The language of the London riots

This article discusses the use of slang during the highly publicized London riots of the past few weeks. I find a few things interesting here. One is related to the link between language and national identity. Here, there seems to be pushback against the amount of American slang terms used by the rioters, as if acknowledging that certain terms used come from U.S.culture implicates the rioters as less linked to local, London issues. Second, I see an instance of language serving as proxy, as we have politicians noting the use of slang that comes from hip hop, rap, and a general “gansta” U.S. culture (they even spelled it gangsta! /r/ vocalization) as evidence that the “gangsta” lifestyle imported to U.K. youth is to blame for the riots. To me this communicates an unspoken racial/ethnic/class condemnation for the riots, but rather than say “we blame lower class, non-white London youth who are violent and glorify violence,” what is said is “they say ‘po-po’ and ‘feds,’ which means they are “gangsta.”
What do you think?

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One Response to The language of the London riots

  1. Kara Becker says:

    Hi all,
    As a follow-up on this issue, check out Geoffrey Pulluma’s post on Language Log, for more thoughts about language and nation, language and youth, language and race, and the riots:
    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3365

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