Yeah, I Code-Switch. You should too. Fight Me

Wait, hold on. I’m not really a fighter. But I am a code-switcher, and I’m not ashamed.

What is code-switching?

According to Merriam-Webster, code-switching is:

“The switching from the linguistic system of one language or dialect to that of another.”

As an African-America woman from the South Side of Chicago, born of parents from the South, I have a very specific dialect that we use at home, at church, and at Harold’s. At my office, however, we not finna talk any ‘ole kinda way.

Uhh, hem. I mean we aren’t about to speak improperly at work. That is unless I run into one of my homies.

If you think this is a lie, lurk behind a door and wait for two friends from similar backgrounds to see each other after a long weekend. Then tell me I’m lyin’. Then get from behind the door and stop lurking before someone sees you being super creepy.

I carry out business in “mixed company” in a significantly less colloquial way than how I speak with friends or order wings with mild sauce.

So what’s wrong with that?

Some think that if you code-switch, you are somehow abandoning or disowning your roots. Like you are being fake or inauthentic. Instead, I treat it like another language. In fact, one online dictionary uses this definition for code-switching:

the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.

If I grew up speaking Spanish at home, I wouldn’t just walk up to someone from a different background and start sharing my day en Espanol. Similarly, I won’t approach a co-worker who is unfamiliar this my common -isms with a “Whatchu NOT gone do is…”. LOL.

man wearing gray crew neck long sleeved shirt
Photo by Christina Morillo on

ALSO, I don’t take offense to or judge people who speak to each other while in mixed company in Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, etc. As long as they aren’t clearly pointing at me while belly laughing in their native tongue, I assume they are just more comfortable using a familiar language. It is American paranoia anyway to think that anyone speaking in their language around you MUST BE talking about you. Get over yourself. ‘

You prolly (probably) think this paragraph is about you, don’t you?

Much like those in New Orleans who randomly bust out with “Ya Heard,” I feel like code-switching allows me to preserve who I am AND be a specific version of myself depending on the circumstances. Code-switching doesn’t diminish my roots, it creates a space for them to thrive. I don’t have to abandon my colloquialisms, but I CAN use them in certain circles and instantly feel right at home. Hum-brah. (That’s a little New Orleans for you to think on.)

What do you think about code-switching? Leave us a comment here or on Facebook or Instagram.

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