Sunday, March 23, 2008

Representing non-standard English in the press

In her "Questions for …" piece in today's NYT Magazine, Deborah Solomon interviews John Hagee. He's the preacher whose endorsement McCain sought, and who has been quoted as calling the Catholic Church "the great whore" and proclaiming that Hurricane Katrina was "God's judgment" on a sinful city of New Orleans, etc. (See here, or poke around for his interviews.) But I don't want to talk about his politics;* I want to talk about his language, and in particular how it's being represented in this piece. Look at this, with Deborah Solomon's questions in blue and his responses in red:
What about your observation in a recent book that “most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews”? What I was trying to express was the fact that Christian anti-Semitism — both Catholic and Protestant — contributed to an environment in which Nazi racial anti-Semitism could flourish.

But why bring all of that up now? ’Cause most of the world don’t know it. Christians don’t know it at all.
Look at the difference in language between those two quotes. The first doesn't exactly sound like he was burning up the thesaurus or anything, but it's syntactically complex and standard, even formal, English. The second, however, is written without the unstressed initial syllable of because and has distinctly non-standard subject-verb agreement. In fact, that's the only sentence in the interview that's like that. There is something that strikes me as regional ("our church is not hard against the gay people" — that use of hard sounds southern to me), but nothing else that looks like it would get a red mark from a copy editor in this particular context.

My question is if he style-/code-switched here or if the NYT (or Solomon?) chose to represent this line this way. In the videos of him on YouTube, he seems to pretty consistently use the velar nasal in -ing (that is, he doesn't 'drop his g's'), and he often doesn't flap t (so, he says the t in atom like you would in atomic, not rhyming the word with Adam), and so on. Maybe he switched for dramatic effect?

*Actually, I'd talk about his politics and those of Rod Parsley (see here) as well, but it's too depressing: Both Hagee and Parsley have said things that strike many people as truly outrageous, and McCain has been eagerly seeking their approval.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Muslims Against Sharia call on Senators McCain and Obama to cut all ties with their racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic supporters.