It is puzzling
I published an article titled, “Linguistic Diversity in Libraries” in the July 10, 2018 edition of Library Journal. That article dealt with the narrowly focused issue of diversity in libraries that basically deals with disparities in wages and leadership positions. I explain methods to easily include diverse language in my library workday. I want to emphasize these different vernaculars are in addition to, not instead of the “King’s English.” My article includes techniques to increase linguistic diversity; that are fast and free. “Fast & Free” would make a great name for a band, but I digress.
I am taking a light-hearted approach to this subject because I do not believe that diversity discussions always have to be so serious. In the words of a great philosopher, the Joker, “Why so serious?” Now more than ever, we can all use a bit of levity. As a result, this posting includes a crossword puzzle to test your vernacular fluency. All terminology for answers to the crossword puzzle is on the Urban Dictionary website. For the uninitiated, I added clues, in parentheses, containing the answer’s number and either “A” for Across or “D” for Down.
‘Cuz they got jokes! The views & opinions expressed on Urban Dictionary are those of their contributors and do not reflect those of myself, my employer nor my dear father, or as I affectionately call him, “The Good Reverend.” (3A)
I enjoy adding interesting elements to my job, whether I am teaching library workshops dressed in a full pirate costume, in virtual worlds. I created a scavenger hunt using only books titles containing profanity, so it should not be surprising that as part of my outreach, reference and instruction job duties, I incorporate urban vernacular whenever it makes sense to do so. (10D)
Urban vernacular, also known as African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), has got mad swagger partially due to the rich multilayered colloquial meanings. Don’t just take my word for it, look at the overwhelming success of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical, Hamilton. Of course, for basic communication we need to speak a common language. However, why is the burden on minorities, alone, to assimilate their tongues and to Code-Switch? (7A) (4A)
There are numerous articles describing how diversity is beneficial in academia because it is logical that minority or underrepresented students appreciate seeing people that look like them and speak like they speak outside of academic settings. I believe that not only do minority students benefit, but that increasing diversity in academia enhances the majority population’s experiences, as well. Library literature is replete with articles about scarcities in staffing and collections, but less so concerning diversity of language/dialects. (1D)
Speaking of diversity and assimilation, I thought it was ironic that Microsoft Word's spell check was being hella micro-aggressive when I typed my Linguistic Diversity article. Spell check was trying furiously to "correct" both my grammar and my terminology. Interestingly enough, I am not the only one who was "aggressed micro-ly" by spell check. In 2009, CBS News reported that Microsoft Word's spell check suggested that the correct spellings of the name of the 44th President of the United States, were: Barracks and Osama. Just sayin’ #FAIL. (9D) (19D)
To begin my library workshops, I would sing the popular and catchy refrain from the song Formation by none other than the Queen Bey herself, Beyonce. “Okay, ladies, now let's get IN formation.” Although, in my re-mix, I changed ladies to students, and I combined the last 2 words, so it was a proper librarian anthem. “Okay, students now let's get INFORMATION!” Get it. Good? On a side note, much to my co-worker’s amusement, I literally carry hot sauce in my bag, swag! Anyway, so after my attention-grabbing, musical prelude, I explain all of the benefits of library instruction, especially when they are studying and writing papers. (17A) (13A)
In my workshops, I demonstrate the chat reference option, naturally using the darker skin-toned emojis. As an African-American librarian, who also happens to be named Felicia, my co-workers naturally end our chat demonstration by typing, what-else...yelp you guessed it, "Bye Felicia!" Those in the know, burst into laughter because what is understood need not be explained. Nevertheless, without fail, a student will ask sheepishly if I know why they are laughing? I reply, with some version of "Mos Def.” I do not need anyone to Blacksplain’ it to me, because I am 'bout dat life. Duh.” (8A) (11A) (6D) (5D) (12D)
Not only does my “Coolness Quotient” increase, but my language helps put them at ease and so I am then able to proceed with my lesson plan, which they soon discover is just as unconventional as my language. My philosophy has always been that if they are not paying attention to you; you are not teaching them. I take the same approach to reference and outreach. I created an Ask-A-Librarian poster asking if your research paper is a Hot Mess? Instead of the usual opening line from students of “I am sorry to bother you,” when they came to the reference desk, they confessed, “Yes,” indeed their paper was a Hot Mess and recognized that they needed help. Interestingly, they approached the desk laughing and at greater ease than usual. (18D)
As part of my outreach efforts, I created book displays. Such exhibits provide a great opportunity for libraries to showcase their commitment to inclusivity, especially during annually designated awareness months. Usually during February for Black History Month, I highlighted seldom explored African-American stories. A perfect illustration of the desperate need for racial literacy was an actual complaint make about one of my book displays featuring “Inspirational People.” Quote, “Why are there so many books about Black people?” Unquote. My reaction was simple, “For why?” This clearly shows that there is still a vital need to include racial literacy and linguistic diversity into librarianship. (5A) (14D) (15A)
To end on a positive note, I created the following Urban Dictionary Crossword Puzzle that is an amusing activity exploring the wondrous world of urban vernacular. Clues to the answers are listed in parentheses, at the end of the exact paragraphs containing the answer.
For more please see my original Linguistic Diversity in Libraries article, available on the Library Journal’s website.
Clues to solve the crossowrd puzzle:
|2. What 99.9% of the world is lacking.||
1. Common word used by an "anti-racist" for anyone other than a white guy.
|3. To express disapproval regarding another person's using humor at the expense (maliciously or innocuously) of another person/entity.||5. Explaining things pertaining to African American history and culture, to someone who is racially ignorant.|
|4. A demeanor of confidence, coolness, and togetherness.||6. Slang for "Most Definitely."|
|5. A time for white people to pretend they care about black people and for black people to pretend that they care about history.||9. An intensifier, with a grammatical function and usage similar to "very" or "really."|
|7. To customize your style of speech to the audience being addressed.||10. Air-conditioned place, where you can take a nap and get free bookmarks.|
|8. Means "Thank you Captian Obvious."||12. Because typing out an entire word describing something is just was too hard.|
|11. They're real name becomes irrelevant because nobody cares what it really is. Instead, they now are called "___."||14. To ask, "Why come, or how come?"|
|13. Information Master. People believe they own a lot of cats.||18. A situation, behavior, appearance, etc. that is disastrously bad.|
|15. Plagiarizing from many different sources.||19. An expression used to justify an opinion or to qualify a statement.|
|17. Used in reference to doing school work. Ends in the word dying, and slowly leads to it.|
The following image contains the answers to the puzzle.