Heard on The Judges II: rare (to me) name; instance of code-switching(?)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 28 20:46:39 UTC 2008

When I was in the first grade et seq. in Saint Louis, I had a classmate named

Delores _Swanagan_.

The defendant in a case before (the black) Judge Joe Brown, today, was
a twenty-ish black male Chicagoan named

Carl _Swanigan_

These are the only two instances of this name, pronounced
"SWAN-uh-gn," that I've ever heard.

It's also true that there are names borne by white people that are
unique in my experience: Hoogstraet, Bouckaert, Bollwerk, Hindelang,
Zupez, etc.; names of my high-school classmates that I heard for the
first time when the teacher called the roll on the first day of class.
It was all that I could do to keep from cracking up. Only the fact
that no one else - all of them white kids - found such names laughable
forced me to control myself. Most colored people are generally named
Smith and Jones. But I assume that, if I knew enough white people,
that might cease to be the case.


It _wadn_ my _friend_. It was _they friend_, _yo' hona_!

Twenty-ish, black, female, AngeleƱo plaintiff:

"The intruders were *not* their friends, your honor!"


"They *were* _their friends_, _your honor_!"

I don't think that "code-switching" is the term that I'm reaching for,
but the correct term eludes me.

IAC, I don't know whether any white person has noticed this, but
speaking to a black person in propa Ang-lish will generally cause him
to (attempt to) do the same, unless he's young or a straight-up thug
wanting to front as a bad muthafucka. The reverse is also true.
Talking upscale, so to speak, to a downscale person comes off as
snobbish (talking white) or "official," unfriendly in either case.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
 -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list