Bad English

I initially wrote this for my English class in College and I am publishing it here again with some further thoughts.

Since there is no central body governing the proper use of English it has broken into many subgroups. While there is a standard English established by Cambridge it does not have the type of authority the Académie Française has. However not all of these Englishs are given the same type of respect as Standard English is. Many subgroups are in fact deemed as Bad English for their failure to make use of the standard vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Another way in which these subgroups are deemed bad English is the use of phrases to speak of sex or sexuality in a manner considered crude (for example the word fuck). Bad English is also seen as lazy as in the case of text speak and acronyms. However what is often considered Bad English by a majority is often central to the identities of minorities as source of empowerment against their oppression.

What bad English ultimately is the language created and reclaimed by oppressed groups that does not meet the criteria of legitimate English set by the majority.
Some minority demographics use of language is a well developed field of study with mainstream recognition. However others have received as very little recognition outside and within academia. One particular field of study has become known as Lavender Linguistics is often ignored within mainstream studies of language. Lavender Linguistics is not to suggest there is a separate language spoken by say gay men. What it is the use of language by members of the LGBT and otherwise Queer community. With these definitions in mind close examination of Lavender Linguistics as one example of minority use of language should show why it is bad English to the majority.

Lavender linguistics is a specialized form of vocabulary. This form of vocabulary is often made up of words that have previously been seen as slurs such as the word Queer or Dyke. But have been reclaimed as a source of pride by some in the LGBT community. However this does not negate the stigma attached to them. After all if it is still considered an insult to be called a fag. It sends a rather rebellious and angry message when someone adopts such a word as means of self identification. It is also made up of terms relating sex which in a sex negative society is seen as crude. In a sense the lavender language can be seen as being made up of two components one being words deemed as slurs that have been reclaimed while the second is referring to the sex and sexuality of queer people. Thus Lavender linguistics falls under the umbrella of bad English.

Lavender Linguistics is also not recognized as a legitimate expression of English. It is not given much attention within mainstream academia. It’s often unheard of to those outside of the LGBT community. Even when it is heard of outside of it’s home community it is typically seen as crude or crass as many of it’s words describe sex and sexuality or because they describe identities that do not conform to the majority. In this sense Lavender Linguistics is a form of bad English worthy of further research and holds great subversive power. Using this language allows LGBT people to communicate to others about their lives. Lavender linguistics is deemed bad English because it gives a way for those who do not conform to compulsory heterosexuality a way to name their experiences and names have power. Bad English is therefore ultimately threatening English.

Some further thoughts:

While I agree with what I wrote before about the power behind reclaiming words and the messages using certain words send I also felt that I didn’t go far enough in some cases. The above piece was only five hundred words long as it I guess it couldn’t be helped really. The first problem here is that I mostly address slur words that have been or attempting to be reclaimed by some people. While people are free to use whatever words they want to describe themselves do not use a words to describe other people who do not identify with those terms. Trust me that will only lead to fights.

Secondly another problem here is that I address the LGBT community as a monolithic entity but the truth is that the LGBT is diverse in terms of things like class, race, gender and culture. Each of which would effect how language is used. I will write more on this topic in the future but in the mean time I would suggest checking out Wikipedia if you want to learn more about Lavender Linguistics.

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