Examining Racial Taboo through X-phemism in the TV Show Black-ish
AbstractTaboos occur in everyday life as part of language and culture. One typical way of addressing them is through euphemism; however, sometimes the taboo is broken in informal, interpersonal or joking situations in phenomena like friendly banter or playing the dozens. With this in mind, this article aims to analyze the linguistic resources employed in the US sitcom Black-ish (2014-) to convey the boundaries between the need for respect for black racial backgrounds and the breaking of existing taboos for shock value or in friendly environments within the humorous context projected by the series. To this end, we rely on appraisal theory. The results will show how the series uses x-phemism and polarization as major resources of the black community to reflect their assimilation, separation, integration or marginalization in the United States in the twenty-first century.Keywords: racial taboo; x-phemism; playing the dozens; Black-ish; humor; appraisal theory
Allan, Keith and Kate Burridge. 2006. Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Allen, Irving L. 1983. The Language of Ethnic Conflict: Social Organization and Lexical Culture. New York: Columbia UP.
Barris, Kenya. 2014-. Black-ish. Television Series. New York: ABC.
Berger, Arthur Asa. 1993. An Anatomy of Humor. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Berry, John W. 1997. “Immigration, Acculturation, and Adaptation.” Applied Psychology 46 (1): 5-34.
Bogle, Donald. 2016. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. 5th ed. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
Blommaert, Jan and Chris Bulcaen, eds. 1997. Political Linguistics. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Burgen, Stephen. 1996. Your Mother’s Tongue. London: Indigo.
Casas Gómez, Miguel. 2012. “The Expressive Creativity of Euphemism and Dysphemism.” Lexis: Journal in English Lexicology 7: 43-64.
Chamizo Domínguez, Pedro J. 2004. “La función social y cognitiva del eufemismo y del disfemismo.” Panace@ V: 45-51.
Childs, David. 2015. “Socially Constructing Race and History: Exploring Black Identity and Popular Culture in Social Studies Classrooms through Cultural Studies Framework.” Journal of Pan African Studies 8 (2): 55-73.
Chimezie, Amuzie. 1976. “The Dozens: An African-Heritage Theory.” Journal of Black Studies 6 (4): 401-20.
Crespo-Fernández, Eliecer. 2008. “Sex-Related Euphemism and Dysphemism: An Analysis in Terms of Conceptual Metaphor Theory.” Atlantis: Journal of the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies 30 (2): 95-110.
—. 2015. Sex in Language: Euphemistic and Dysphemistic Metaphors in Internet Forums. London and New York: Bloomsbury.
Dijk, Teun A. van. 1997. “What is Political Discourse Analysis?” In Blommaert and Bulcaen 1997, 11-52.
—. 1999. Ideología. Una aproximación multidisciplinaria. Translated by Lucrecia Berrone de Blanco. Barcelona: Gedisa.
Fairchild, Halford H. 1985. “Black, Negro, or Afro-American? The Differences Are Crucial!” Journal of Black Studies 16 (1): 47-55.
Gillota, David. 2013. Ethnic Humor in Multiethnic America. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers UP.
Holloway, Daniel. 2016. “‘Black-ish’ Creator: I Get So Tired of Talking about Diversity.” Variety, August 4. [Accessed online on February 22, 2018].
Horlacher, Stefan. 2010. “Taboo, Transgression and Literature: An Introduction.” In Horlacher, Glomb and Heiler 2010, 3-22.
Horlacher, Stephan, Stefan Glomb and Lars Heiler, eds. 2010. Taboo and Transgression in British Literature from the Renaissance to the Present. Basingstoke and New York:
Hughes, Geoffrey. 2006. An Encyclopedia of Swearing: The Social History of Oaths, Profanity, Foul Language, and Ethnic Slurs in the English-Speaking World. Armond, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Hunston, Susan and Geoffrey Thompson, eds. 2000. Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Jones, Dave. 2014. “1 Million Strong against ABC’s New Sitcom ‘Black-ish’.” Change.org petition. [Accessed online on February 22, 2018].
Kihara, Claudius Patrick. 2015. “Mchongoano and the Ethnography of Communication.” University of Nairobi Journal of Language and Linguistics 4: 1-19.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1963. “I Have a Dream: Address at March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. [Accessed online on February 22, 2018].
Lakoff, George and Mark Turner. 1989. More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago: U of Chicago P.
