Language Matters: London gangstas say f**k the 5-0

Why bother with all this vocabulary stuff?  How is it relevant in the ‘real world’?  You might be surprised by how much the words you use affect the meaning of what you say.

The language behind the England riots (BBC, 12 August 2011)


Po po.

The 5-0.

These are just a few new words in the UK’s lexicon — all of them slang for the police — that traveled across the ocean from the United States with their hip hop and rap origins.

These are the "po po" according to rioters, even though they're not the same police that LA rappers were talking about when they invented the term.

These words, along with others of non-US origin (such as “yard” for home or “end” for part of a city), have drawn increased attention from the media because of the London riots.

While the words have changed meaning somewhat from their origins — the word “feds” obviously does not refer to the FBI when used in the UK — they carry a connotation that connects their users to a subculture that is known to hold contempt for police.

And they're not afraid to tell you how they feel.

In a similar way, when the media referred to “the community,” it was generally accepted that the term meant everyone who was not involved in the looting and riots.

Even the choice between the word “rioter,” which implies a political motivation, or “looter,” which implies simple theft, holds great weight in this situation.

Clearly, looters are the more reviled group.

These examples demonstrate the power of words and their importance in expressing meaning, especially when dealing with emotionally and politically controversial events around the world.

What do you think?  Let us know in the comments!

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