Posted by: Piers Kelly | August 27, 2009

That’s how I roll

That's how I roll - Phil Selby

I have permission from Canberra’s own cartoon legend Phil Selby, to reproduce this instructive little image. You can see this and more at his site here.

Using the comments function, tell me how many concepts from your sociolinguistic ‘toolbox’ are relevant to the cartoon (and why). Off the top of my head I can think of at least three.



  1. I still find this cartoon amazing. I think it is the intersection of the two extremes. But the two extremes of what? Are they 2 different styles? They are nothing like each other. Maybe they are 2 different varieties? It’s hard to see how they are the same language. But we need more data to know how the person on the right would talk. (This isn’t my variety and so I don’t have an intuitive sense of what his talk is like.) The code-switching to address the other person is well done. He changes the verb and the address term. Once again the address term carries so much information. As Duranti (1992) says, address terms display the attitude of the speaker to the recipient. But maybe the shock is due to the fact that it is a well-dressed cigar smoking man that is using this address term. Maybe it is the fact that it’s the wrong variety for this man. Yet who are we to say? Can’t anyone use any variety? Or is this particular variety too intricately tied up with identity? How come no-one else has commented? Is it too shocking to comment?

  2. Speaking of varieties. I remember an episode of The Simpsons, where “Marge” (the mum) and “Lisa” (oldest daughter) are talking – note comments in brackets is taking into account those that do not watch this episode – and Marge asks Lisa whether it is still “cool” at school to use various informal words, she mentions a variety of words. Lisa is getting exasperated by the end, at having to answer whether it’s still cool to use these words.

    My point is that perhaps this example answers your question Johanna. The right or wrong variety for a person. I believe there is often a gap, more so in teenage years, from personal experience, where it is not “cool” for parents to use the language variety of their teenage children. As children grow, again from personal experience, it feels like the gap, perhaps not completely, but to a certain extent begins to dissipate. I am unsure whether people become “uncool” in language use or whether they integrate their learned language “coolness” into the grown-up world of “uncool” use of language, and thereby appropriating a new language style…

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