[stormingheaven] ebonics?

John K. Taber jktaber at dhc.net
Thu Aug 19 16:04:51 PDT 1999

"David Jennings [MSAI]" <djenning at ai.uga.edu> said:

begin: On Thu, 19 Aug 1999, Seth Ackerman wrote:

> That's what I thought, too. The subjunctive was used a lot more
>often back then.
>> Doug wrote:
>> >Here's a test.
>> >
>> >Jack be nimble.
>> >Jack be quick.
>> >Jack jump over the candlestick.
>> >
>> >Is that Ye olde white English or Ebonics ?
>> I thought it was subjunctive mood.

Whew. Here I was thinking that they used _bad_ english, but actually they were using _good_ english. In fact, great english, given that they could use such high-fallutin', non-impoverished verb forms.

Do yall suppose that Ebonics speakers don't have the consciousness to allow them to aspire to the subjunctive? And with all that conceptual impoverishment, who's going to conduct their revolution for them?

Slightly stunned, d

- ------------------------------------------

David Jennings SSS II

Agri-Services Labs CAES, UGA end:

I'm not sure how to take your comments, but I'll try to answer anyhow. I live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area. Some Whites disparage black areas of town as "Weebee Town" because local Black speech uses "We be".

In Deep Ellum years ago before it was gentrified, I overheard a Black unselfconsciously use "be" perfectly in the subjunctive sense. It was exciting for me, like hearing Chaucer live.

It isn't always used subjunctively, but that is a major use.

Somebody else asked for the sense of the nursery rhyme, and gave two possibilities. I think the first was right. The sense is "Were Jack nimble and quick, he would jump over the candlestick."

"Quick" is tricky; it probably means "alive", not "speedy".

As for why a candlestick, that would take some research. Many nursery rhymes were once sarcastic comments by the people upon their betters. Jack Horner was if I remember correctly the Lord Mayor of London noted for his corruption. Now you understand what "pulled out a plum" referred to.

London Bridge was forever falling down because it was shoddily maintained by corrupt contractors and government officials who forever patched it up with sticks and stones.

I suspect that Jack was slow enough you'd think he was dead, and that there is some political commentary hidden in candlestick. Somebody slow to do his job thanks to bribery or some such.

John K. Taber

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