Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speaking in tongues

Nice essay by Zadie Smith in the NY Review of Books here. My mother used to say, "Jeremy, your accent is horrible. Get rid of it." She was right (I had a bit of a West Midlands accent) and I did. Now I suppose I sound a little bit posh, innit.


Oladapo Ogundipe 5:10 pm  
This comment has been removed by the author.
lola,  6:06 pm  

what about the phenomenon of changing accents to suit your environment. I've only ever noticed this in people of mixed cultures. I'm half english, half nigerian, but I've lived in Nigeria, England and now in the US. Depending on whom I'm talking to, my accent changes from pidgin to scouse to posh english or slight american twang. I don't even realize I'm doing it, but I just can't speak to my Nigerian peers in my scouse accent and visa versa!

Anonymous,  6:13 pm  

first of all I love it that Ms Smith writes such lengthy essays. She comes out so magisterial here... there are plenty fine fine things she just touched.. Thanks Jeremy for sharing jare.. what can we do without you.


for extra sake: my friends mentions that she s a kind of snob { i suspect it might be about the Willeseden competition thing] I have never met a celbrity but whats wrong with being just a little snobbish and standoffish.. .. I admire arrogance and spend time pretending not be.

Anonymous,  6:51 pm  

Its called SAS (shifting accent syndrome)

Beat up anyone anyone who mentions authenticity. tell them its rubbish. tell them you cant help re-manufacturing your reality each time. Its not a curable something.

J ( again)

Anonymous,  8:27 pm  

I am laughing o. "Innit"
I hate that word. You did use it for comic effect though.

2nd comment today.

PS: I do not like Catwalk's 'laugh' (Yesterday).

Who's really speaking in tongues?

Anonymous,  8:29 pm  

and who the hell is J?

That's not me o.

Anonymous,  8:57 pm  

good stuff but she needs to stay away from interpreting the black american civil rights era, its actors and motivations. its not her experience and it shows

Anonymous,  11:42 am  

@ last anon: why should she stay away from interpreting it? you mean she has no right to? not even the right of an outsider?
do we need to experience something before we can have insight into into or even lend our perspective??

J(again and again)

Chuka,  2:46 pm  

@ Lola, I feel you so much sis. I was born and bred in Naija, left for the UK at 24. Got to the UK to study and used my best 'fone' learnt from the TV of course. Turns out the Nigerian media is saturated with American TV and my 'fone' was so 'yankified' my american classmate thought I was a fellow Yank! Now I've perfected the Britico 'fone' as well but like ou said I inctantly switch depepnding on who I'm talking to.

I can't use 'fone' with my naija mates ha I wont be accused of forming. Im so bad with this switching thing that when I speak to other immigrants in this multicultural UK whose english is erm 'challenged' (gotta be PC) I actually switch to a Polish or Asian or even African 'fone' am I mad biko?

Sandrine 3:36 pm  

Hi Jeremy,
It's a nice essay, thanks. I can relate to the first part. I have been in Miami for some years now.I still have a French accent when I speak English but now I also have an American accent when I speak French! My kids can also relate to the next part of the essay because they are mixed.My oldest son (9) is starting to struggle to grasp his identity.James McBride describes it beautifully in the "Color of Water".It is not easy because one always desire to belong.Being in-between may mean never be fully accepted by either side.I tell them that it is great to have the background they have. I hope they will agree with me one day.
Take care.

Anonymous,  11:32 pm  

I read Zadie's essay a few days ago and i really liked it particularly the concept of adding voices rather than trying to reduce yourself to one voice. This is something that cross-cultural people especially struggle with and it feeds into the desire for authenticity and a clear identity.

Zadie focuses mostly on Obama’s biracial heritage but I think his multicultural upbringing is just as relevant in this story. The challenges that he’s faced in formulating a coherent identity will be familiar to anyone who has moved around a fair bit in their childhood and even later in life. The cultures you interact with have an impact on you and it starts getting confusing when there are many of them. The feeling of always being an outsider and never really fitting in anywhere can be very hard to overcome. I think that what I like most about Obama is that he’s a great example of how this chameleon like nature can be an asset rather than a drawback in life.


Anonymous,  11:56 pm  

11.42am anon: to answer your question, yes. this isn't fiction and she wasnt writing it as an outsider. she's writing a lot of false stuff on an issue can be sensitive to a lot of people. reading newspapers or what not on how black americans like myself feel about the civil rights movement and its icons of the past, is not education enough in these matters.

Anonymous,  12:51 pm  

Your mother shouldn't have told you that, it wasn't fair. It's the reason you sound the way you do now, like a midlander trying to sound posh. It's all a bit ridiculous. LOL.


Anonymous,  1:14 pm  

That is not me (The last anon) o. In case you are wondering. Someone out there is not playing fair! Trying to be me!

You know who that is if you look among your 'friends' in real life, that is.

About This Blog

  © Blogger templates Psi by 2008

Back to TOP