Monday, March 14, 2011

What's That, You Say?

Jessica Colaizzi

            I think that one of the most fascinating things that takes place in society today, especially in America, is cultural appropriation. This is the process of adopting certain practices from a certain culture separate from one's own. We can witness this almost anywhere, whether it be in the music industry, fashion, food market, dancing, and even in religion. One element of culture that is often most popularly appropriated is language. The use of certain slang terms and/or ways of pronunciation is what usually allows someone to appropriate language into their everyday life. 

            In Cecilia A. Cutler's article, "Yorkville Crossing: White teens, hip hip, and African American English", we learn of a young boy named Mike who appropriated hip-hop culture into his life as a teen from the upper middle class in New York City. Here is what I believe to be a perfect example of how Mike transformed after the appropriation of black culture into his life.

             The title of this clip, "White Boys Gone Bad", is what many believe happened to Mike during his childhood, as he began dealing with violent acts, associating with drugs and fighting, and using different curses and slang in his vocabulary. 

               Take note of the transformation of these two young boys from the beginning to the end of the video. The start out using "proper" English language, are dressed in a "proper" way, and present themselves in a "proper" manner. Then the hip-hop music is cued, and the wardrobe is changed to something more "ghetto", and they begin speaking to each other using African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Cutler's research shows how Mike replaced his Standard English language practices with ones of AAVE. This was an attempt for Mike to seem more black, and identify with black culture. Just like the boys in this video, Mike switched up his wardrobe and wore baggy pants, expensive sneakers, and baseball hats. Who knows, maybe these kids know Mike, or want to  be like Mike? Or maybe the appropriation of black culture has turned into a huge trend? You can decide for yourselves.

             Black culture isn't the only major thing to top the charts of cultural appropriation. The rise of Hispanic and Italian appropriation has also had its toll on people, especially of our generation. One of the most popular examples is the cast of MTV's "The Jersey Shore", which tapes the wild, dramatic lives of 7 (I can't really call them Italian-Americans, because half of them aren't even Italian) people, whilst exposing a somewhat obsession with Italian culture. Guidos/Guidettes, as they call themselves, are the identities they relate to when it comes to what they wear, how they party, what they eat, and how they "tawk" (talk). 

             Hispanic and other cultural identities have also been portrayed and played around with, especially with the rise of this internet generation. Social networking, blogging, and other ways of communication have incorporated various foreign terms as well as phrases from different cultures. This is another way we can see the appropriation of language in someone's vocabulary. This next video I have is of YouTube-sensation "Baby Smiley The Chola". Before I go any further, I would like to inform you of what a "chola" is. According to, a "chola" represents young hispanic females who dress and talk a certain way. They wear thick eyeliner, very thin, penciled-in eyebrows, dark lipstick, and gelled hair. When it comes to the way they speak, pronunciations include sorts like "stupii" (st00-pee) instead of "stupid", "aiiii" (ah-yeeeee) to express pain, "jou" (joo) instead of "you". These are also some stereotypical vocalizations taken from hispanic culture. Just like the way Mike is categorized as a "wangsta" (white gangster), Glowpinkstah is a growing sensation by imitating the "chola" identity, which revolves around the appropriation of what seems to  be a type of hispanic language and style. 

             The reason why I chose to share this video is because it shows the ways that one person can immediately transform their identity just by the way the speak. We see that our main character, Glowpinkstah, can play the part of both a "chola" and a rather 'normal', Standard English-speaking girl. What I also find interesting in this video is the way that Glowpinkstah   plays around Baby Smiley's diction and the way she pronounces words. No matter where we go, I think that everyone will have their own "pet-peeves" of the way people say things. In this case, Glowpinkstah picks out words such as "mirror", "caramel", and "ketchup" that are said in different ways that are viewed to her as "not proper". In this situation, certain words that Baby Smiley uses are marked, that is, certain terms are seen as "unstandard". This marks the debate of what is accepted and what is not accepted in our culture, whether dealing with language use, wardrobe, or lifestyle. Baby Smiley, just like Mike in Cutler's article, is viewed by many as somewhat of a fake - someone who takes on the identity of a person that they are not. But who is really to say what someone really "is" and "isn't"?

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