The Origins Of Black American English, Ebonics And History


Chance writes: Black-American English is the second most spoken English in America. Black English is called Ebonics by Scholars and intellectuals. Black-American Ebonics is the result of Black Slaves and their descendants who had to learn how to speak the English language. The English language of their White slave Masters.

The Origins Of Black American English, Ebonics And History

By Chance Kelsey, The

CHANCE: Why are some people so critical of Ebonics? Now what is Ebonics? Ebonics is Black-American English or what some people call ghetto English, black slang or street English. But Ebonics didn’t come from the ghetto or streets of Black-America. Black English existed Three hundred years before the ghettos and the street life. Ebonics came from Black slaves whom had to learn English so they could communicate with their white slave Masters.

The word ebony means Black and phonics means sound, so the two words were combined and the word Ebonics was born. Ebonics means black sounds and Ebonics means black sound, symbolizing the type of English that many Black-Americans can speak.

This English is what many Black-Americans speak among themselves, just like many other people speak another language besides English inside their homes.

Also, if you go to London-England there are people who speak cockney English – and cockney English is not considered proper English by the British. When many Black-Americans go on job interviews, the overwhelming majority of them don’t start speaking Ebonics with their potential employers; they speak standard American English this is a fact.

Well some people and employers will say, they have seen and heard a Black-American speak Ebonics at a job interview. But those Black-Americans are the exception to the general rule.

The major reason why many people from other ethnic groups criticize Ebonics is because it is a sign of "change in America.” Many White-Americans see Ebonics (Black English) as Black-Americans coming into their own way of saying and expressing.

How they feel in their own verbal style of English – and this makes some White-Americans feel they no longer have supreme major control over the behavior of Black-Americans. It makes some white-Americans feel much more powerless now not all White-Americans feel this way, but some do.

Black Slaves From Africa And Learning English

CHANCE: When Africans were brought over to America as slaves, they did not speak English. They only spoke African “tribal languages" the majority of the slaves were sent to southern states.

The white "slave masters" themselves did not speak proper American English. And matter of fact, the majority of white people living in the southern states did not speak proper American Standard English either.

The first group of slaves from Africa, who made it to America – the majority of them never, learned English. But their children did and their children were bilingual. They spoke "English and the African tribal language" that their parents taught them.

Then the slave masters told them too only speak English, so the children of the African slaves when they became adults and had children. They only taught their children English because the white slave master had told them too only speak English. The grand-parents whom were brought from Africa to be slaves were now old, and could only speak the tribal languages – that they spoke back in Africa.

So some of the grand-children could not even communicate with their own grand-parents whom were living on the same slave plantation sad Huh? Now some grand children were secretively taught by their parents the old tribal language that there grand-parents spoke back in Africa. Some grand children learned a few words some learned how to speak the tribal language fluently.
But when the grand-parents generation died off the grand-children started teaching their children English only like the white slave masters demanded.

Also the whites living in the southern states passed a law that said, slaves are not allowed to be educated or taught how to read and write. If any white person was caught teaching a slave how to read or write, they could be arrested and put in jail. So the slaves were not taught proper American Standard English, also the white southern slave masters who could read and write, did not speak proper American Standard English themselves. The whites living down south taught black slaves pronounce their English words like them (whites).

And, we know that the English spoken in the southern states is considered improper American English. Even in our own modern times, the way Americans who live down south pronounce their words are considered incorrect by American grammar scholars. Also, the rest of America considers the English spoken in southern states incorrect and improper.

The Major Reasons Why Black-Americans Speak Black English (Ebonics)

Here are some reasons why Black-Americans speak Black English

1. The African slaves were slave immigrants and they and their children had to learn English; which was a foreign language to them.

When you try to learn a new language as an immigrant it is not easy just like immigrants who leave their countries today – and go to another country. They have to learn the language of that country if they really want to fit in.

2. The black slaves were not allowed to be taught how to read and write during the times of black slavery in America. Black slaves were not allowed to go to school and they were not allowed an education, and this was the law.

3. The white slave masters and white people in general living down south did not speak proper America English themselves. And many whites were educated and some whites were not educated – but that did not matter. The majority of whites living down south did not speak proper standard American English.

