“What are you trying to say?”
By: Jordyn Randall
“Hand me that jawn right there” I said.
“ What does that word mean?” My new classmate asked.
Starting in the sixth grade, I went to a middle school in the suburbs, Havertown to be exact. Before that, I went to Overbrook Elementary in West Philadelphia. This school was mostly black when I was in pre-school and kindergarten, but as the years went on we became more diverse. Either way, everybody was from the same area so everybody spoke the same. I was very comfortable.
During my first year in my middle school it took a while for me to get adjusted to this new environment, and the way they spoke. Having previously come from a city grade school, I wasn’t entirely comfortable and was often misunderstood. I used slang words that were common for me, but were different to my classmates, like a foreign language. Words like “salty”, “drawlin” and “jawn”. They hadn’t heard words like these before, so when I used them they were confused and would stare at me with confused faces. I would have to stop what I was saying and explain the word. They too, also used words or phrases that I couldn’t understand, I would ask what they meant. Phrases like “ You just got owned” , were new to me, but were apart of everyone elses daily conversation. I would also laugh at them when they said things like this because I thought they sounded like weirdos. Then it thought maybe they thought the same thing about me.
“ Scott, look at you being salty.”
“ Oh now you gonna start using my words.”
In the beginning we had to explain to each other what we were trying to say, but eventually we started talking more and they started using the words that I used.
Things changed again when I transitioned to high school.
“ GOOD JOB SYMONE!!”
“Why do you sound like that?”
“ Like what?”
“A little kid.”
“I don’t know?”
When I left my middle school and came to SLA a lot people told me that I sounded like a nerd and a little kid. During basketball games and practices, I would cheer for my team or call a play and people would always say I sound like a little kid. I’d always reply: “Oh well I cant help the way I talk it’s better than talking like an old woman.”
My sister always mocked me jokingly in a nerd voice.
“I want some cookies.” I said.
“I want some cookies.” said Martina in a high squeaky voice like Urkel.
I never thought that I really sounded much like a nerd. That is until i heard my voice recorded, and wondered “who is that??”. I always sounded totally different in my head. I always thought my voice was deeper than the way everybody described it.
“Why every time I bring up boxing, a white man always gotta bring up Rocky Mashiana...Rocky Mashiana, Rocky Mashiana.” I said.
“HA HA HA HA HA HA...Jor why you say it like that?” said Martina.
“Because that’s how he sound when he says it.” said Jordyn.
Sometimes I like my voice because I say certain sentences funny from movies, from singing a song or just while having a conversation. I like it because I love making people laugh.
“Hello my name is Jordyn Randall and I am here to talk about Teen Topics.” I said in class one day.
“Let’s play it back” said Ms. Dunn.
“EWWWWWWW I sound nasty on record, I hate my voice.” I said.
There are times I don’t like my voice like when I hear my self on record, and It sounds like a high pitch and squeaky nerdy voice. It doesn’t affect me that much but it does bother me just a little.
My relationship between language and power is that language has a lot to do with power by what you say and how you say it. I think me personally, it has to do with power because of the fact that my voice is so high and squeaky nobody will listen to me compared to someone with a much stronger, deeper and more demanding voice.
My language may tell a lot of people where I’m from because only certain cities say certain words. In Chicago they say “gunnin” which means to be joking on somebody, in Atlanta they say “juke joint” which is a dance club in Atlanta and in Philly we say “jawn” which is a object. So you can tell a lot about where a person is from just by their accent and the words they use.
“It goes without saying then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is most vivid and crucial key to identity: It reveals the private identity and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity. There have been, and are, times, and places, when to speak a certain language could be dangerous, even fatal. Or, one may speak the same language, but in such a way that one’s antecedents are revealed, or (ones hopes) hidden.”- “If Black Isn’t a Language Then Tell Me What Is” By James Baldwin.
I agree a lot with this quote because language is a political instrument, there are certain things you have to say and theres a certain way you have to say it. For example, the president, wouldn’t be the president if he didn’t say the right things, like speaking correct english and talking in a demanding but nice tone. I think it also does have a lot to do with your identity, it’s sad to say but people can tell a lot about you by the way you talk. You can tell by your accents so they know what part of the world your from, the way you say certain words or the grammer you use, so they know what social class your in. I also agree that it can be dangerous to use a certain language or talking a certain way can be dangerous. If you go to another town they may make fun of the way you talk or they may not like the way you talk because they don’t like the place where your from so that could be dangerous. It can also be the same for languages.
With your language or the way you speak "You have confessed your parents, your youth, your school, your salary, your self-esteem, and, alas, your future.” - If Black Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is? By James Baldwin.