Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Black English

ACU Men’s Basketball: A Case Study in Black English
I have played organized basketball since I was six years old and was first eligible to play through a YMCA team.  Because the zoning rules that the YMCA used to create the teams, I was placed on a team that consisted of two Caucasian players and ten African American players.  This was the beginning of my lifelong education in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) (p.195).  I continued to be one of only a few white players on my basketball teams throughout my life.  I have noticed that Black English has the unique ability to remake itself completely in a short amount of time.  The AAVE that I observed when I first joined ACU basketball team is completely different from the AAVE that I observe now.  These changes seem to be fueled by Caucasians and which AAVE slang they choose to adopt into their own slang.  The story of the ACU basketball team demonstrates the quick changing nature of AAVE as well as the motivating factors behind its changes.
                  Despite the changing nature of Black English it does have certain constants.  Over the past four years the basketball team has seen well over thirty different players enter and exit.  Of those thirty, nearly twenty of them were African American.  Each player brought with him a unique set of phrases and words that were common to the area in which he was raised.  The team has seen players from California, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.  The introduction of each new player brought about a complete change and revamp of the teams AAVE lingo.  The teammates adopted certain phrases from each player and created a hybrid of all the different regional dialects.  Of course there were certain constants such as the deletion of coupling verbs in instances where a contraction can be made like in the phrase “They busy” which is the AAVE equivalent of “They’re busy”  (p.198). 
Another commonality was the cadence of the language.  In AAVE the first word or short phrase that is spoken is drawn out longer than it would be in Standard American English (SAE) and is usually in exclamation or interjection spoken with heavy emphasis.  The rest of the sentence is expressed in a normal or slightly faster than normal rhythm.  In the phrase “Yo, who dat is” the word “yo” is drawn out much longer than normal and is followed by a pause that adds even more emphasis and “who dat is” is spoken very fast.  This is the most common archetype for an AAVE sentence and even works with short phrases as the opening exclamation such as in the phrase “My nigga, lemme tell you bout las night.”  This and a few other grammatical and pronunciation differences such as the absense of interdental fricatives and consonant cluster reduction rule (p. 196) were shared commonalities between all the players on the ACU team over the years.
The hybrid language that my African American and even a few African teammates changed over the years, not only at the beginning of each summer when the new recruits were brought in for workouts, but even within the school year and basketball season itself.  Phrases and words were adopted and dropped throughout the year.  The phrases and pronunciation came from a variety of sources; some phrases seemed to be carryovers from the differing regions, but the new jargon that sprouted during the season was often adopted from popular rap/hip-hop songs and “black” movies such as ATL and All About the Benjamins.  Often in rap/hip-hop songs an artist will alter the pronunciation of emphasis of a word or phrase to help it better fit in the rhyme scheme of the song, and the fact that many of the players on my team adopted their lingo from songs facilitated them adopting their unique pronunciations of words.  Lil’ Wayne is one of the most popular and influential hip-hop artists when it comes to the generation of new phrases and pronunciations.  In the song “Swagga Like Us” he says, “No one on the corner has swagger like moi (French pronunciation mw-ah), Church/ But I’m too clean for these boys.”  The word “boys” is pronounced “bois” (bow-ahs) like the French word moi.  This song was quite popular this year and to this day the black members and a few of the white members of the ACU basketball team pronounce the word boy as /bow-ah/.
Another recently acquired element of language among the members of the ACU Team is a couple of different phrases that involve the word subliminal.  The context where the word was first heard was after one member of the team made a subtle jab at two-year teammate Ian Wagner.  Ian responded by saying, “I see you hitting me with that subliminal.”  The phrase and its derivatives, such as “Brooks, I see you getting subliminal,” was then became a common expression to refer to situations when subtlety was used in language or action.  It is most used in situations where humor is in play in the conversation, but it is not bound to that constraint.  It replaced the phrase “I see you coming at me on the sly” which was directed at a person who was subtly making fun of the speaker.
The main reason that the phrase “I see you coming at me on the sly” fell from common usage with my teammates was that it had been adopted and commonly used by a number of white teammates on my team.  They had taken that element of language that was formerly reserved solely for usage for the Black members of the team and had learned how to use it and adopted it into their own language.  AAVE has its roots in the black church that was formed on slave plantations (Baldwin).  He said they did not just acquire a new language, but “transformed ancient elements into a new language” (Baldwin).  Another quote from James Baldwin that helps explains the elimination of words and phrases from AAVE is that “A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey” (Baldwin).  He explains that slaves often needed to explain in English that one of their fellow slaves was in danger in such a way that the white man could not understand.  The laws of Black English allow for quick changes in meanings and pronunciation because it allows the language to remain foreign to white SAE speakers.  My teammates dropped the phrases that me and my other white teammates adopted, because it was no longer solely there language.  The heritage of their language had taught them that their AAVE needed to be only for African Americans because its origins were based on self-defense from white people.  The video “black slang” makes fun of this fact in the instance of white American’s adoption of the AAVE use of “brother” to refer to someone who is not family.  The comedian jokes that African Americans had to change to using “cousin” and “son” in the same context because white people had stolen the work “brother” (topgal).
The ACU basketball team is a perfect example of way the Black English or AAVE is able to change and adapt to the point of completely revamping itself in a short period of time.  Rap/hip-hop artists as well as popular “black” movies aid in the generation of new phrases, words, and pronunciations.  As white culture continues to adopt elements of AAVE into mainstream usage the black culture will have to continue to remake its language to keep it solely theirs.  The ACU basketball team has managed to due so despite the increasing ease with which American culture continues to pick up their language.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Every family has their stories, if they didn’t there would be nothing to talk about during Christmas dinner.  These stories serve a much greater purpose than merely supplying stories to be told around the dinner table.  They give meaning, create identity, they change or uphold the way we look at things.  The complete list of purposes of family stories are too remember, to create identity, to entertain, to reinforce values, and to connect generations.  There are five types of stories that accomplish those purposes: Creation stories, coming of age stories, crisis stories, decision stories, family unity stories, and family identity stories.
            Family identity is passes from generation to generation through stories that usually begin with “My father once told me that his father once told him….” And then go on to give some account of the family history or name.  This one story can fill multiple roles it can entertain, it can connect generations, and create identity.

