Company Looking for Ebonics Linguist. Yes. Really.

So I was sitting at my computer trying to figure out what to blog about today when I got an email from one of my readers. I promised her it’d be anonymous though. It said:

I am trying to increase visibility over a really dumb move my company is making. Chenega Corporation… (a minority owned company of Alaskan natives with money from the oil spill) is currently soliciting for “ebonics linguists” to work with the DEA in Atlanta. Along with it being advertised on the Chenega site it can be found on various job sites by Google with “ebonics Chenega.”

I assume that what they really want are people that understand local Atlanta slang to help with drug ops. We have tried to convey to leadership how offensive it is to try to hire people that are proficient in a language that does not exist but so far nothing has been done and the job has been posted for at least the past week.

The response by the Director of HR at the company was – “This position along with several other linguist positions were posted based on a requirement for the USG. Although we appreciate your sensitivity we do not define the requirements nor do we select the terminology to describe these requirements; the USG provides these, and they insist that their requirements for the position be solicited verbatim.”

So I went to the link she provided me on the job and sure enough, the company is hiring an “Ebonics Linguist II *Contingent*.” Yes. In REAL LIFE. I took a screenshot of one of the responsibilities and took the liberty of circling the emphasis on understanding “ebonics” as a requirement.

*sigh* Honestly, I read this and that’s what I did. A deep sigh. On one hand, I could see them having a need to have someone who could speak the slang that the ATL folks are speaking. I see the motive but this execution doesn’t curl alla way over. This is schmedium Luffa and I give it the side-eye. Here’s why:

1. I don’t think Ebonics is a language. Yes, we all kind of know what is being referred to as “ebonics.” It’s really broken English and slang all mixed together to form a concoction of linguistic randomness.

2b. How does one prove their expertise in ebonics? Do they conduct the interview in slang and nothing else? “Wattup son? Whatcho creds looking like?”

III. This person actually has to walk around with “Ebonics Linguist” on their resume. Next job they’re looking for may give them the ultra side-eye.

They could have called this something else. Like:

  • Urban Language Interpreter
  • Speaker of all things Street
  • Ratchetness Decipherist
  • Ye Who Speaketh Slang Good
  • Urban Slang Connoisseur
  • Auditory Transformer of Slang

Something other than “Ebonics Linguist” would have worked. I’d like to rewrite this into the Ebonics they’re expecting the person they get to understand.

“Wattup tho son?!? We looking fa brutha (or sista) to work with us an’ sh*t. You looking for a way to make some dough? Aight bet. Well we finna be dealing with these goons and we need a homie to rap wit them cuz we’ont be knowing what they be talmbout. You gotta be schooled though. I’m talm college, nah mean? We gon needju to write some stuff up too. And you gotta think good. So whatchu think? You gon’ apply?

Or is what I wrote above not broken enough for what they’re expecting? Iunno. But what do y’all think of this? Necessary? Out of line? Or just EH.

Editor’s note: Many thanks to the reader of mine that sent this to me.

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  1. May 26, 2010 at 12:38 am — Reply

    It really sad to see society coming to this. It’s bad enough that more and more people have to learn Spanish as a second language to stay ahead of the game in certain fields of work(but I’m not mad at it.) I agree with you on ebonics not being a language. It’s embarrassing and I feel pity for people who use it by choice.

    A friend of mine told me recently that ebonics was being taught to high school students as an elective course to help them understand the history of it and where it derived from. WTF? This has to stop immediately.
    .-= Janessa´s last blog ..knockoutness: Sad but true, they teach it in certain schools now. RT @luvvieig New AweLuv post: Company Looking for Ebonics Linguist http://bit.ly/bBjafE =-.

    • Peyso
      May 26, 2010 at 9:26 am — Reply

      “A friend of mine told me recently that ebonics was being taught to high school students as an elective course to help them understand the history of it and where it derived from. WTF? This has to stop immediately.” – I dont have a problem with this b/c its an elective. It sounds like a cool class. Now if it replaced English, I’d have a problem

      • V.E.G.
        May 26, 2010 at 12:12 pm — Reply

        Agreed, Peyso. I’m not mad at it as an elective. If it replaced proper English, that’s a problem.

