by Barbara D'Amato
Lawrence Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law and Professor of Law, wrote an interesting blog recently about our governor. It also has a bit to do with Chicagoisms and by extension Chicago fiction writing.
Quoting Professor Velvel:
‘I suggest that Fitzgerald and the FBI agents were really outraged by the language they heard (just as a lot of people, even Republicans, were outraged by the language they heard Nixon use on the Watergate tapes). Bleep this and bleep that obviously means "fuck this" and "fuck that." Around the country, most people don't punctuate every other sentence with fuck this, fuck that, fuck him, he's a fuckin' asshole, etc., etc. Nor do they like it when they hear people talk like that. But in Chicago that is how a lot of people regularly talk. (Not everyone in Chicago speaks like Obama, you know.) Many of us who grew up there learned to talk like that, and, when we've lived elsewhere, have learned that people elsewhere dislike and won't listen to the views (no matter how intelligent) of someone who speaks in a way that is par for the course in Chicago. (You may remember that people used to react badly to a southern accent (which they considered a sign of stupidity) or to a Brooklyn accent or speech. The same is true of the Chicago style of speaking that I am discussing here.)
‘That this is one typical Chicago style of speech is only the more clear because it is well recognized that, as has sometimes been discussed here, some very famous Chicago writers combine very bad language, language from the streets of Chicago, with their otherwise high falutin' writing. Think Mamet. Think Terkel. Think Bellow.
‘One might say, "Well, Fitzgerald grew up as a poor kid in New York City. The language there is pretty bad, so he should be used to it." Here is one writer who begs to differ, and I know others who differ also. Though rough, the typical language of New York is not as rough as the language of Chicago. As someone knowledgeable about the speech pattern in both cities recently said to me, "Chicago is cruder." Yes it is. Much cruder as a general matter, and the crudeness often extends to the highly educated. It is one Chicago style. (It would be interesting, incidentally, to see a comparison by professional linguists of the styles of speech in Chicago and New York.)
‘(I note that Fitzgerald has lived in Chicago for a few years, so perhaps one could argue he should be prepared for or inured to the Chicago style. But on the other hand, there are those who think he is prissy and straight arrowish, and could never become used to such talk.)
‘So I think that even the ex New Yorker, Fitzgerald, was not prepared for the kind of language that was heard on the tapes (just as people weren't prepared for Nixon on tape). And I cannot help thinking that, in addition to not wanting the Senate seat to be sold before they acted, the Federal officials acted in major part because they were taken aback by the kind of language used.
‘You know, it might behoove Blagojevich not only to put on the stand a parade of witnesses who are knowledgeable about what has gone on in politics for scores of years in this country, but also linguistic experts who are familiar with and knowledgeable about the style of Chicago speech typified in the tapes of Blagojevich and, to a lesser extent, present in the works of some of the great Chicago writers. And maybe Blagojevich's counsel should seek to cross examine Fitzgerald himself and some of his staff about their reactions to Blagojevich's style of speech and what effect this had on them. But wouldn't it be a hoot if a Chicago federal trial judge were to deny efforts by Blagojevich to introduce evidence of the "widespreadness" in Chicago of Blagojevich's style of speech, and to deny examination of Fitzgerald and company by Blagojevich's lawyers, with the ruling of denial being encapsulated in a two word Chicagoesque ruling, "Fuck that." What, you say that can't happen? Well, I can dream, can't I?’
This ends the Velvel quotation.
I think that part of people’s indignation at Nixon’s or Blagojevich’s use of bleepable words is outrage at what they see as hypocrisy. These people campaign as if they are holier than the rest of us. The tapes sound far less than holy.
All of this is not to minimize Blagojevich’s hideous behavior. I mean, threatening to take funds away from Children’s Hospital if he isn’t paid off? The Blagojegrinch!
But what do you think of this view of Chicago talk? Hey! Whaddaya think? I’m bleeping talkina you!