The Fall
One story that my family is particularly fond of telling is about a rock-climbing incident that occurred a little more than a four years ago.  I had been an avid rock climber since my freshman year of high school.  I owned my own equipment and had a membership at a local climbing gym.  I had a habit of occasionally taking girlfriends with me when I went climbing.  I did this partially because I enjoyed their company and partially because it was an opportunity for me to show off my climbing prowess, and the method had worked well for me until that fateful day. 
The day started off as normally as any other climbing day.  I woke up and had a good, but light, breakfast, gathered my gear, and set off to the gym to climb.  I stopped along the way to pick up my girlfriend at the time, who had been climbing with me several times before.  We planned to make a day of it, by climbing for a few hours before grabbing some lunch, and heading back to get a few more climbs in before closing time.  We arrived at the climbing gym around ten o’clock.
The gym was inside of a complex of four concrete silos.  The top of the silos was painted a rainbow of colors and had the words “General Electric” in big bold letters.  I am not entirely sure what purpose the building served before its days of as a gym, and was not entirely sure I cared.  The gym was separated into four parts.  There was the bouldering area, which consisted of hundreds of holds spread over a wall no taller than twenty feet, this was were people practiced and trained their grips for the various holds.  The next portions was the skill walls upstairs, these walls were not particularly tall at all, most averaged around 50 to 60 feet, but were the most difficult to climb in the whole gym.  Next was the novice area, these were easy walls that were a good place for beginners and were about another 20 feet taller than the skill walls.  The final area of the gym was the endurance walls.  These walls an intermediate level as far the spacing and size of the holds, but were difficult because of the sheer immensity of their size.  The walls averaged a height of 100 feet.  The tallest wall at the gym, which was actually the tallest indoor wall in Texas, was 121 feet high.  It was at this wall that my incident occurred.
My girlfriend was the first to attempt the “121 wall” that day.  I took my position as her “belayer” not even bothering to secure myself into the ground because I outweighed her by so much.  She proceeded to climb about ¾’s  of the wall before growing too weary to continue.  After slowly feeding the rope through the carabiner and belay device, which provided me the mechanical advantage to easily suspend her 130-pound frame using only my thumb and pinkie if needed, and allowing her to rappel down, it was my turn to climb.  We switched all the necessary equipment and double-checked all of our knots and harnesses to make sure they were correct, and then to be sure we checked one another’s.  After we were sure everything was in good order, I began my ascent.
The climb was not particularly difficult for me, for I had made it many times before.  At this point it had become a conditioning climb for me; it was a good way to make sure that I stayed in excellent rock climbing condition.  Because of the rehearsed ease with which I made this climb I did not require any rest of assistance from my belayer.  Fifteen minutes later I reached the top of the wall and was prepared to make my slow and controlled descent.
The trip down was much faster than I anticipated.  After I yelled down that I was ready to make my descent, my girlfriend took all the slack out of the rope so I could let go of the wall and lean back away from it.  I took my hands away and leaned back with no problem or incidence.  I then gave a firm kick with my legs to push myself away from the wall and allow my belayer to let some of the rope slip through the carabiner allowing me to drop.  She did allow some rope to slip through and after I dropped a few yards I expected the rope to go tight and for me to be forced back to the way, but this never happened.  I began to descend faster and faster, which was worrisome, but I was not truly scared until I heard my belayer scream.  I was picking up speed and the ground was screaming towards me now.  Apparently my belayer’s device had malfunctioned and was not longer giving her the advantage needed to control the descent of my 230lb. body.  The rope started to rush through her fingers burning them badly and forcing her to release the rope.  There was nothing stopping the rope now and, by extension, there was nothing stopping me.  The rope as it was being whipped up off the floor tripped my belayer sending her crashing to the ground were she was of no use to me.
I thought my life was over.  120 feet is a long way and I had plenty of time to think things over.  I had decided how I was going to land, what I wanted to go on my tombstone; everything had been thought of.  Then I hit.  I do no remember anything after that.  I woke up in a car on the way to the hospital.  I do not remember what happened at the hospital either.  My parents were informed that I had no serious damage to my back or any major organs, and that the extent of my damage was numerous stress fractures in my feet and legs.  They asked what happened and when my parents told them, the doctors said that I should be dead.
There is a reason that my parents like to tell that story.  They, and I, believe that it means there is a purpose for this family.  I heard that half of all falls from over thirty feet end up being fatal, but I fell from 120 feet and have almost no lasting damage.  There is an identity to be found in this story for me and for my family.  God miraculously allowed me to live when common sense would have dictated that I die.  I feel that he saved me for a purpose and that my family was allowed to continue to exist for a purpose.  That purpose is still not entirely known to me or my family, but we are all very conscious of the fact that we will one day know that purpose.  One day I will know why God chose to save me.  I am reminded of the identity that this story gives me every time that I hear or tell it.  The identity that this story gives me is, that I am a man saved by God, twice.        

