Thats Wicked Cool
Language is a big part of communication. Over time, people have changed and created their own words. I remember a couple years ago on my annual visit to Massachusetts, I was talking to my cousins who live up there.
“Look at this shirt I got today.”
“Woah, that is Wicked cool!”
“Wicked?” I questioned. I had never heard anyone use the word wicked before.
“You don’t know what that means?”
“No, nobody ever says that, did you make it up?”
We talked about it for a while and I explained to her that nobody in Philadelphia uses that word so I hadn’t known what it meant. After talking about that, we had a whole conversation on the different slang that we had in philly compared to what they had in Boston. I told her that we had commonly used words like “jawn” and “drawl”. We also talked about how a lot of people in philly use the term “yous” and she thought that was hilarious! After she stopped making fun, we started talking about how she thought I had a really strange accent, but I thought it was totally normal.
She loved that, I had to keep repeating the word to satisfy her. I realized that depending on where you are from, you say and pronounce things different things. I thought it was so funny at first, but then I found it so annoying that they would continue to laugh at the way I would say things, yet I didn’t say anything about they way they talked. I knew they weren’t doing it to be mean, but it still hurt my feelings. Since we go up there about twice a year, the next time I went up there I tried code switching to talk more like them. After a while I realized that I shouldn’t change who I am or how I talk to fit in with other people. There was nothing wrong with the way I talked, and there was nothing wrong with the way they talked either. We are just from different places.
On my way home from boston, I put in my headphones like always and turned on some music. The first song I happened to turn on was rap music. I to listen to a lot of rap, but all the rappers are from different places. I was thinking, what different slang do the rappers use? The language just from teenagers that are from different places are so weird, so would the rappers and other performers’ language be different too? I think that teenagers get a lot of their language from the music they listen to. They take the slang, and it becomes really popular. I listened to the song “Dope Dealer” by Meek Mill, who is from Philadelphia. I saw that he used some of the same slang as the kids that I hang out with. He used the word “Swerve” which is basically to dismiss or say no to something that somebody says to you. I realized when I was reading the lyrics that he didn’t use the word jawn which I thought he would use, or any other big philly terms that I thought he would.
Since I was listening to a rapper from the East Coast, I decided I would listen somebody from the West coast as well. I listened to a Kendrick Lamar who is rapper from California. This was a little harder for me, because I am not from there and I haven’t even been there before. I asked my friend, TJay, don’t forget the “Ay” some of the slang as he spends his whole summer in California. I listened to the song called “Swimming Pools” with my friend and he told me about words like “blood” “scrub” “bang” “cuz”. He also told me about the pronunciation of some of their words. I thought this was really interesting as I had never heard anybody say those words in a sentence. I didn’t think that the words that people used would be so different depending on where you were from. When I was listening to the song, Kendrick actually said some of the slang Tjay taught me a couple times in his song.
Although there are so many differences in the slang from Philly, and the slang from California, there are also some similarities. When I listened to all the songs and talked to different people, I realized that both of the rappers used words like “cuz”, “swag”, “bread” or “bout’ that life”. Cuz is basically what you would just call a person, swag has to do with the clothes you wear, and how you act, how you walk, things like that. When people say bread they are talking about money, and when people say bout’ that life it means that you agree, or you’re into something. For example if somebody is doing something inappropriate and you don’t agree with it you would say “I’m not bout’ that life.” Another thing that I found was kind of interesting that a lot of people will say “like” at the end of sentences. It doesn’t actually mean anything, but in a sentence you would say “Oh my god, I love your hair, like.” I find it very strange, and I don’t know why people use it in a sentence. Depending on where you are than your opinions change.
All the places that I have been always tell me they think Philadelphia is so weird. When I ask them why, they tell me that it is because we say “hoagie” instead of “sub” and “water ice” or “wooder ice” instead of “slush”. I never really thought that philadelphia was so much different than other places. Now I know that we have a lot of differences. I’m sure other people say that too, about the place they are from.
In class, we were reading an essay by James Baldwin. He was saying that Black English should be a language. Baldwin states, “If Black English isn’t a language, then tell me what is?” Even if it is not considered “proper” to speak that way, it is what's happening all around us. Everybody is talking like this. It has become such a big part of the “standard” English language. I decided to talk to my friend and asked her a few questions about the slang we use in philly.
“Do you know what jawn means?”
“I mean I know what it means, but I don’t really use it with my friends, I don’t want to sound rude, but I think that like a lot of black people use those kinds of words.”
“Well what words do you mean by ‘those kind’?” I asked her
“I mean like ratchet, irkin, drawlin. Those just aren’t words that everybody uses.”
I think that if everybody, even people that aren’t black, know what black slang is then it should be its own language. So many people know what it is and not everybody would have to talk like this, only people that wanted to. I think it is important that people should be able to talk however they want. Just like if I wanted to become fluent in spanish and make that my primary language. Not everyone has to do it, but I still have the ability to talk in whatever language I want.
“If Black English isn’t a language than tell me what is” by James Baldwin