So if you can’t speak proper English yourself, the only English you can teach others to speak is the improper English you speak. Also, during the civil war between the North and the South
When General Robert E. Lee with his confederate troops invaded state of Pennsylvania. The people living in the state of Pennsylvania said the white southern confederate soldiers from the southern states. Spoke a type of English, which was difficult to understand. The northern people living in the northern states thought and felt that the white southern confederate troops spoke an improper and "awful" type of English.

Also the people in the north made fun of the way southern white people spoke English. And some scholars’ say that Black-American English (Ebonics) came from those small islands (Isle of Man and other small islands next to England) located next too Great Britain.

History scholars know, that many White-Americans in the southern states during the time of slavery. Descended from the Isle of Man and other small islands located next to England. Some white southerners descended from the white people of England also.
These white islanders spoke English that sounded different from white people living in the country of England. But they all spoke English, whether they were from the Isle of Man or the main land country of England.

Now the whites living down in the southern states did influence the way black slaves pronounced their English words. But if you observe the descendants of black slaves you can clearly hear and see – that the Black English they speak is not spoken by White-Americans. This Black English is a type of English, that White-Americans themselves publicly acknowledge (agree) that it came from Black-Americans.

When you hear a white person or another person from a certain minority ethnic group "speak" Ebonics. It simply means they have been listening to Black-Americans speak their type of English, and these people like what they hear nothing more. If you listen to White-Americans living in the southern states you can clearly listen to them speak and you will know; just from hearing them speak. That they are not speaking Ebonics some White-Americans will be offended if you say they are the ones who started Ebonics.

If White-Americans started Black English why would they be offended at their own thing? Some Black-Americans are ashamed of Black English, why? Because they see that many whites don’t like Black English.

Also, they feel whites will job discriminate against them or view them as inferior if they speak Ebonics. I say to those Black-Americans who feel this way. Why would you speak Ebonics to those certain types of white-Americans who feel uncomfortable with Ebonics?

And, why would you speak Black English to them in the first place unless you can intuitively sense they will understand or a least won’t be offended. You should only speak Ebonics (black-English) with Black-Americans and other people who understand Black English. Why speak a type of lingo to a person when they don’t understand you. You must be-aware of your surroundings, environment, and people around you. Other people who speak another language besides English only talk in that "foreign language" with people who understand it.
Also many people believe that Black-Americans who speak Black English, don’t Know how to speak Standard American English. The majority of the Black-Americans can speak ebonics and standard American English.

Often people see and hear Black-Americans speaking with fellow Black-Americans and they are speaking Ebonics. So based on this the hearers (listeners) from the other ethnic groups some of them "assume" that, the Black-Americans they hear speaking Ebonics only are able to speak Ebonics. That’s like hearing an American who learned French at a university, speak French to a French tourist who is visiting the United States of America. Then assuming that the American must only speak French and not English.
Do you see the lack of insight on the part of the assumers? Why do many Black-Americans speak Black English most of the time? Simply because they are around other Black-Americans who understand them.

Also, take serious notice of all the other non-white racial groups (colored ethnic groups or people who are not born white) and observe their children, teenagers, young adults in their 20s and 30s many of them can speak Ebonics or know and understand some of it.
Also many White-American children, teenagers, young adults in their 20s and 30s some of them can speak Ebonics or know and understand some of it.

When their mothers and fathers don’t understand a lot black English. This is not by coincidence either it comes from "imitation and admiration" and imitation that is unforced comes from love, admiration, enjoying, and wishing to be a part of what you see those people you admire do and say. Whether it is because of something positive or negative those people do or say the fact is you admire something about them. There is nothing wrong with expressing loving feelings towards another ethnic group’s general culture or their sub-culture we need to express more love towards our fellow humans.

Here Are Some Examples Of Ebonics Yea Check This Out!

1. What’s up meaning – hello, how are you, or tell me what is happen with a particular situation and circumstance or how is everything going in your life.

2. Mos def meaning – most definitely

3. Fissintu or Fissinto meaning – getting ready to do something, getting ready to go somewhere example I’m fissinto to go to sleep, I’m fissinto go to the store.