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Thought Punctuation Ended a Thought

            Located within systems theory is the punctuation theory.  This theory explores the way that actions serve both as responses to former actions as well as stimulus for future responses.  Modern lyrical poet Brandon Boyd had this to say on this subject:
“Hey what would it mean to you?
To know that it’ll come back around again
Hey whatever it means to you
Know that everything moves in circles
Round and round we go
We could know when it ends so well
We fall on and we fall off
Existential carousel”
The song is called circles and it deals with reciprocity and how every person’s actions and every action directed at them brings future responses, which keeps the “existential carousel” spinning.  The message Boyd is attempting communicate is that in every situation one must evaluate their own responses to negative outside stimuli in order to shift the circle of reciprocity to an ongoing cycle of positive and avoid an ongoing vicious cycle of negative responses.  This paper will explore the theory behind the punctuation theory as well as the ways that it manifests itself within my family and relationships.

Period is Not the End

            Punctuation theory operates around the concept of interactive complexity.  Interactive complexity central tenant is that every “act triggers new behavior as  well as responds to previous behaviors.  This cycle of responses develop into patterns of behavior that once fully formed are not only hard to break, but hard to examine.  Punctuation theory provides stops, or, at the risk of sounding redundant, punctuation which allow the behaviors cycles to be broken into pieces and more carefully examined.  The problem that accompanies the punctuation of these behavior cycles is that different individuals within one system of behavior will punctuate the sequence differently.  It is easy to use the different punctuations to assign blame to one of the members within the system.  Each person would feel justified assigning the blame to one of the actions of another.  This is counter productive and an easy pitfall of assigning punctuation.  The aim is to deal with and solve the entire behavioral cycle.  To pick out one behavior and state that it is the cause of the problem accomplishes nothing and merely alienates the accused.  The ideal way to work through the problems is to use an “illness-free” lens where no one member is to blame for starting of continuing the cycle.  This removes the scapegoat member from the situation and allows a freedom to view the situation objectively because there is no blame being assigned.

