Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Fri Nov 5 19:48:09 UTC 2010

I find Ron's point to be well worth pondering: that because Illinois and Indonesia are both "I-" places, Obama may speak an Iowan dialect.

Seriously, has anyone studied the "African American" features of Obama's speech?  They are not inconsiderable, it seems to me.


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Ronald Butters [ronbutters at AOL.COM]
Sent: Friday, November 05, 2010 10:02 AM

The usage of "shellacking" = "(lopsided) defeat" is in standard dictionaries (e.g., Random House unabridged, 1987, which identifies it as slang).  It is sports talk. My father (b1912) used it in Iowa when I was a boy, referring to a particularly one-sided loss at baseball or basketball. My sense is that it always had an implied "but-just-wait-until-next-year" quality to it. Maybe that is just wishful thinking, but that was what I thought was the President's implication.

There is nothing whatever unusual or regional about it, except (apparently) it is slightly archaic to some folk who are younger than Obama.

Why would anyone suggest that, just because Obama used it, it could be "Southern" or "AAVE"? Obama never lived in the South, did he? Nor did he have much opportunity to learn AAVE as a youth. Are we really to assume that any American who has the genes that Obama inherited from his father is automatically a speaker of AAVE (and therefore Southern States English)?

If we are to judge simply on the basis that Obama used it, we could more likely suggest it is a term used by people who have taught Constitutional Law at one of the nation's most prestigious universities.

Or maybe, because SHELLAC is a French word, and lots of Moslems live in France, this is further evidence that Obama was really born in Ethiopia, which after all was invaded in the 1930s by Italians, who after all speak a dialect of Latin that is also the ancestor of French.

On Nov 5, 2010, at 8:07 AM, Charles C Doyle wrote:

> Obama's use of the gerund "shellacking" sounded so ordinary to me that I was surprised at all the attention the word is receiving!  I have known and used it (in that sense) all my life.
> Might it be limited (or have become limited since the 1920s), to Southern and African American dialects?
> --Charlie

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list