      • May 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm — Reply

        I don’t feel strongly about whether or not Ebonics should be taught as an elective. Eh. I don’t care much. But like you said. As long as English is still offered, we’re good

  2. May 26, 2010 at 12:48 am — Reply

    Ratchetness Decipherist = gorgeous.

    Maybe I should apply because in the ‘ebonified’ ad I automatically read ‘what’ as ‘wat’.

    • May 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm — Reply

      LOL!!! Let’s know what the interview’s like.

  3. May 26, 2010 at 1:12 am — Reply

    #Lowkey, I see you tryina get hired with that paragraph. Yeen slick!

    • May 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm — Reply

      LOL!!! #AndURude

  4. Drea823
    May 26, 2010 at 6:14 am — Reply

    I am speechless. This is highly offensive and truly sad. I have a 9 year old daughter and I’m so afraid for her and her peers growing up in this “new age” society of ignorance. I pray that what we, as parents, teach them now, will be enough and that they know this is WRONG.

    I’m so glad this young lady “put the word out” on this company and I hope someone will step in and stop the madness.

    • May 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm — Reply

      I just hope the new generations grow up understanding the value of proper English even while they speak in Ebonics or slang.

  5. May 26, 2010 at 7:19 am — Reply

    This job ad lives inside the same society, the same government that feels like its okay to include ‘Negro’ as a choice on the Census form. So at this point, I’m not entirely surprised by this.

    What I do want to know is, how does one show experience using both English and ‘Ebonics’ on the job? Ugh.

    *deep sigh* *smdh*

    • V.E.G.
      May 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm — Reply

      re: Negro on the census form.

      It is offensive to me. But there are some who choose to identify by that term. I am from the South, I’ve met them.

      My maw maw identifies as Colored, true story.

    • May 26, 2010 at 2:05 pm — Reply

      I do think “negro” on the census forms is stupid offensive. I realize some folks may identify as that in the South but there are goons who identify as nigg*rs. They couldn’t put that on no census forms.

      • April
        May 26, 2010 at 10:05 pm — Reply

        That’s not a fair comparison. “Negro” was once an accepted, respectful term for “of African descent.” “Nigger” never was, and still is not.

        Actually, there was a time when calling someone “black” was considered impolite, which is why some older Americans of African descent still use the term “Negro,” as anachronistic as that may sound to us. And that’s why the U.S. Census Bureau opted to keep the term on the form.

        • May 27, 2010 at 12:44 pm — Reply

          Hmmm… *strokes chin* You may have a point there.

    • May 26, 2010 at 10:50 pm — Reply

      I agree with everything Mignon said. The only thing missing is “Niggers Only.”
      .-= Marcie´s last blog ..Update: No Live Blogging at One Million Mentor Tour =-.

  6. Margaret
    May 26, 2010 at 7:21 am — Reply

    I bet the HR department of this company watches BET, and after seeing Tiny & Toya, believe all people in Atlanta speak in this manner. Plus, this company is cheap…the DEA would spend $$ to send agents to training classes to learn different dialects. I can see this company receiving a lot of fake resumes.

    • May 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm — Reply

      I’ve never watched Tiny and Toya and been like “what did they say?” to the point I need a translator. Yes, they speak slang, but so do I and I’m in the midwest, so blaming them is funny to me. They talk with a thick accent, it’s not a detrimental language barrier.

      • May 26, 2010 at 2:06 pm — Reply

        “I’ve never watched Tiny and Toya and been like “what did they say?” to the point I need a translator.”

        Lowkey, I have. LOL I concentrate REALLY hard when I hear them talk to get what they’re saying most of the time. It’s not detrimental. It’s purely their accent because they don’t even use a lot of slang.

        • May 26, 2010 at 2:28 pm — Reply

          Yeah, I think that’s different tho, if you need a translator because you can’t understand their accent. I can’t understand Asian people or Arabs, but I know it’s because they speak with a heavy tongue. To say I can’t understand them because of “slang” is a totally different story. To me that’s not the case with them at all.

          • May 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm

            “To say I can’t understand them because of “slang” is a totally different story. To me that’s not the case with them at all.”

