DEA: We Can’t Understand a Ne’er-nudda Word

In case you haven’t heard, we’ve been at war for some time now.  No, not in the middle east.  I’m talking about the war on drugs.  I’ll leave you to decide which never-ending battle is the bigger drain on our national balance sheet, but at least one of those wars is creating jobs!  CNN reported yesterday that the DEA is looking to hire professional Ebonics translators to help decode the slang used by drug traffickers.

The agency [needs] nine people to translate conversations picked up on wiretaps during investigations, Special Agent Michael Sanders said Tuesday. A solicitation was sent to contractors as part of a request to companies to provide hundreds of translators in 114 languages. “DEA’s position is, it’s a language form we have a need for,” Sanders said. “I think it’s a language form that DEA recognizes a need to have someone versed in to conduct investigations.”

Umm, so how do I apply? I’m a bit of a wannabe linguist, and we all know I’m a fan of Lil Wayne.  His language is more complex than any of these guys shouting their nonsense on the street skreet.  Weezy’s like the freaking Rosetta Stone of Ebonics.  Regardless of the DEA’s actual need for translators (how the hell do you “cook rocks“?), there’s somewhat of an academic debate about whether or not Ebonics is a legitimate language.

For [Washington University professor John] Baugh, all languages or dialects are “fundamentally equal.” Ebonics is a dialect spoken by slave descendants who live in many countries and don’t speak just English, he said. Its early speakers were enslaved, isolated from other speakers of their language and denied access to formal education, Baugh said.

“Because it has a set of rules that is distinct from those of standard American English, characterizations of the variety as bad English are incorrect,” the center said. “Speakers of AAE do not fail to speak standard American English, but succeed in speaking African American English.”

Yyyyyeaaaaaa, I don’t know if I’d go that far, buddy.  That’s like saying that Creationism isn’t retarded, it’s just a different view formed by people that don’t have formal educations because they’re homeschooled and taught to believe that science is the devil.  So spare me the political correctness.  I mean it really is just broken English by definition: do you think those slaves spoke Ebonics when they were brought over here from Africa? They picked up bits and pieces and did their best to fill in the rest.  How can the result be called anything but a butchered version of the original? Now there’s pretty much at least one community in every major city across the country that consciously chooses to speak Ebonics instead of standard American English, no longer because they’re denied the right to learn English, but because of that “distinct set of rules” you mentioned: 1. talk like the man, get your ass kicked.

And I wouldn’t go around flaunting a “Successful African American English speaker” award, my man.  Ebonics obviously has a certain artistic use in music, but “succeeding” at slang in everyday speech seems kind of like being the tallest midget, or in my case the smartest chimp.  Yea (correct blog-speak for “yes”) it’s evolved quite a bit over the past few generations, but so have people.  And the influential ones have no use for it.



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