Gizoogle: Amusing tribute or racist caricature? – NSFW (part 3)

gizoogle-linguisticpulse

The header for this website as represented by Gizoogle. linguistic pulse: analyzin tha circulation of discourse up in society

In my last couple of posts (here and here), I’ve been looking at the website Gizoogle, which basically translates the language of web content into language that is modeled after the hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg (see the first post for a more thorough overview of what Gizoogle is). In particular, I’ve been trying to answer this question: Is Gizoogle an amusing tribute to Snoop Dogg or is it a racist caricature of African-American English (AAE)? I believe to fully answer such a question we have to look at multiple parts of the issue. So in the first part I examined the stated intentions of the website creators, and, in the second part, I began looking at the language that Gizoogle actually produces and how accurate it is as a representation of Snoop Dogg’s speech and AAE more generally. In that post, I approached this question by simply asking whether Gizoogle made errors in trying to use AAE and Snoop Dogg’s speech style. In this post, I’m going to take a more nuanced approach.

Specifically, I’m asking the following question: Does Gizoogle produce texts that represent Snoop Dogg’s linguistic style in terms of the frequency with which he uses slang terms, izzle speech, and other things? In particular, I want to think about whether Gizoogle accurately portrays all of Snoop Dogg’s linguistic repertoire. By “linguistic repertoire”, I mean all of the different ways Snoop Dogg can use language. We know he can do izzle speak and use profanity, but what else do we know he can do, and how else does he use language in public?

Unsurprisingly, Snoop Dogg has a varied linguistic repertoire. Like any adept language user, he adjusts his speech to whatever situation he finds himself in. Therefore, while he might utilize izzle speak, slang, and profanity quite frequently in certain contexts (like the television show, movies, and rap lyrics Gizoogle uses to portray him), these things are for the most part absent when he, for example, visits a television talk show. For example, he was recently interviewed by Piers Morgan. You can check out a video of this here:

I’ve transcribed the beginning of this interview here (and a longer though less complete transcript is available from CNN here):

MORGAN: I’ve waited a long time for this. Huge fan of yours. Now tell me why you’ve gone from Dogg to Lion?

SNOOP LION: Well, it’s uh it’s a transformation musically, spiritually, and mentally. Y’know I went to Jamaica on a journey to make some music and it and — eventually became, you know, engulfed with the spirit of Rastafari an- and the spirit of reggae music. And umm the transformation was necessary. It became what it is.

MORGAN: Jamaica is a very special place, isn’t it? I have good friends from there, interviewed Usain Bolt, the sprinter. He’s from there. And I know some cricketers who who who are from Jamaica. It has a special soul to it.

SNOOP LION: It does. It it it’s a special place. Once you engulf Jamaica, it it takes over you. Y’know no matter what kind of person you are, it’s just that spirit of love an- and caring and giving that becomes a part of you. And you know once I became y’know part of Jamaica and the music and the culture, it took me in as a brother.

MORGAN: Bob Marley is up there somewhere smiling down on you, Snoop Lion. He loves this stuff.

SNOOP LION: And that’s what it’s about. To me, the whole title of the record “Reincarnated” is because I always felt like I was Bob Marley reincarnated. And I felt like I was making music that wasn’t representing the spirit that I wanted. I wanted to make music that could possibly get me on the essence of wars, or get me in the White House or get me in a big position where I could say something. And I felt like my music never did that, even though it done a lot for a lot of people. But it never spoke from the true place that I wanted to speak from, a place of love.

What is incredibly striking here is the total absence of the slang terms and izzle-speak that are incredibly frequent in Gizoogle’s representation of Snoop Dogg’s language. In fact, his language in this interview we might call extremely ‘standard’; it even shows characteristics of academic speech. That’s not to say that he is not still speaking in a manner that is distinctly recognizable as Snoop Dogg, but he is doing so in a way that uses very few of the features that Gizoogle relies on to represent his speech. However, to be clear, I’m not saying that Snoop Dogg has not used the language that Gizoogle relies on. Instead what I’m saying is that the language features Gizoogle uses to portray Snoop Dogg’s speech seem to be largely confined to sequences where he is playing with language, such as in the introduction to his television show Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, which you can view in the video below.

Here is an approximated transcription of the lyrics in the introduction, and we see frequent and prevalent use of the type of language Gizoogle uses in its parody of Google:

I’m tellin you wassup cuz I know the deal. Now sit yo’ ass down and witness mass appeal. Don’t change the dizzle. Turn it up a little. This is the bizzle. Snoopy D O double gizzle. Dance off the izzle. Fo’ shizzle. Fo’ rizzle. This is the show we call doggy fizzle.

