A Creole language, you must agree,
Of vulgar lineage and history,
Can rise to be properly pedigreed chatter;
Black English, of course, is a different matter.
Black English, ‘tis said, is just ignorant babble
And garbled patois of the ghetto’s black rabble,
But it has a place in the archives of time,
And it has a story black Cyranos rhyme.
Oh, if it but had a land all of its own
And had as a spokesman a king on a throne,
Like Louis XIV, then you’d certainly see
How defects can slide off the tongue trippingly.
Now it’s a known fact classic Latin’s long dead,
And these Romance changelings all thrive in its stead;
‘Tis a fait accompli and a great coup de langue,
But black talk will never join that happy throng.
From our English lit we do oft quote with pride,
“Methinks,” “Wherefore art,” or perhaps “Woe be-tide”;
But “He be gone” stinks and fills one with remorse;
It’s degrading, they claim, and the lowest discourse.
Black English, at last, is beginning to brew
In that great melting pot called American stew.
Piecemeal to be sure, they’re allowing us in,
Midst the onions and garlic of their kith and kin.
They’d better be careful; they’d better beware;
We’ve made dancing funky; we’ve kinked up their hair.
We’re sure to say something with standard aplomb
That outdates the copies of Webster’s last tome.
//Ramona Robbins Porter Newton was a French and Spanish teacher in the Detroit school system and received her bachelor's degree from Michigan State University in Lansing, her birthplace, and a master's degree in Educational Psychology. Much of her poetry was inspired by a course in Francophone literature. She passed away August 4, 2001 at the age of 82.
"Lingo" was written in 1981, originally published in Soliloquy and Other Poems by Ramona Robbins Porter Newton, and re-printed with permission of the late poet's son.