clarence thomas' dialect

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 28 03:52:42 UTC 2008

The claim that mastering standard English as a teenager is a struggle
is the one that's unreal. All that's necessary is the motivation and
the opportunity, which Thomas clearly had. That was my experience with
that non-struggle. Some people are better at it than others, of
course. Otherwise, it's no big thing. My father, on the other hand,
though he had the motivation, didn't have the opportunity until he was
in law school at Wisconsin. According to his yearbook, Madison had a
campus chapter of the Ku Klux Klan just as though it was any other
frat, at that time. So, he probably didn't have as much opportunity as
Thomas, a beneficiary of Affirmative Action. As a consequence, he was
never able to lose what he called his "Alabama brogue," despite the
aid of a classmate he referred to as a "Jewish felluh."


On Mon, Feb 25, 2008 at 5:00 PM,  <RonButters at> wrote:
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>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
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>  Subject:      clarence thomas' dialect
>  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  In a message dated 2/25/08 4:13:24 PM, hwgray at GMAIL.COM writes:
>  > That claim is unreal, and I ain't going for it. Thomas speaks
>  > standardly far better than, i.e., Jesse Jackson or Saint Louis's own
>  > Cedric the Entertainer, who have no trouble opening their mouths.
>  >
>  Well, but the claim was not that Thomas could not speak standard English, but
>  rather that "Thomas [himself] has chalked up his silence to his struggle as a
>  teenager to master standard English." I have never read anything that Thomas
>  has written that says that Thomas actually spoke Gullah as his first language
>  in the home or that Thomas had anything to say about why he doesn't
>  participate from the Court's verbal exchange. (That doesn't mean, of course, that he
>  didn't say one or the other or both of the things that the article says he said.)
>  One small bit of information that bears on the subject: My friend and
>  colleague, the late Wallace Fowlie, claimed to have been Justice Thomas's French
>  instructor when the judge was an undergraduate. Fowlie had nothing but praise for
>  the young Mr. Thomas as a scholar--and if Wallace noticed any "Geechee" (or
>  even debilitating AAVE) in his student's speech, he did not comment to me about
>  it.
>  The recordings of Justice Thomas's confirmation hearings have long been
>  available to the public. I don't recall that he was in any way linguistically
>  challenged in those discussions--during which he was under no little pressure.
>  **************
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