Is Gen Z Lingo Just Butchered AAVE? How Internet Culture Contributes to Appropriation

Rae Cristal, Xin Liu, Jasmine Shao, Megan Ye

In their recent skit called “Gen Z Hospital,” SNL put on a show depicting the quirky lives of an average “zoomer”, filled with internet-related troubles. At one point, the distinctly white actress Heidi Gardner utters: “If he keeps leaving us on read, he’s gonna catch these hands on gang.” How did Gen Z lingo become so distinctly African American? One consequence of the internet age is the fast-spreading of linguistic style, forms and vernaculars, and African American Vernacular English (AAVE) seems to be one of the bigger targets of this phenomenon. A problem with this is that those who use AAVE do so inappropriately and with syntactic error. Taking a language that one does not speak and using it without appreciation and knowledge is the basis of appropriation, and many Gen Z speakers are engaging in this, often without realizing that, far more than just netspeak, the forms they are appropriating belong to a full-fledged community of speakers, with grammatical rules and cultural nuances.

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