On Guest Blogging by the Technical and Editorial Assistants: A Reader Asks if Lolcat Lingo Taps into Subtle Undercurrents of Linguistic Racism

15May08

In which Dante and Zephyr take over The Gay Recluse.

Friends! We would like to draw your attention to the following comment and conundrum we received today from Reader GhengisKuhn, who writes:

Having tracked “not every cat is a lolcat” back to its root, I (a sporadic reader) would like to present you with a link and a conundrum. The Link: http://www.catsinsinks.com, which features, if nothing else, a memorable button. The Conundrum: I have noted that lolcats use many of the same linguistic markers present in African American Vernacular English (the durative ‘be’, for example: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1221/1341009905_b99dd8f46c.jpg?v=0). Does this, combined with their clownish buffoonery, mean that lolcat lingo taps into subtle undercurrents of linguistic racism?

Thank you, GhengisKuhn, for presenting all of us with an admittedly interesting question. We will present one answer with the hope that readers will not feel shy about weighing in with their own. So without further ado: it seems to us that in keeping with the spirit of saying that every cat is not a lolcat, we think that while it is entirely plausible that some lolcats tap into the stereotypical (and racist) buffoonery and the linguistic markers you describe — and moreover so effectively illustrate in your link — we would not want to go so far as to brand every lolcat as a racist lolcat, since some lolcats strike us as legitimately cute and funny without being offensive. Readers, what do you think? Can you help GhengisKuhn with his conundrum?

Meanwhile, as you ponder your answers, we invite you to consider this:

Friends! We may be handsome, irresistible and even possess a highly refined sense of humor, but let’s be perfectly clear: not every cat is a lolcat!

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2 Responses to “On Guest Blogging by the Technical and Editorial Assistants: A Reader Asks if Lolcat Lingo Taps into Subtle Undercurrents of Linguistic Racism”

  1. 1 Fanzy

    I was all set to explain away Genghis’ example as an aberration in what is for the most part an infantalizing speech-text style, as opposed to a racialized one. If anything, I thought, the similarities are more a correlation since black caricatured speech is a way of depicting backward blacks as hapless childlike creatures incapable of sticking to linguistic and spelling rules. (I’ve studied Black English so i know the structural patterns – they’re as standardized as any other dialect.)
    Unfortunately I then turned to my favorite lolcat website and found the following within the first couple pages:
    http://icanhascheezburger.com/2008/05/13/funny-pictures-dey-c-us-trollin-dey-hatin/
    http://icanhascheezburger.com/2008/05/14/funny-pictures-be-in-da-hood/

    not to mention the uses of ‘dis’, ‘has’ instead of ‘have’, ‘z’ for plurals… i dunno… you may be on to something.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Fanzy…interesting. I’ll be curious to see if anyone else weighs in.


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