesn't Front
As every child ascends the not-so-prestigious ranks of elementary school – seriously, do you remember anything you learned in those six years (or five for some of you overachievers) except for math – they are taught the fundamental structure of our language. English is so important in our country that most schools don’t even bother offering a second language until the spongelike makeup of kids’ brains have dried up at around age 14. In place of that, people of the black community have made sure to instill another language into the minds of their kids – their language. And what an incredible one it is.
Similarly to how those hailing from East Asia tend to omit articles from their sentences, ebonics tends to get rid of verbs. If I wanted to express the fact that you are indeed tripping, I’d likely say you trippin’ as opposed to the unnecessarily long you are tripping. The quarter-second that’s saved by using the former utter-ation (see what I did there) is probably enough to save someone’s life if they are literally tripping. And you know, they haven’t realized it yet.
They’ve made efforts to make English less confusing by eliminating the exceptions. We speak a language that doesn’t have a sexy conjugation system – for example, the verb ‘to go’ is the same in most of the six audiences you can target (I go, you go, he goes, we go, you all go, they go). Same for the verb ‘to be.’ To circumvent using up the iota of brainspace it would require to remember such an aberration, they just use the infinitive. So if their friends are figuratively tripping and they have the time to throw in an extra syllable, then they’d go with something like you be trippin’.
And they don’t stop at words: they rival Indians in cheapness when they start shaving off letters. Why ask someone a question when you can ax it to them? Unless of course, you have a weapon in your hand, in which case it could take on a different, darker meaning. The same is true of asterix, or g’s (short for grand), ‘ight (short for all right, which is pronounced even shorter, like ite), and popo (short for police, although those with Boston accents confuse it for Papa).
While you’re messing with the spelling of words, it’s completely plausible to mess with the meaning as well. Let clothes be threads, and to hell with the fact that clothes differ from threads in that they are sewn together. Let up be tied, as in the score is eight up meaning it’s 8-8 instead of the incredibly nonsensical “we’re up by eight.” Let a grudge be beef, money be bread, and jewelry be ice, because nothing’s as tasty as misplaced emotions and a copper-zinc alloy! An exiting strut is clearly bouncing, and anything you want can be called flying. Er, fly.
But none of those truly capture the sheer mastery of the language that’s at stake here. ‘Do you know what I mean’ – six words, six distinct words with meanings of equal importance. Nahmean? The reason it’s so important – and that the rest of us are missing out on it – is that it allows users to harness control over the language, adapt it how they will, and speak it with a degree of confidence so high that the rest of us can’t help but understand it. And that’s what makes it worth learning. Or at least worth making a Rosetta Stone CD for.