It’s noteworthy, however, that if you continue watching on beyond the introduction you’ll see that Snoop Dogg’s use of izzle speak and slang is quite infrequent except in places where he clearly intends to play with language, especially in his rap. This also seems to be the case even in his lyrics, especially in the case of izzle-speak where Snoop uses several instances of it in a row but then doesn’t use it at all beyond that such as in the song “Tha Shiznit

The surgeon Is Dr. Drizzay [Dr. Dre]. So lizzay, and plizzay with D-O-double-Gizzay.

You can hear this section of the song at around 3:00 in the video below. Beyond this line and the title (“Tha Shiznit”), there is no further use of izzle-speak in the lyrics, which is perhaps surprising given the title.

In light of this, we are forced to view what Gizoogle produces not as a representation of Snoop Dogg’s language overall. Rather, we might more accurately say that Gizoogle represents Snoop Dogg’s creative language play, specifically the way that he plays with English by clipping the beginnings of words and adding -izzle or uses creative, descriptive slang but usually only in a very intentional way confined to specific stretches of his creative work. In other words, it’s not the case that Snoop Dogg’s speech more generally contains sporadic or frequent uses of -izzle speak and slang terms. Instead, he makes use of these things only in very controlled ways that indicate he is trying to play with the language at that moment.

Does this necessarily mean that Gizoogle is inaccurate? I don’t think that it does. Gizoogle has picked up on the creative language use that Snoop Dogg occasionally uses and is in fact famous for. However, it does mean that we should interpret Gizoogle with this in mind and not assume that Snoop Dogg’s language is all -izzle speak, profanity, and slang. On the contrary, Snoop Dogg’s linguistic repertoire is much broader. He can go on television and speak his mind about his own spiritual awakening as well as his thoughts on political issues (as in the interview above) and do so in a language that is widely seen as ‘standard’ perhaps even academic. The creators and users of Gizoogle would do well to pay attention to this and not present Snoop Dogg as someone whose linguistic repertoire is limited to particular things like izzle speak, slang, and profanity. However, I don’t think there’s necessarily any harm in celebrating Snoop Dogg’s unique language play, which as I mentioned in the first post seems to be what the creators say they intend to do.

In the next post, I’m going to take a look at the degree to which Gizoogle’s representation is really just isolated to Snoop Dogg or whether many AAE speakers and even ‘standard’ English speakers might also use spoken English in this way. Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like to be alerted to the updates.

UPDATE (27 OCT 2013): I’ve posted part 4 of this series. In it, I look at whether Gizoogle exaggerates the ‘uniqueness’ of Snoop Dogg’s speech (or AAE) by comparing the changes in Gizoogle to other varieties of English such as spoken ‘standard’ US English.

UPDATE (11 NOV 2013): I’ve posted part 5 of this series. In it, I look at the public response to Gizoogle and offer some final opinions on Gizoogle and racism.

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Posted in Ideology and social change, Language and race, Linguistic diversity, Technology and language
2 comments on “Gizoogle: Amusing tribute or racist caricature? – NSFW (part 3)
  1. Beaumont James says:

    From what I can tell, Gizoogle is actually a caricature of ‘Gangsta Rap Slang’. That’s exactly what it states at the top of its ‘About Us’ page. There is a big difference between rap music terminology and African American English.

    It appears with this article that you are implying all ‘AAE’ speakers speak like gangsta rappers, which is a pretty far-fetched and stereotypical (possibly racist) assumption in itself. Are you trying to equate Afican Americans with gangstas?

    So ‘Amusing tribute to Snoop Dogg or a racist caricature of African-American English (AAE)?’ doesn’t really come into it from what I’ve seen. It seems to me that it’s just a caricature of gangsta rap, with which Snoop Dogg is synonymous.

    You could call it gangsta’ist, except they seem to like Snoop’s work, so that term wouldn’t apply either.

  2. nsubtirelu says:

    You are approaching the question from only one perspective. Yes, as I’ve already detailed in a previous post (https://linguisticpulse.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/gizoogle-amusing-tribute-or-racist-caricature-nsfw/), the creators of Gizoogle state that their intention is to translate texts into one man’s, Snoop Dogg’s, speech style. As I discussed in the other post, however, meaning is not something that arises merely out of our stated intentions. Just because I know that many of the elements of Snoop Dogg’s speech that are rendered quite frequently in Gizoogle are not part of AAE more generally (though see my second post on this topic for ways in which Gizoogle is using features quite common to AAE: https://linguisticpulse.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/gizoogle-amusing-tribute-or-racist-caricature-nsfw-part-2/), in no way guarantees that others make such a distinction. In addition, it in no way guarantees that users of Gizoogle even know that such a distinction is intended. Hence, the only way to fully address the question of whether Gizoogle is racist is to explore what Gizoogle does, how it is used, and how it is interpreted.

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