Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Infinitive, "To Be": Unconjugated in Modern Ebonics

At our holiday party this past weekend, our friend and neighbor Julie, went into a rather in depth discussion of the new, unconjugated infinitive form of the verb "to be" as it is colloquially used in modern Ebonics. She is an English teacher in an inner city, New Jersey public school. She went on to discuss that Ebonics as we think of it is not at ALL an exclusively African-American phenomenon. She has lots of caucasian, Indian, latino and asian students who speak this way, too. I found that hard to believe.

But, sure enough today, in an IM with one of the ladies in my billing department she used it. I've changed her name to "Nancy" and IM handle to protect her identity. "Nancy" is a 22 year old, Puerto Rican single mother of two. She had brought her son (who is a toddler) to me for orthotics (shoe inserts) to help him with a problem with in-toeing which was causing him to trip and fall down. So I was just casually asking her how he is doing with his new orthotics. Here's the IM:

Ethan (11:45:11 AM): But he's not tripping in them, is he?
Nancy (11:45:30 AM): he be trippin' at first- didn' want to wear em. but now its all good.
Ethan (11:45:38 AM): Well, what I meant was: Is he falling down in them when they're in his shoes?
Nancy (11:45:52 AM): No.
Ethan (11:46:05 AM): Well, that's a good sign!
Nancy (11:46:15 AM): he has a new pair of sneakers at home and i be transferin the orthotics from one pair to the other
EthanCimentDPM (11:46:47 AM): That's the way to do it. I'm glad they're fitting and working. I think it's going to seriously help him with his in-toeing and all of the associated problems.

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