There's an old Polish proverb that says, "A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent."
Back when Shrub (a.k.a. George Dubya Bush), was President, news outlets had a bit of a quandry at times. When they transcribed his speeches, what exactly should they do? Do they keep in things like dropping g's at the end of words to show what he really sounded like, or fix them, making him look more intelligent?
I have to admit, I had never really considered that. I always assumed a few dropped letters or even incorrect words here and there. People talk, and will mangle the English language without intending to as they rush to get their thoughts out. When I was in school, the most common words I heard (with translations for the NORP's out there) were "Djeetyet?" ("Did you eat yet?") and "Nohdjoo?" ("No. Did you?"). Transcripts are funny things because, frequently, they are not how people actually talked. It's the words, but not how they said them. Even when they nailed Shrub when he wouldn't put g's on the ends of the words, I never once read the word "nucyular". So what is allowed and what isn't is purely subjective. And this isn't limited to political figures. Neil Armstrong's famous words on the moon? Some dictionaries "correct" it to read, "That's one small step for A man, one giant step for mankind."
Of course, this is dangerous. See the Polish proverb above. When is someone transcribing what was said and when are they trying to make the person look like an idiot while hiding behind a shield? Everyone knew Shrub and the English language didn't mix very well. But no one made any stink one way or the other.
Now, a new era. We have the first black President, Barack Obama, and people have already been accused of racism for saying he's such a great speaker. A lot of detractors think this is condescending, implying that blacks aren't good at speaking proper English when, for a lot of them, they were just remembering listening to Shrub speak and wincing at the thought that that was what other countries thought we all sounded like.
Obama was at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual awards dinner in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. He gave a whale of a speech, telling listeners to quit crying and complaining and to support him in his re-election bid.
The Associated Press, those wonderful fellows who were charging people for quoting more than a handful of words from one of their articles, even if the words were public domain, transcribed the speech with all the dropped g's instead of correcting them.
This has brought out charges that the AP is racist. Not helping is John McWhorter, a New Republic contributing editor and noted linguistics expert. He argued the transcription with the dropped g's "is actually the correct one." He stuck his foot in his mouth, however, by Obama winning the election was due, in part, to how effortlessly "he can switch into that [black] dialect." Listen, asshole, that is not a "black" dialect. That is a CASUAL dialect. I drop my g's during conversation frequently (I also have a tendency to inject the word "dude" in a lot), and I'm one of the whitest guys you'll ever meet. You can't just say he was just talking and the momentum carried him, you have to say it's a "black dialect." Jesus Christ....
The problem is, this has never been an issue before. This is an election season, when all the dirty tricks start coming out, including attempts to make the candidate look foolish. Whether or not AP is right to do this, the fact that they never have before and are doing so now while rival candidates are slinging shit makes them look very bad indeed.
I keep waiting for AP to do something right. Looks like I have longer to wait.