01 May 2010


About John Agard's poem "Half-Caste," BBC has this as a guide question for students:

"He writes in a Caribbean dialect -'yu' instead of 'you', for example, or 'dem' for 'them'.  Why do you think Agard chose to write 'Half-Caste' in 'non-standard' form?"

We like to tell children that "sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words will never harm you," but in fact words like "dialect" and "non-standard"  harm us all the time.  To speak of a particular language or variety of a language as a "dialect" (thus relegating it to a status lower than a language) or "non-standard" (thus implying that the standard is the language of the former colonizer) is as bad as racist slurs.  Perhaps we should add to the unacceptable isms the word linguism (or something sounding as ugly as that) to refer to manifest or hidden bias against newer or emergent languages.

1 comment:

  1. I have tried to publish my own poems into dialect, the way we used to speak the Norwegian language in my home town Stavanger
    it was not a success