Grammar & Code Switching: Schuylkill County Dialect

Kayla brought up code switching in class today while we were talking about the rules of grammar. Code switching is a really interesting concept because it happens all the time without people immediately noticing. The concept of proper grammar is almost non-existent outside educational settings where I’m from. I’m from the coal region in northeastern PA and we apparently have a dialogue of our own. We use the very informal plural of the word “you” and say, “you’s.” Something that really bothers me is that where I’m from, people don’t believe in the word “saw.” That sounds strange, but it’s very common to hear a person say, “I seen that.” It drives me crazy. They’re also very big on the double negatives. All of these things bother me to no end but when it comes to code switching, getting a group of Schuylkill county kids together, I’ve been told, is a nightmare. My roommate, Libby, is also from northeastern PA but not from the coal region. Once, a group of my friends from home came for a visit. I didn’t find this out until days later, but my roommate apparently could not follow any conversation we had. She said she laughed because we were laughing, but more often than not she had no idea what was going on. Apparently, when a group of us get together, we tend to drop consonant sounds out of words and we are notorious for shortening everything that we say. This never occurred to me until Libby pointed it out, but thinking about it is really funny. She says that when I’m alone with her, she can almost never hear it until I break out a Schuylkill county word that she doesn’t recognize like “flitch” or “byantny,” but she can hear hints of the code switching when she hears me on the phone with somebody from home. This is just one example but it’s something that happens without me noticing until it’s pointed out to me, and I think that’s the case in most instances of code switching.

Google’s Impact

Class today was based around an article by Nicholas Carr that poses an interesting question: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” In the text, the main thing that Carr talks about is the evolution of his own reading patterns and those who have had similar experiences. He claims that though he used to be an avid reader who could get through books or articles like it was nothing, he now finds that his mind wanders off and he gets too distracted to read anything in full. Someone in class made a fair point when he or she said that it’s possible to get through by skimming important details, especially in an academic setting, which I most definitely agree with. Also pointed out was the fact that Google has essentially eliminated the need to ask questions out loud; a simple search will lead you to a myriad of options to choose from. A favorite meme of mine on Tumblr pokes fun at the fact that teens will make fun of the older generation for being technologically illiterate but then those same teens also needing to Google how to do something as simple as cooking an egg. However, I’m not sure that I agree with the idea that Google is making us “stupid,” per se. I do think that Google has definitely made us lazier and many people now lack a certain amount of common sense because everything is right there at our fingertips. As for Carr’s point on reading, I have experienced the same situation but that’s mostly within an academic context with texts that I am told to read; I have no problem getting lost in a book that I actually enjoy reading.

Female Rhetors

In class today, we briefly touched on the importance of female rhetors and the struggles they go through.  Aspasia was only portrayed through the words of men.  As a result, many of the things that we know about her probably come from misogynistic views of the time.  Today, women have more power to speak in their own right, but that does not mean that society’s outlook on the matter has changed. Meagan gave a great example when she said about the woman who discovered DNA. Even though the calculations were all correct, the male scientists refused to believe it simply because it was a woman who made the discovery.

As a more general example, you can just look to many female authors. J.K. Rowling is a great example. She may be very successful now, but women writers were not taken seriously at the time she was writing Harry Potter; this is why she uses her initials instead. This is a popular theme among female authors who fear their writing may not be taken seriously in the public eye. That’s not to say all women face this, however. In a time when women were not supposed to be writing let alone be involved in any scientific work, Rachel Carson took the world by a storm with Silent Spring; even though she was a woman, that book changed the face of environmentalism and still stands as an inspiration to the environmental movement today. Overall, women may not be taken seriously as much as they should be, but there are many prime examples that you can find of women finding their way through the cracks in one way or another.

Truth vs Argument

Much like rhetoric does not need to be tied to persuasion, truth is not married to argument. Rhetoric is an element of your persuasive point and, likewise, truth then is an element of the argument you make. Truth is needed to make an effective argument. However, an argument can be successful without being effective and vise versa. In order for an argument to be effective, it would mean that you gain the support of the other party and switch his or her point of view to match your own. On the other hand, for an argument to be successful, truth must be present. Your argument can be successful without swaying someone to your side.

Sometimes, the way that you structure and present your argument becomes more important than the truth. Truth can be a relative term when it comes to argument because that can open the debate between true knowledge versus public opinion. When thinking about public opinion or even personal opinion, rhetoric and structure are much more important than actual truth. Believing something is true can be important, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t form an effective argument using the art of rhetoric. A good example can be found through social media arguments. Arguments on that platform often times don’t even make a whole lot of sense because the people presenting them don’t put a lot of work into the rhetoric.