4. Poo meaning – Poor

5. Foo meaning – Fool

6. Massa meaning – Master

7. Hood meaning – Neighborhood whether it be a good neighborhood or bad neighborhood it doesn’t matter it is a hood.

8. Den meaning – Then.

9. Dem meaning – Them.

10. Nou meaning – Now.

11. Phat meaning – Fat.

12. Luv meaning – Love.

13. Ouaa meaning – Our.

14. Wen meaning – Went.

15. Playar or Playa meaning – Player He is a good basketball playa or playar. It could mean other things depending on what the conversation is about. A person could be a playa in any type of situation or circumstance.

16. Sto meaning – Store

17. Frien or fren meaning- Friend.

18. Gon meaning – Gone

19. Rollin meaning – Rolling.

20. Country grammar meaning – A person who has a southern accent when he or she speaks.

21. Hounaa (pronounced ounna) meaning – Honor.

22. Where u at meaning – Where are you.

23.Yall meaning – You all.

24. Over dere meaning – Over there.

25. Mauu meaning – Ma. Ma is short for mother.

26. Stree meaning – Street.

27. Blac meaning – Black.

28. Rainin meaning – Rainning.

29. Whit meaning – White.

30.Nam meaning – Name.

31.Yung meaning – young.

32. sittin meaning – sitting.

33. livin meaning – living.

34. Da bezt meaning – The best.

35. Lata (pronounced lada) meaning – later.

36. Brotha meaning – Brother.

37. Sista meaning – sister.

38. Callin meaning – Calling.

Ebonics Has Two Levels

Like all languages and dialects Ebonics has two sides (two levels) the first side is the pronunciation of words and spelling of words. The second side is called metaphors; another name for metaphors is slang.

Two levels (two sides) of Ebonics

1. Pronunciation of words and spelling of words.
2. metaphors (slang)

Now black slang is an offshoot of Ebonics but the two are different, now what are the differences?

1. Ebonics – has to do with the pronunciations of words and the spelling of words.

Example poor is pronounced poo so black English has to do with the pronunciation of words.

2. Slang – is using metaphors to substitute for the original name of something example kicks meaning shoes. Black-American slang is a part of Ebonics.

Ebonics is the general formal speech that is spoken in a general conversation and slang (metaphors) is used as a substitute for the original name of an object, situation, circumstance, person etc.

Here Are Some Examples Of Black Slang Peep this

1. Ghetto bird the bird meaning – Police helicopter

2. Wanksta meaning – a gangster or gang member who never progress – he is still where he started he never gets ahead he is worthless because he can’t produce and progress in the gang life style.

3. Rollin meaning – Driving a car or riding in a vehicle- it could be a bicycle, tricycle, roller skates, skate board and anything with wheels that can make you move especially a car or truck.

4. 411 OR Low down meaning – Information or knowledge about something or someone-it could be information about a person, place, thing, or situation and circumstance. Example what’s the latest low down> (information) about the war in Iraq.

5. Down low meaning – a man or woman who is an undercover bisexual, the man has sex with men but he likes women also and may have a girlfriend or wife and never tell her that he also has sex with men. A woman who likes both men and women sexually but she doesn’t tell her boyfriend or husband that she sleeps with women also. The expression down low use to mean keep what I said or told you a secret, but now it means a person who is secretively bi-sexual.

6. Fits meaning – Clothes example Observing his fits I can tell he isn’t rich.

7. Hurtin(ebonic spelling) English hurting meaning – in need of something- example He is hurtin (in need of) for money. It could also mean you are in pain pysically, mentally, emotionally, etc.

8. Dawg meaning – Friend example He is my best dawg.

9. Coolin meaning – Relaxing example I’m just sitting here with my wife just coolin.

10. Playa hata (hater) or Playar hata (hater) meaning – A jealous person example the scribes and pharisees where playa hating (jealous) on Jesus Christ because he had become a popular religious teacher. The scribes and Pharisees where playa haters (jealous people).

11. 5-0, one time, or popo these three names meaning – Police this is not talking about the number 50 this is talking about the number 5 and 0. But it is pronounced 5-0. one time and popo are other names that are used to refer to the police.