            I agree with that.

  7. I NEED $
    May 26, 2010 at 8:00 am — Reply

    umm so what? a company is looking to connect with a culture that is constantly evolving, constantly changing in ideals and interests. “Urban” slang changes like the damn wind; why wouldnt a company want someone who can assimilate into both worlds seamlessly? makes perfect business sense….

    • May 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm — Reply

      Like I said, I understand the motives. But the execution is just… wack.

  8. LadyDee
    May 26, 2010 at 9:20 am — Reply

    Well if they had enough people of diverse backgrounds in the government they wouldn’t have to worry about hiring a person that speaks & understand ebonics. But instead they choose to keep hiring a bunch of caucasians; and I’m sure there’s less than 15% of minorities represented in this company. I say shame on Chenega & shame on the gov’t.

    • V.E.G.
      May 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm — Reply

      Not sure if diversity is the issue.
      I’m black and oftentimes I can’t understand real street slang.
      They aren’t looking to decipher the slang you or I or our friends use…they want to decode tha real ish, that folks who ride these streets use.

      • May 27, 2010 at 3:26 pm — Reply

        You sound real hood here lol

  9. Peyso
    May 26, 2010 at 9:25 am — Reply

    Here’s why I think there is nothing wrong with this: (I hate to use fiction as proof but the fiction was based on truth so I guess it counts). The Wire. The cops in the Wire had all of the phones tapped but it did them no good b/c they couldnt understand what the hell ppl were saying. They had to hire a translator/ebonics linguist in order to understand what was being said. I dont see the difference

    • May 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm — Reply

      I may be the only Black person who’s never watched the Wire so I’ont e’en know what they do in it.

      *hands over Black card*
      *slinks away*

  10. May 26, 2010 at 10:53 am — Reply

    They want someone who can speak Ebonics in ATL? So if a White guy is the most qualified, can he sue for discrimination? This is so wrong.

  11. Cheekie
    May 26, 2010 at 10:56 am — Reply


    My sister took a Linguistics class in college and her professor told her that linguistically, Ebonics is actually “grammatically correct.” And that society placed a stigma on it just to down Black folks. And yes, the professor is a liberal 2520.

    Things that make you go hmmm.
    .-= Cheekie´s last blog ..Somethin’ For Side-Eyes: Check Yourself…Into Cash =-.

    • May 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm — Reply

      He’s right. A lot of the words considered slang actually come from African languages and have been syncretized with to create African American culture. I remember taking a class and we looked at over 100 Africanisms and how they’ve been infused into mainstream culture.

      I think that’s mostly the reason why we look down at our speech. We think that our English is broken, instead of realizing that it’s actually innovative and reminiscent of African ancestry…

      • May 26, 2010 at 2:10 pm — Reply

        Nah. Imo say it. Some of our English is broken. I get that some of the words have tracings to Africa but even in Africa, there is a tongue considered “Broken or Pidgin English.” We know it’s not grammatically correct.

        But I do agree that part of our speech is frowned on because of who we are. Super country folks sound like the Charlie Brown teacher to me so I guess we’re even.

        • May 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm — Reply

          Yeah, but even in definition the origin of pidgin language comes from people needing to communicate with those who spoke no common language. From Africa, to the transatlantic slave trade, to America blacks have created pidgin languages. So I wasn’t suggesting it wasn’t “broken.” However, I was moreso reflecting upon how “proper” English as a litmus test for discrimination.

          • Cheekie
            May 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm

            “However, I was moreso reflecting upon how “proper” English as a litmus test for discrimination.”


            Oh, and just to clarify, the professor was a woman. Anyhow, my sister told me about this class the summer I was to start college and I wanted to take her class just because of what she told me the prof said. I never got to, though, I think she left before I had a chance.
            .-= Cheekie´s last blog ..Somethin’ For Side-Eyes: Check Yourself…Into Cash =-.

