Friday, August 12, 2011

The Language of Rioting

The BBC has an interesting piece covering the language of riots...language driven by social media, social underclasses, and mayhem.

BBC article online

From shot 29-year-old Mark Duggan referring to the police as "feds" to the nuanced use of the word "community", the language of the riots and the response can tell us something.

It may have been England that was shaken by violence, looting and disorder.

But many of the terms used by its perpetrators came from a very different place altogether - and, due to coverage of the rioting, they have found a wider audience than ever before.

"If you see a fed... SHOOT!" read one message circulated on BlackBerry Messenger, imploring readers to riot.

Another, widely reported in the aftermath of the chaos, urged everyone to "up and roll to Tottenham [expletive] the 5-0". There were myriad references as well to the "po po".

"When kids talk about the feds, it's obvious that they're not talking about the FBI," she says. "They know that's not how things work over here. It's like a code - politicians and the media don't understand."

She highlights home-grown phrases like "bully van", meaning police van, and "shank", meaning knife, as evidence that UK street culture is not just passively replicating the language of the US inner cities.

Indeed, Jonathon Green, author of the Chambers Slang Dictionary, points out that many of the messages which circulated during the riots included non-US phrases.

These included exhortations to defend one's "yard" - used in its Jamaican-derived sense, meaning home - or one's "end", a home-grown term referring to an area of a city.

more at the article link above

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