12. Jacket meaning – Record and Reputation example O.G. has a jacket (record and reputation) that says he is estranged from his wife and he is behind on his rent. David’s jacket (record and reputation) is he an outstanding young man and he is the manager of a. Department store he loves his wife and kids. Your jacket is everything that you have done in life both good and bad.

13. Slippin meaning – caught off guard or not alert.

14. Balla (ebonic spelling) Baller (American Standard English spelling) meaning – a person with money and a lot of material possessions.

15. Shot calla (ebonic spelling) Shot caller (American Standard English spelling) meaning – the leader who makes all of the decisions of for the group or the decision maker.

16. Homie also spelled homey meaning a close friend or close associate.

17. Sittin phat or sittin fat meaning – living wealthy got a lot of money, or doing well financially.

18. Frontin (fro-in ) meaning – Phony, Fake , fraud, facade, trying to be something you are not.

Here Are Some Examples of Ebonic Spellings Of Words And Numbers So Fresh and Unique!

1. 4 represents for.

2. U represents you.

3. Boyz represents Boys.

4. Mos represents Most.

5. Def represents Definite or Definitely

6. Lil represents little.

7. Gangsta represents Gangster.

8. Amerika represents America.

9. Starr represents Star.

10. Bezt represents Best.

11. Da represents the.

12. Nine-duce represents One year. Some people say nine-duce means 11 months because duce means two but nine-duce means one year not eleven months Example if you are in the month of January you don’t count January because you are currently in the month of January so it is automatically counted. You count February to December. It’s 9-2 (nine-duce) not ninety two. The numbers 9 and 2 a separate so you have nine-duce.

13. Prezident represents President

14. Cuz reprsents Cause. The word cuz can also represent a member of the notorious crip gang. When crip gang members see and greet each other they say what’s up cuz. How you doing the other gang member will say I’m doing alright cuz. But the word cuz represent the word cause-cuz is the ebonic spelling of the word cause just because a person says cuz it doesn’t mean he or she is a crip gang member.

15. Sho meaning Sure I’ll be at the music concert for sho (sure).

16. Crossroads or crossroad meaning Heaven or to meet someone who died before you in heaven or crossroad could mean when I see next time. Example my friend Ralph died and when I die I will meet him again on the crossroad (heaven). Crossroads could be the next time you see a person example Today is Friday I will see you next Tuesday. So Tuesday will be the crossroad meaning the next time you and I see and encounter each other.

17. Girlz meaning girls.

18. Sounds meaning Music, I’m listening to my sounds (music).

19. Nickel meaning 5 or $5.00 (five dollars) or it could mean 5 cents it all depends on the context.

20. Dime meaning 10 or $10.00 (ten dollars) or it could mean 10 cents it depends on the context.

21. Dub meaning 20 or $20.00 (twenty dollars) a Dub in general means $20.00

These are just some examples of Black English, also, observing American society we all can clearly see. That all ethnic groups have members whom are using both Black-American ebonics and standard American English especially the younger generatioon.
This is something that can’t be denied.

And there is nothing – That can be done to stop them because they are the future; they are the future politicians, doctors, police officers, lawyers, firemen, teachers, professors, scientist, and all other career fields.

Black-American influence and culture can be seen in television commercials, general television, Radio, sports, news, music, politics, and all other spheres of American life.

There is an old saying, that if you want to get even with someone or people then you just become successful. Black-Americans are progressing and becoming popular in American and in other countries.

We should all learn from one another, because all ethnic groups have something to offer one another when it comes to "culture." This is just a brief history of Black English also known as Ebonics I hope it was insightful.

Written during the 21st century by Chance (Chancellor)

  1. Command the language and earn respect. Accept a lower standard and be treated as such.

  2. My hubs is a white boy thats been in prison 1/3 of his life and states “Cuz” means something like cousin = someone who’s a good friend thats like family to you and as for “jacket” it is the same thing as your prison rap sheet – the crimes you’ve been found guilty of, like “he’s got kidnappin’ on his jacket and burglary too”.

