Saturday, July 08, 2006

'Fenna Ain't A Word

As Americans who’ve survived and descended from those who were torn away from our own languages, and who under duress, was compelled to learn the language of our captors, it is a miracle that we speak English as well as we do. My colleagues often laugh when they are witness to my relatively consistent use of the word ‘fenna’, (‘fena’, ‘finna’, ‘fina’, spelling notwithstanding), a word I use unashamedly, despite my dogged pursuit of a bachelors degree in English. It is a word that I claim for myself to declare or emphasize my intention and determination; “I’m ‘fenna get me a degree in English, if it’s the last thing I do,” or “I’m ‘fenna get me something to eat,” or the ever popular, “I’m ‘fenna go.” When those around me enthusiastically race to remind me that I am an English major, I have a ready-made explanation that I pontificate, half serious, half joking. I tell them that in order to be qualified to employ a word such as ‘fenna (or, fixin’depending on what part of the south your folks come from, or ain’t, or y’all, or whatseneva, etc., etc.), you must already have a thorough knowledge and an intimate understanding of the English language as taught by the descendents of England and her profiteers, entrepreneurs and settlers in this country. You can’t use the word ‘fenna without understanding the implications of being ‘about to do something’, having the strength of will, as in “I’m ‘fenna get my freedom.” Or, when your Mama says you “ain’t gone get no peach cobbla ‘til you clean up that mess,” she means you won’t even be able to smell it until you do what she says. And when a double negative is used, (“ain’t gone get no”) you know she means it, so you commence to cleaning.
On an old Oprah Winfry show, there was a discussion about the use of what is now commonly called, Ebonics. (I marvel because the spell check on my computer only forms a squiggly red line under Ebonics when I don’t use a capital E.) However, I don’t prefer the term ‘Ebonics’, because that seems to imply that it is something other than English. It is a vernacular, an English ‘Creole’ of sorts, and I simply prefer African-American English. A gentleman in the audience reminded everyone about the historical flexibility, adaptability and versatility of African-Americans when he said, “…We can speak Ebonics, we can speak the king’s English, we can parlais vous Français if we need to…” affirming that we are a strong people, capable of changing in whatever ways necessary to survive.



At 1:43 PM , Blogger BLUE said...

Amen. A-women. Couldn't have said it better myself. Gots to hold on to all our geechee-ness with all our might. I'm fenna refer folks to your message here when they try'n correct me.


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