Today I'm finally back in town from a weekend excursion to good ole' Detroit. I find that since I can travel more freely these days, I scurry off to Detroit for the most random of events; baby shower for a childhood friend? I'm there. Barbecue in my old neighborhood? There. Game night at my third cousin twice removed's house? You bet! The point is, I find any excuse to go back. This time, in particular, I heard that my high school marching band would be having an alumni performance concert. It peeked my interest, as I constantly try to cling to my youth by reliving my teenage memories, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that! Unfortunately, a day before I was supposed to fly out, I heard again that the performance was canceled and was to be moved to the following weekend. Blah! I decided to come anyway and make the most of it since I had already mentally prepared myself to be out of town. Luckily, there was a marching band parade that happened that weekend, in which a few of the old gang attended, so I did get to join in on a few routines. While reconnecting with my old teammates all these years later, I seemed to go right back into the comfortability zone of the way we talked to each other. It was so familiar, yet I realized that this sort of lingo and dialect only surfaced in certain scenarios.
This reminded me of a video I came across last week about a practice known as "code-switching". For those of you who aren't familiar, it's a term used to describe the alternation between different dialects and varieties of language while in conversations (also known as diglossia). The video I saw used the phrase in reference to African Americans feeling the need to code-switch while around other non-African Americans in order navigate more easily in the world.
There is a lot to be dissected in this multilayered discussion, and still, a lot for me to research, however it is a very interesting concept. Upon learning this term, I realize just how common it is, and I wonder, does everybody do this? Certainly, when I'm back in Detroit, my twang comes out. But I've discovered it's much more than a mere accent. There are actual words and phrases, as well as a certain method of delivery I use while there, that I don't when I'm in New York. On a more everyday scale, I notice I switch it up to different friend groups and individuals as well. Even if very slightly.
I'm not sure if every new person I meet starts with the generic, watered-down version of my conversational personality, and then as I get to know them my specifically curated style tailors to the individual, or if I gauge the person first and decide on which version of myself I want to give. Since becoming more self-aware of the switching, I've since noticed that I often feed off of the energy that the other person or people are giving. I like to do more listening than speaking naturally, but I think this does aide in my absorption of the linguistic ambiance I find myself in at any given moment. If someone is really bubbly and nice, I'll most likely give a bubbly reply myself. Adversely, if someone is speaking more mellow, I'm sure I'll be mellow as well. Same goes for a number of language styles; loud, rude, witty, intelligent, remedial ( with young kids), professional, etc. Does this mean I'm just mirroring what I hear though? Which one of these is my TRUE self? Do we switch so much and so often to the point where I have yet to find my own voice?
More-so than anything, I do believe the general point is to be understood by whomever it is you are talking to. If in changing the way that you speak a little helps the listener understand you better, I see no major harm with that. Understanding is so very important, and we must realize that even though we all have different styles of communication, there is a middle ground to maximize the proper reception of the point each other is trying to get across. Problems can arise, however, if we use a different manner of speaking so often that we lose what we are ultimately trying to say, or the point we're trying to convey. There was an episode of Friends where Joey had to write a letter of recommendation for Chandler and Monica. He wanted to sound smart so he used a thesaurus on almost every word, and basically, his point didn't come across at all (but of course it made for a hilarious scene).
While some of us may feel the need to switch it up based on where we are or who we're around, our way of speaking is something so unique and special to each individual. I will do my best to use the switch up with caution. All in all, it is important to remain ourselves above anything. It may not be as well received by everyone everywhere, but being true to yourself will be much more rewarding in the long run. At least I think so! Let me know your thoughts on the subject!
P.s. I do think that the uniqueness of dialect is becoming more and more popular every day. Cardi B and Tiffany Haddish are prime examples. They barely switch up anything and people seem to love it.
P.p.s. Seriously though, I called Ashleigh as SOON as I got off the airplane from Detroit and she said she noticed a difference in the way I was talking!
P.p.p.s. This is probably another reason why I love linguistics in general. Dialects, vernacular, and languages intrigue the crap outta me!