The Turnover Cycle

            The ACU Men’s Basketball team has a problem and that is turnovers.  We are in the bottom three of the Lonestar conference in assist to turnover ratio.  During our last game, which was a loss to Tarleton State University, we had thirteen turnovers in one half.  This is a cyclical problem, which may be the only reason that we are not the bottom of the league in this statistic.  The cycle progresses like this: We have a high turnover game, Coach gets angry and we put enormous focus on taking care of the ball during the three days until the next game, We have a game with low turnovers (which usually means a win), Coach is content with our effort in that aspect of the game and moves the focus to another facet of our game, the next game we have another high turnover game.

The Player’s Perspective

            It is easy for the players on the team to view Coach’s shifting focus as the root of the problem.  The complaint most often heard thrown about in the locker room is that if Coach wants us to take care of the ball better than we need to have a stronger and more consistent focus on it throughout the year and not only after a high turnover game.  The idea is that you practice how you play and that if he has a set way that he wants the team to play then he should make sure that the practices we have before the game reflect that image.

The Coach’s Perspective

            Coach sees things differently and sets his own punctuation to the problem.  He sees turnovers as mental unpreparedness and a sign of being mentally weak.  He feels that the players, being college players, should be able to carry over basics of the game, such as taking care of the ball, from week to week.  The idea of having to drill on this one facet of the game from practice to practice seems like a large waste of valuable time.  He has other things that he wants to go over and wants to progress beyond this point into more complicated aspects of the game.  He does not want to leave the team unprepared by focusing on turnovers at the expense of other things.

Breaking the Cycle

            To break this vicious circle of poor games both the players and Coach will need to compromise on their viewpoints and the way that practice is run.  The players will need to take responsibility for making turnovers a personal focus every practice and every game.  They need to stop waiting on Coach to do something to fix the problem and take initiative themselves.  They need accountability amongst one another and not exclusively to Coach.
            Coach needs to bend as well.  He needs to recognize that this is a chronic problem and that the players are not exclusively to blame.  Players are a reflection of their coaching.  He can find creative ways to incorporate valuing the ball in the drills that he is using to teach other concepts.  This way he is not focusing on the turnovers at the expense of all else, but is working on both at once.
            If both parties are able to bend then neither will have to break and the season can be saved.  It takes the maturity to stop trying to assign blame and attempt to find what both can do to work together to stop this behavioral pattern.  If both will commit to doing this then ACU has a chance to go to the conference tournement.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Hello dear readers,

I just finished playing waterball and it was pathetic.  Our team won with such ease that it wasn't even fun, so I was left with an empty feeling in my soul.

In other news, Barack Obama made himself a bowl of cereal this morning and the media has not ceased in there praising.  But seriously, GQ named him leader of the year, and he still hasn't done a damn thing.  It really bakes my beans too.

So to soothe my raging soul... I present to you.  Surprised Kitty:

You now have diabetes


Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm back

Ok, there was no internet at my parents house so that explains the gap in the blog posts.  I actually wrote during that time, but did not post online.  I will make sure to post those writings at a later time, but right now I feel much too lazy.

Guess what! I'm engaged.  As in engaged to be married.  As in about to enter in to a lifelong love covenant with another human being.  I'm freaking pumped.  Like seriously ecstatic.  Should i post the story up on the blog?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Parent's House

There is nothing quite like going home to the parents house.  I say the parent's house, because, in my mind, once you move out it is no longer your home.  There is a familiarity and comfort that comes with going home to see Mommsie and Pops.  You walk in and you are no longer the responsible adult you are outside of their house.  Once your foot is in that door you become the child once again.  Its time to sit back, relax, and be a kid for a few days.

Bonus Material:  Fangst- what every emo girl that goes to watch Twilight suffers from