Volume 12, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2211-3770
  • E-ISSN: 2211-3789
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This study focuses on switches into and out of African American English among contestants of the television series RuPaul’s Drag Race. Following Barrett (1995), I note that Black contestants who are comfortable in White Middle-Class American English tend to use it as their primary dialect, switching to AAE in order to develop rapport. I suggest that non-Black performers switch into AAE either in order to mitigate the effects of comments which might otherwise be interpreted as rude, or to reinforce strength in moments of emotional self-disclosure, and that this is possibly reflective of an interpretation on the part of the speaker that forwardness and strength constitute a normal element – ‘sass’ – of Black women’s speech. Finally, I explore the possible social impact of this phenomenon from the perspective of two common themes in the popular discourse on race: one centered on cultural appropriation, the other on the perception of Black Women’s Language.


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