  3. Irviin Ward

    A wonderful artioale. Unfortunitate at age 72 I never knew or knew I had access to all this infornation in my life time. Why is it that blackl Americans don’t learn about themselves in the class. Not even in so called black schools do us or our children learn about themselves in a positive vein. This may have a lot to do with the violence in our community. Our education is basically on how to be white. What a shame!

  4. Old Lady

    This article needs an editor to correct the grammatical errors, sentence structure, etc. No, I’m not trying to make you white. This is a worthy subject and I’m trying to help you be taken seriously.

  5. For the record, the very first slaves in America were rejects from Britain, Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands (Dutch). They were prostitutes, orphans, drunks, prison inmates, etc. which the King decided to get rid of. These people were told they would be indentured servants but once they got on the ship, it was too late. They’d become slaves. White slaves. Most white folks in Africa are descendants of those who were traded for the black slave. A few years ago, the UK’s Prime Minister made a tearful apology for their country’s slave dealings.

    Southerners today have left much of the mixed Dutch, Irish, Scottish, English dialect behind and improved on English. We did progress, not regressed back to those older years. Even Britain established a NEW ENGLISH from Old English. English speaking people today would have a very difficult time understanding Old English. ” The following brief sample of Old English prose illustrates several of the significant ways in which change has so transformed English that we must look carefully to find points of resemblance between the language of the tenth century and our own. It is taken from Aelfric’s “Homily on St. Gregory the Great” and concerns the famous story of how that pope came to send missionaries to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity after seeing Anglo-Saxon boys for sale as slaves in Rome:

    Eft he axode, hu ðære ðeode nama wære þe hi of comon. Him wæs geandwyrd, þæt hi Angle genemnode wæron. Þa cwæð he, “Rihtlice hi sind Angle gehatene, for ðan ðe hi engla wlite habbað, and swilcum gedafenað þæt hi on heofonum engla geferan beon.”

    A few of these words will be recognized as identical in spelling with their modern equivalents—he, of, him, for, and, on—and the resemblance of a few others to familiar words may be guessed—nama to name, comon to come, wære to were, wæs to was—but only those who have made a special study of Old English will be able to read the passage with understanding. The sense of it is as follows:

    Again he [St. Gregory] asked what might be the name of the people from which they came. It was answered to him that they were named Angles. Then he said, “Rightly are they called Angles because they have the beauty of angels, and it is fitting that such as they should be angels’ companions in heaven.”

  6. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my boog so i got here to
    return the desire?.I am trying to find things to improve
    my web site!I guess its adequate to use a feww of your concepts!!

  7. Roxanne Blythe

    This artical was of great insight and I think it covers the lack of knowledge and minimumal understanding people have about the word ebonitics or early developmental phase of black people and the English american language which still as of today blacks in america are stereotyped and looked down on in comparison to white American southerns or any other group that chooses to collaborate or practice ebonitics as a form of speech I myself have learned a lot from the artical in some respect it taught me as a black person born in the carribean island of Jamaica not to be critical of blacks in America concerning their frame of language because collectively Jamaican people also speak a form of broken English when we are in comfortable in certain surroundings although most of us are taught and to speak English adapted from the british and other Europeans jamaicans speak creole or pottawa they also had to form a sort of dialect to disguise what they were speaking about so the slave masters could not understand secretly as the historical story goes many ships one people I think is okay to celebrate our middle passage ancestors lives even the mark of language they lefted behind that has kept evolving with not so much dignity and pride most of us know when and how we should use it as part of our ancestry legacy there should be nothing to be a shame of much of it was developed from force which had to be adhere by unfortunately but our ancestors also put their twist in the new language bought on them by pressure from their new enforcers thanks for information and effort you made in trying to expand on this topic it is very interesting subject and some times heated that is hushed away or shound by many of us

  8. Roxanne Blythe

    Sorry my post was to long and I could not include ending statements the writer Dena address alot of inperitative information concerning this topic that would be needed to understand the root of subject although I was aware of this matter many people are not aware of look at the faces of America 30 years from now and I hope another genocide of our peoples lives will not occur referring to our history that many barely now about right now there must be a Alfa before the omega see how a simple disccusion of language is not very elementary but has great perplexing and intrinsic viable information for right now and the future

  9. Crackster

    You left out the part about how slaves had to sound inarticulate and stupid or it would threaten those in charge. I’m white, and I have black friends who speak prosper and trashy. It all depends what you want out of life, who you want it from or for, and whether or not you enjoy sounding like a moron.

  10. kanisa douglas

    This is so informative, writing a paper about this now and I had to thank you!

  11. Sarah

    I’m sorry, but nine deuce means one particular year, and that’s 1992. Peace.

  12. Kay

    Did a child write this article? Periods go at the END of sentences and not in the middle of them. Is this a joke? A vast majority of you commenters might want to learn basic grammar and, you know, SPELL words correctly.

  13. Linda Redmond Taylor

    Today, April 2, 2017, you can go to or to purchase INTRODUCTION TO EBONICS written by me, Linda Redmond Taylor. Godspeed in your better understanding of the beautiful language 99% of Black Americans still speak.

  14. Oneson kimbi

    Enter your comment here…It was interesting knowing the yesterday of of black

  15. Omg! I don’t know where to start! Let me just say, if you’re going to write and want to be taken seriously, at least be able to form cohesive sentences, and learn the difference between “to” and “too.”

  16. Oh, and if you’re referring to the word “poor” in ebonic, that would be “po”. I may have been po’ growing up, but I was never “poo”!

  17. I am a Kenyan youth And I really Admire you blacks let me say not only in Kenya but all over Africa we love your Ebonics because you hit on our TVs &radio

  18. Zachary Mckeever

    Ok, so here were are. Discussing language and the continual alteration of it. Language has been evolving for 100s of thousands of years. What the bulk of us in this forum speak is one of the many branches of the Indo-European branch of language, which includes everything from Hindi to Norwegian.
    Considering the evolution of language, here’s a sound realization: During the “Dark Ages” of Europe, Latin grew into a host of new languages, all related to one another. The reason these languages evolved from Latin (a very strong basis for language despite it’s gender specific shortcomings; and having English as my mother tongue, I mention this) is because during the Dark Ages when there was no written language, very little travel, and isolationist style living from area to area, it stands to reason that Latin fragmented into the gathering of Romance languages because people, for the most part uneducated, illiterate)people. The butcher, the shoemaker, the silversmith, etc. They all ended up speaking on the street. Working people have always been the majority, and working people spoke street talk of sorts. It’s beautiful to think of how Latin grew it’s branches in such a way. We can consider Latin a Phoenix of sorts. And because of the dark times, when the written word was more or less non-existent. On the streets, at the local pub, the marketplace was where the evolution of language occurred. And thus we have French. Italian. Portuguese. Spanish.etc. And today, we have so called “ebonics,” which is a foolish title for what people in this nation of not only African descent, but Latino, Jewish, Irish, hell, all descent have done with changing our language, Street talk exists in every area of great commerce. We see slang emerging from the slums of Mumbai, a merging of Marathi, Hindi, and even Urdu. Words arrive there, which at the time seem shocking to the landed gentry. The public people. However, within a decades time, you hear elderly white anchor men using euphemisms such as “back in the day it wasn’t like this,” o”It’s all good….,” etc. Take a second look at your newscast over the next few days and think about how much “ebonics” which is a stupid ass name….watch you next newscast and think about what they’re saying. OK, so I’m preparing to step down from my box, but I will end by saying this: the evolution of language has been constant since day one. And standing against the fluid and necessary evolution of language is misaligned with those of us who enjoy the creativity of language in all of it’s beauty.

  19. I believe ‘jivin’, i.e. jiving, AKA pulling your leg, missed the list.
    Pulling your leg hard, might be ‘fuckin wid ya bro’ in Ebonics unless accompanied by a quick jab to your midsection in which case there is no mistaking it as a silent ‘yo ass is mah bitch now fool’.

    Great lesson! I’m sure it will serve me well in the future.
    I’m not sure what I am insofar this color thing. People seem to call me all sorts of things depending their shades and preferences. I’m pretty sure I’m not Albino. I don’t see much pink on me.

  20. Thomas Beahan

    question–in black culture(American) a group of people speaking in their native language to exclude ‘whitey’, what is the name for this?

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