Thursday, March 17, 2005

Fuck the Grammar Police

You just know I had to say more about the article by Clyde Haberman, which got Pound for Pound quite upset. It saddens me to read in the year 2005 a piece criticizing hip-hop and urban youth for bad grammar, an article that has little purpose other than to show how poorly black people speak and denigrate hip-hop as a joke. Is this what passes for good opinion writing today? The New York Times cannot find a fucking writer who can write eloquently about the most important cultural movement of the last 25 years. The only thing worth mentioning in hip-hop is the Lil' Kim trial and 50 Cent-Game beef? Pathetic.

It's amusing to read a writer writing about New York City upset over bad grammar. Haberman clearly has his ear to the streets, as everyone in the five boroughs speaks like an Oxford professor. Hell, the North American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, Jesse Sheidlower, says that rap grammar "is grammatically interesting," and that "it's not random, and it's not sloppy." NYC, perhaps more than anywhere in the world, is a laboratory for language, a home to a multitude of languages and dialects, all of which add and mutate the English spoken. There is no language Eden, and this upsets the elitists and regressives that make up the conservative movement.

It puts me in mind of the furor over ebonics from a few years ago, when every conservative and idiot at the National Review suddenly became a linguist. It amazes me how they care so much for the speech patterns of minorities and poor people, but the lives and neighborhoods of these same people are none of their concern. It also amazes me how deaf these critics are to the actual findings of linguists, who have been arguing for years that there is no perfect English. Does anyone still believe in the linguistic purists like who have been so thoroughly discredited? [See here and here for the views of those who studied this issue, as opposed to those looking to make cheap points on the backs of the minorities and the poor]

For those preparing their witty "Pound for Pound is too sensitive" or "I hate you P.C. police pussies", explain to me the point of the final lines in the article:

For his part, Mr. Cent had trouble reading a prepared statement. Maybe it was because the words were spelled right.

I imagine that some will try to come up with a rationale, but let's not kid ourselves. Haberman is postulating that 50 Cent is an idiot, borderline illiterate. This piece is just another attack on young, black males, following up on those of accused sexual predator Bill Cosby, on the poor, on youth culture and on the cities. It's sad that this is the best writing that the NY Times, paper of record, can find about one of the greatest cities on earth.

No comments: