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Wednesday 2 September 2020

Nuts and Bolts: code-switching.

 Here's a fashionable idea.

Code-switching is what happens when people change their accents or their vocabulary in order to fit in with their company.

There are those who claim that feeling obliged to code-switch, or gaining an advantage if they do, is a sign of oppression.

Sometimes, of course, they're quite right: but the slope from its-being-a-courtesy-to-others-to-imitate-their-ways to being-forced-to-reject-your-own-culture is a long and slippery one.

Even so, there are some universal principles that probably apply. Deliberately not fitting in with a group may be a sign that you aren't going to be an easy person to have as a friend, relation, or colleague - especially if it means that other people have to make a special effort to understand you.

As for the oppression of being obliged to code-switch, well, as a novelist I'd say that we code-switch to some extent with every single individual we meet. We even code-switch with the same person at different times of day: sentences spoken before breakfast are likely to be shorter, and simpler, to the extent where they may not even be sentences at all.

Notice how often you code-switch today. 

And then see how oppressed you feel each time, on a scale, perhaps, of one to ten.

It won't solve anything, but it might be interesting.

Thing To Notice Today: code-switching. The word code comes from the Latin word cōdex, which means tree trunk, wooden block, or book.

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