Sunday, February 21, 2010

hepcat speak. a look at subcultural speech


The words hep and hip are of uncertain origin, with numerous competing theories being proposed. In the early days of jazz, musicians were using the hep variant to describe anybody who was "in the know" about an emerging culture, mostly black, which revolved around jazz. They and their fans were known as hepcats. By the late 1930s, with the rise of Swing, hip rose in popularity among jazz musicians, to replace hep. Clarinetist Artie Shaw described singer Bing Crosby as "the first hip white person born in the United States."[1]
Subsequently, around 1940, the word hipster was coined to replace hepcat, and hipsters were more interested in bebop and hot jazz than they were in Swing, which by the late 40s was becoming old-fashioned and watered down by "squares" like Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo. In the 1940s white youth began to frequent African-American communities for their music and dance. These first youths diverged from the mainstream due to their new philosophies of racial diversity and their exploratory sexual nature and drug habits.

D: there is a surprising amount of transition between grammatical categories.
Word order and syntax presumably render this clear.

Barrelhouse (adj.): free and easy.
Beat up (adj.): sad, uncomplimentary, tired.
Bright (n.): day.

D: there is also quite a lot of componded nouns for more basic definitions. I meant ARE. F**king English agreement...

Musical instruments

Guitar: Git Box or Belly-Fiddle
Upright Bass: Doghouse
Drums: Suitcase, Hides, or Skins
Piano: Storehouse or Ivories
Saxophone: Plumbing or Reeds
Trombone: Tram or Slush-Pump
Clarinet: Licorice Stick or Gob Stick
Xylophone: Woodpile
Vibraphone: Ironworks
Violin: Squeak-Box
Accordion: Squeeze-Box or Groan-Box
Tuba: Foghorn
Electric Organ: Spark Jiver

di·a·lect (d-lkt)
a. A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists: Cockney is a dialect of English.
b. A variety of language that with other varieties constitutes a single language of which no single variety is standard: the dialects of Ancient Greek.
2. The language peculiar to the members of a group, especially in an occupation; jargon: the dialect of science.

D: I always wondered where the boundary between a dialect and accent is.

ac·cent (ksnt)
1. The relative prominence of a particular syllable of a word by greater intensity or by variation or modulation of pitch or tone.
2. Vocal prominence or emphasis given to a particular syllable, word, or phrase.
3. A characteristic pronunciation, especially:
a. One determined by the regional or social background of the speaker.
b. One determined by the phonetic habits of the speaker's native language carried over to his or her use of another language.

D: I gather that an accent is supposed to be offputting but still comprehensible.
As somebody terrible at accents, I'll point out a thick accent can be as incomprehensible to a proper dialect to me.

For that matter, when does a dialect become a distinct language?

My Portugese friends say that can understand Spanish somewhat.


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