      • May 29, 2010 at 3:39 am — Reply

        Thank You. Black people have truly bought into the idea that what we have and what we do is some kind of broken form of the greater society version. They tells us this and we believe it. Then days later, here they come with the car swagga and getting their groove on, and all the rest, that they made us ashamed of. “Ebonics” is just another name for the way that black Americans speak english. There so much more to it than the slangs that we creatively keep inventing. And at times, it’s the only way to communicate exactly the way we want to, because ‘standard’ english won’t do it.
        Luvvie, you’re a master at this language and that’s part of why you are so good and communicate so well, and are so funny!! Saying some of what you say in standard english wouldnt come across as funny as it does!! It has been determined to have its own rules of grammar that have nothing to do with “standard” english, which by the way, is not the original english of Great Britain!
        For a better understanding of Ebonics or African American Vernacular English, check out the vimeo clip of Speaker: Lisa Green, associate professor of linguistics and founding director of the Center for the Study of African American Language at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She gives an interesting breakdown of the rules of black grammar which are not the same as standard american english, but are consistant. Because it’s not white doesn’t mean its bad! http://vimeo.com/10523905

        Also, I did a post on the Gullah/Geechee black people of South Carolina, and the language patterns and culture they developed, based on being isolated on the Sea Islands of S.C. It’s an interesting mix of West African pidgin, american english and some french, and has been preserved and is the closest to what those enslaved Africans of many ethnicities created back in the time of slavery in order to communicate and survive. Its very informative.

        It’s important for black people to study their culture and not take others’ word that it’s deficient and shameful.
        peace out.

        .-= Anna Renee´s last blog ..White Approval Addiction – You Got It! =-.

  12. V.E.G.
    May 26, 2010 at 12:20 pm — Reply

    To be fair, they used to send folks who could understand the locals to the rural south to register voters. And Zora Neal Hurston herself specialized in black, rural dialect and was actually hired to go collect stories and record the colorful language 0 i.e. ebonics – folks used back in the day. So there is a historic context here.

    I see where they are going with this. You need to be able to “decode” urban/gang speak, something that constantly changes/evolves. Urban slang is also regional: what’s hot in the ATL ain’t hot in the CHI. If you aren’t up on it, you’d get lost in a conversation. And let’s be real: just having a black person do it is not enough. I’m black and I sometimes hear folks say ish I cannot understand.

    The problem here is that they used the term ‘ebonics’…a word that has negative connotations. Urban translator, dialect specialist…something along those lines would be less inflammatory. This is really no different than a govt. agency looking for folks who speak Spanglish, a language that isn’t taught anywhere, yet is used widely and varies based on locale.

  13. May 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm — Reply

    In reality, this entire argument is a case of Standard English vs. Nonstandard English, under which falls all manner of colloquialism, slang and vernacular. Every culture has those based on region, history and collective origins and experiences. “Ebonics” is a term that some Black folk found offensive, but that doesn’t negate the fact we indeed have entire vernacular all our own, made up again of colloquialisms and slang based on of the things I mentioned before.

    So, I say ALL that to say…”Eh”.

  14. May 26, 2010 at 7:29 pm — Reply

    I have some more potential job titles:

    F*ckery Decoder
    WhereTheyDoThatAt Locator
    Wizard of Grammatical Ineptitude

    • May 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm — Reply

      *dead* cole, u stoopid

  15. April
    May 26, 2010 at 9:59 pm — Reply

    I saw this posted on a friend’s Facebook page, and I originally thought it was a story on The Onion, because I couldn’t believe a company would actually post this on a job board. What this firm is looking for is probably someone well-versed in urban slang, as you point out, which is NOT Ebonics. They probably just dropped the term “Ebonics” into a template form as a catchall without really thinking through the required qualifications for such a job.

    I was compelled to comment, however, because your assertion that Ebonics is “a concoction of linguistic randomness” is untrue, and most linguists would tell you this. Ebonics does have its own grammar. There are certain rules that it follows: e.g. th–>d (this–>dis). (Wikipedia links to some good sources on this topic and also has a section of grammatical rules: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English) It may not be an officially recognized “language,” but it’s not randomly strung together, either; if that were the case, how would its speakers even understand each other?

    In fact, this is why this job posting is quite bizarre. It’s not like Ebonics is completely unintelligible to American English speakers, especially ones in the South. Southern American English and Ebonics in fact share many characteristics–how many Northerners say “fixin’ to” (or “finna,” as it were)? It seems like the company just needs someone up to date on Atlanta street vocabulary.

