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21 Apr 2005 00:00
Often in the past, reformers have proposed phonetic alternatives to the difficult, apparently arbitrary spellings of English. Usually they have been earnest scholars or radical intellectuals.
Nowadays, however, the bards of rap and hip-hop have become the most powerful advocates of alternative systems of orthography.
Look closely and you can distinguish between the singer who tries to represent demotic speech and the mere linguistic braggadocio. Dizzee Rascal’s Mobo-nominated album Boy in Da Corner scarcely has a conventionally spelled track title. I Luv U, Stop Dat, Hold Ya Mouf, Wot U On.
Possibly influenced by the 1991 film Boyz N the Hood, the big rebel letter has become ‘z”. It is there in the very names of some tough-sounding groups: Outlawz, Big Brovaz. Hard-faced urban combo NWA are responsible for titles such as Real Niggaz, Alwayz Into Something and A B***h Iz a B***h.
If such spellings should for a moment look cool, you ought to note that we have been here before, in defiantly uncool company. Remember the British pop band Slade? They did this spelling insurrection 30 years ago. What about Coz I Luv You? Or Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me? And then there was that anthem of the inner city, Cum on Feel the Noize. -
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