Leech, Geoffrey. 1983. Principles of Pragmatics. New York: Longman.
Martin, James Robert. 2000. “Beyond Exchange: Appraisal Systems in English.” In Hunston and Thompson 2000, 142-75.
Martin, James Robert and Peter R. White. 2005. The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in English. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Montgomery, Martin. 1995. An Introduction to Language and Society. London: Routledge.
Moraes, Lisa de. 2014. “ABC’s ‘Black-ish’ about Culture more than Race, Exec Producers Say.” Deadline, July 15. [Accessed online on February 22, 2018].
Moreno Fernández, Francisco. 1998. Principios de sociolingüística y sociología del lenguaje. Barcelona: Ariel.
Nussbaum, Emily. 2016. “In Living Color: With ‘Black-ish,’ Kenya Barris Rethinks the Family Sitcom.” New Yorker, April 25. [Accessed online on February 22, 2018].
Pérez, Raúl and Viveca S. Greene. 2016. “Debating Rape Jokes vs. Rape Culture: Framing and Counter-Framing Misogynistic Comedy.” Social Semiotics 26 (3): 265-82.
Peyser, Andrea. 2015. “Shows like ‘Black-ish’ Perpetuate Racist Stereotypes.” New York Post, April 6. [Accessed online on February 22, 2018].
Qu, Yan, James Shanahan and Janice Wiebe, eds. 2004. Proceedings of AAAI Spring Symposium on Exploring Attitude and Affect in Text. Menlo Park, CA: AAAI Press.
Smith, Tom W. 1992. “Changing Racial Labels: From ‘Colored’ to ‘Negro’ to ‘Black’ to ‘African American’.” Public Opinion Quarterly 56 (4): 496-514.
Taboada, Maite and Jack Grieve. 2004. “Analyzing Appraisal Automatically.” In Qu et al. 2004, 158-61.
Trump, Donald. 2014. “How is ABC Television Allowed to have a Show Entitled ‘Blackish’? Can you Imagine the Furor of a Show, ‘Whiteish’! Racism at Highest Level?” Tweet. October 1.
Truscott, Diane M. and Stephen D. Truscott. 2005. “Differing Circumstances, Shared Challenges: Finding Common Ground between Urban and Rural Schools.” Phi Delta Kappan 87 (2): 123-30.
Vickers, Jasmine. 2018. “Black or Black-ish: Decoding Black-ish and Its Place in the Conversation of Diversity.” Master’s thesis, Syracuse University.
Walker, Laura A. 2014. “Linguistic and Cultural Approaches to Menstruation Taboo and Euphemism.” Bachelor’s thesis, Swarthmore College.
White, Peter R. 2015. The Appraisal Website: The Language of Attitude, Arguability and Interpersonal Positioning. [Accessed online on February 22, 2018].
Wilkerson, Isabel. 1989. “‘African-American’ Favored By Many of America’s Blacks.” New York Times, January 31. [Accessed online on October 18, 2018].
The authors retain copyright of articles. They authorise AEDEAN to publish them in its journal Atlantis and to include them in the indexing and abstracting services, academic databases and repositories the journal participates in.
Under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), for non-commercial (i.e., personal or academic) purposes only, users are free to share (i.e., copy and redistribute in any medium or format) and adapt (i.e., remix, transform and build upon) articles published in Atlantis, free of charge and without obtaining prior permission from the publisher or the author(s), as long as they give appropriate credit to the author, the journal (Atlantis) and the publisher (AEDEAN), provide the relevant URL link to the original publication and indicate if changes were made. Such attribution may be done in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the journal endorses the user or their use of the material published therein. Users who adapt (i.e., remix, transform or build upon the material) must distribute their contributions under the same licence as the original.
Self-archiving is also permitted, so that authors are allowed to deposit the published PDF version of their articles in academic and/or institutional repositories, without fee or embargo. Authors may also post their individual articles on their personal websites, again on condition that the original link to the online edition is provided.
Authors are expected to know and heed basic ground rules that preclude simultaneous submission and/or duplicate publication. Prospective contributors to Atlantis commit themselves to the following when they submit a manuscript:
- That no concurrent consideration of the same, or almost identical, work by any other journal and/or publisher is taking place.
- That the potential contribution has not appeared previously, in any form whatsoever, in another journal, electronic format or as a chapter/section of a book.
Seeking permission for the use of copyright material is the responsibility of the author.