  16. May 26, 2010 at 11:01 pm — Reply

    I’m quick to get up in arms about *everything*, but I am not offended by this. Ebonics/AAVE is a dialect, and this simply informs a potential candidate of the responsibilities and expectations of the position. They phrased it simply, and didn’t single it out any different than anything else that would be required for the job.

    MY question tho, is WHY? Have they had problems with employees and clients not being able to understand each other to a serious extent? Is it a slick way to encourage Black people (or um… more “urban acclimated” non-Black people) to apply?
    .-= Katchin05´s last blog ..theduty:…ohhhhhhh, the 90’s. =-.

    • May 27, 2010 at 3:22 pm — Reply

      I’m not offended by this either but it just has no couth. I don’t think it’s a slick way to get Black folks to apply because, well, it isn’t slick.

  17. […] line? Offended? Or just EH.Editor’s note: Many thanks to the reader of mine that sent this to me.[ORIGINALLY POSTED HERE] Article by LuvvieLuvvie is a blogger with a passion for roasting and ranting (and rice). You can […]

  18. Raven
    May 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm — Reply

    Would your response be the same if this company was looking for an employee in Jamaica and the asked for a patois linguist?

    WHat about if it was Haiti and they asked for someone is fluent in Hatian kreyol?

    What do Hatian kreyol, patois and ebonics ( or Black vernacular English to be all scholarly) have in common, the edumucated negroes ask?

    they are all dialects created by a class of citizens to communicate with each other? BVE or ebonics is not as established as the others but it should not be devalued because we “regular” black folk here in America speak it.

    I am not saying speaking correct English isn’t an absolute requirement but I speak both and am proud. Im from Louisian so there is an extra flavor to mine. Im a doctor ( brand new lol) and when I have patients who speak it and don’t speak proper English very well…I can break down what they need to do for their “sugar diabetes”.

    All that to say I don’t get the problem with the ad AT ALL.

    love the blog…moving to the CHI and planned to be involved with the Red Pump Project if I can

  19. Raven
    May 27, 2010 at 2:31 pm — Reply

    please pardon my typos..I dont proofread in English or BVE

    • August 24, 2010 at 4:03 pm — Reply

      LOL! No problem.

  20. May 27, 2010 at 7:08 pm — Reply

    Wait, ebonics is still active in the english lexicon? (that sentence was my attempt to not speak in ebonics). I thought this word was out when the terms “swag” and “goon” became popular on the urban stage? Guess I was wrong. My personal favorites by the way: Urban Slang Connoisseur and Auditory Transformer of Slang.

  21. […] informs us of an actual job posting from a company looking for an “Ebonics Linguist”. Yes, for […]

  22. […] From Awesomely Luvvie: “Company looking for Ebonics Linguist. Yes. Really.” […]

  23. June 1, 2010 at 10:23 pm — Reply

    *dead* cole, u stoopid

  24. n
    June 2, 2010 at 12:38 am — Reply

    There are many nonstandard dialects of most languages. And there are and have always been experts in what has been called African America Vernacular English.
    No, “Ebonics” is not English. Yes, it is a dialect that has its own vocabulary and rules. Listen to someone try to do fake “black talk” and how they mangle it and sound stupid, and you’ll quickly learn that there are indeed rules.

    Puerto Rican Spanish, Dominican Spanish and Cuban Spanish are all dialects of “Castillian Spanish”.Just because they aren’t the standard or high status dialect doesnt mean they don’t exist.

    There is a whole lot more to linguistics than knowing slang, so unless homey down the way knows about missing copula and other such things, he isn’t gonna get the job just based on negritude.

  25. bogart4017
    June 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm — Reply

    *Le sigh*

  26. June
    August 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm — Reply

    and sadly as of August 2010 they are still serchin’

  27. September 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm — Reply

    Maybe it’s because I’m white, but the first thing I thought of when I read this was: Mrs. Cleaver in “Airplane”.

    “Excuse me stewardess! I speak jive.”

    • September 13, 2010 at 8:14 pm — Reply

      LMAO!!! Not “I speak jive!”

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