Written Words – Code Switching

Had an interesting moment last night. I’ve been doing field work in New Orleans for the past month; sounds sexy but a lot of it is phone calls to get responses to surveys.

Needless to say, life in New Orleans is a lot different than Oxford. But one of the interesting things I didn’t put a lot of thought into was my own speech.

I first became familiar with the idea of code-switching when I read about it in Mitch Album’s Fab Five book. It was one of my favorite’s growing up, and I was always struck by his description of Chris Webber. Webber, Album said, spoke proper english with the press, but sounded completely different with his teammates.

Fast forward to last night. I’m doing a survey response via phone at 8pm. After the survey my girlfriend told me, “you used your spoken word voice.”

I’m not sure why that struck me, but it did. I think maybe because it tapped into a something I’ve been thinking about over the past few months with regards to code-switching. The question I’ve had is:

Is code-switching dishonest? Or fake?

That’s why the spoken word comment made me think. I’ve always considered my spoken word voice to be authentic and honest. Maybe if code switching is bringing me to that voice, it’s bringing me back to a part of myself I don’t express very often anymore.


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