Sunday, September 10, 2006

It occurs to me that, although I try to write academically, even in mediums such as blogs where it isn't entirely necessary, I speak very dialectically. I may have just invented that word - what I mean to say is that I don't speak the way I write. My speech has become a sort-of mashup of different dialects.

Earlier today I was showing my friend how to use her new coffee-maker, and towards the end of the demonstration I said, "Now we just have to wait for it done drip." I laughed when I heard myself - "That was good English," I remarked.

"It was," my friend replied. "You sound Trini."

I realized then how much my speech has been informed by my surroundings. I've clung to some of the midwestern turns of phrase I was raised with, such as the pronunciations of words such as "caramel" (three syllables, not two!) or "pecan" (it's pe-cahn). But some other words and varying grammatical usage has snuck in there, too. Some of it is very obvious to me - for example, I noticed firsthand how native Trinis don't use the words "her" or "him" - "She eating she food," they'll say. Interestingly enough, Jamaicans are the same with the words "she" and "he."

So into my speech have crept words in different languages or different yet still acceptable ways of speaking, and I think it's a direct result of living in New York City. I mean, I live in the most diverse area of the western hemisphere, which is not only expressed in the demographics of my neighborhood and university, but also in the demographics of my apartment - among myself and my two flatmates we speak three languages fluently. Because of this, I've begun "adopting" some of their words without even realizing it (the word in particular I've started using more often is que, although I usually use it with English adjectives - "que nice!").

I used to mentor at an elementary school in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and for a while all of the kids gravitated towards me more so than all the other tutors. I asked them why, and one of them said, "You don't talk white, like the others." I didn't quite understand their meaning until they began mimicking the other tutors in exaggerated ways - it was not only a difference in language, but a difference in tone.

Anyway, what it all boils down to is this - I really need to cut back on the coffee. I can't be up at all hours during the semester.

That's not really what it all boils down to, but since I can't quite figure it out for myself yet, I'm going to have to leave this post with a cliffhanger ending.


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