The votes are in an it’s a swing and a miss for Lorenzo Dow Turner, the first prominent African American linguist. Kudos to him for earning a
Master’s Degree from Harvard and PhD from The Unviersity of Chicago–in around 1915, when people thought even worse things about of colors.
But a big Oreo boo to him for taking those Oreo-tastic accolades and then using his academic acumen to study… black people!
Called “the father of Gullah stories,” Turner spent his years visiting the U.S.’s Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and learning how the linguistically isolated black folk there talked to each other.
A museum exhibit in DC is currently showcasing Turner’s work.
They called a small bird “bidi.” They called a white man “buckra.” They said “dash away” to get rid of a bad habit. And used “de” instead of “to be.” They used “e” as a pronoun for “he,” “she” and “it.” They said “eh” for “yes.” And “fanner” was a basket used to thresh rice. They said “hudu” was something that brought bad luck. And whispered sweetly “nyam” while encouraging a child to eat.
Is there something kind of pretty and lyrical and poetic about these words? Sure. But how typical! I’ve squelched my love for poets Langston Hughes Nikki Giovanni for years just so I don’t look so…RBPis. It’s booooring when a black person says they’re into some other black person. But you get this totally cool look from folks when you tell someone that you heart Bukowski and Ondaatje.
A misogynist and a misanthrope, yum!!
(And seriously, The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje–mostbeautifulpoemofalltime–read it, it’s beautiful!!)
What’s on your beach/regatta reading list for this summer?