Grammar Girl's "needs done" survey

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 7 18:18:56 UTC 2011

On Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 1:45 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: Grammar Girl's "needs done" survey
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 9/7/2011 01:16 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>On Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 12:11 PM, Ben Zimmer
>><bgzimmer at> wrote:
>> > with folksy dropped g
>>You mean "with the standard dropped g of Black English, Southern
>>English, Southwestern English, Western English, etc.," of course.
>>When you make a point of describing Obama's speech as "folksy," here,
>>you make it appear that you think that his use of "dropped g" is
>>unnatural or artificial, that he's merely faking it in order to appear
>>down with the common people or some such thing.
>>OTOH, if you had written "with gutless dropped g," implying an effort
>>on Obama's part not to appear to be too erudite, hence too uppity or
>>too biggity, lest he annoy any Republicans who may have condescended
>>to concern themselves with what he had to say, well, naturally, I'd
>>gladly cosign that.
> How did he pronounce " rebuildin' " when he was at Harvard?
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

Judging by the manner in which my own speech changes - white roommates
from MIT and Harvard: "We can always tell when you're talking to one
of your [black] friends on the telephone, because the way that you
talk completely changes!" - my WAG is that, surrounded by white people
and under standard temperature and pressure, he probably monitored the
living shit out of his speech and used "building." But it's a real
motherfucker, trying to maintain that shit at all times and a nigger
can't help but occasionally be slipping up. Know what I'm saying?

BTW, you've no doubt noticed that Obama talks a lot less white than
Colin Powell does. Of course, Powell doesn't have the advantage of an
Ivy League background, probably has to go all the way back to old
master in order to find any purely-European ancestry and is most
definitely, by his own admission an Affirmative-Action baby. Hence, he
probably feels much greater preaaure not to come off sounding like
some random, ignorant-assed nigger in front of the white folk.

Of course, I'm wasting my time here, explaining it to you, because, it
goes without saying, you already have a full understanding of what it
means to be a nigger in America, of course. Your question was clearly
meant only as a ploy to enable a nigger to go into this shit for the
benefit of white folk who don't possess your insight into the black
condition and, hence, lack any kind of understanding of this shit at

For that, I wants to thank you.

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.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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