Printable Version
Pronunciation: ee-bahn-iks Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)

Meaning: Black American English, a dialect of English closely associated with African Americans.

Notes: As I've mentioned before, differences in dialects do not reflect differences in intelligence. Moreover, not all African Americans speak Black American English. Those who do, do not misspeak themselves, but simply learn English as they hear it in their community.

In Play: The term Ebonics emerged in the 70s in attempt to bolster the claim that Black American English is a different language and should be treated as such. In fact, it is simply a dialect of English with many similarities with Southern American English. There was considerable borrowing back and forth between these two dialects.

Word History: The term Ebonics was introduced by social psychologist Robert Williams to establish it as a language and to remove the negative associations with the current term, then Black English. Williams created a blend of ebony + phonics. The word didn't stay around long because, among other things, a language comprises more than phonics. Too, this word was just a euphemism for another word that had taken on negative connotations. I have explained elsewhere why euphemisms do not work. (Today's Good Word was suggested by C. Nichol, someone who is sensitive to the dialects of American English and wanted to know more about Ebonics.)

Dr. Goodword,

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