flyting and rap

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 6 16:35:05 UTC 2009

By God, he's found it: te lost chord! And , of course, in their spare
time, it was often the case that the slaves - those lazy jacksanapes!
- chose to use their spare time relaxing and watching their masters
play at words in a language easily understood by them, motivated by
the lash as they were, but that has since become unintelligble,
somehow, to native speakers of that same language.

It reminds of an exhange in an old movie re-run of the Comedy Channel
just this morning:

White cop:

"And a bag of nose rings."

Be-nose-ringed whigger clerk:

"What're you talking about?"


"Nothing. I was just making a joke."


"Well, knock yourself out, man."


"What's that supposed to mean?"

It demonstrates how easy it is for members of one racial group to
understand the ingroup speech of members of another racial group,
though both are members of the same racial group, and even when both
speakers were born and reared in the same city, in this case, NYC.

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

On Mon, Jan 5, 2009 at 1:19 PM, Amy West <medievalist at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Amy West <medievalist at W-STS.COM>
> Subject:      flyting and rap
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A museum colleague forwarded this link to me:
> I don't know much about rap's origins beyond the connection to
> playing the nines, but I'm skeptical of this claim based simply on
> the fact that there are probably (again I come up against my
> ignorance) many African analogues of flyting that are much more
> likely candidates for playing the nines ancestry.
> I know that there are Old English and Old Norse analogues as well, so
> why limit it to medieval Scotland?
> And the 1861 poem that is cited could easily be influenced by those
> OE and ON analogues as that's the time period for the rise of OE & ON
> philology (and there was plenty of use of medieval literature in that
> time period: a couple of colleagues have looked at the use of King
> Arthur in popular literature from both the Union and the Confederacy).
> Anyone more knowledgeable and better informed than me willing to weigh in?
> ---Amy West
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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