'The Linguistic Privilege Gameshow'

Language, and particularly the power dynamics of language, is a theme I’ve been exploring recently, and this is one result of that exploration. The ‘game-show’ aspect of it allows for an over-the-top performance style, which I hope keeps it from feeling too much like an audience is being ranted at. I’m interested in interactivity and making people engage with political poetry in a way that keeps them thinking after the poem is over, which is where I think the points system comes in handy. The main feedback I’ve received from folk on it was that it made them feel ‘uncomfortable in a good way’, which is what I was aiming for — I think reassessing your own privilege can feel like that.

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[Host:]

LADIES AND GENTLEFOLK! TONIGHT

WE PLAY A GAME. WELCOME TO…

THE LINGUISTIC PRIVILEGE GAMESHOW!!


NOW, THE RULES ARE SIMPLE.

FOR EVERY FOLLOWING STATEMENT

THAT APPLIES TO YOU, YOU GET A POINT!


LET’S START OUT SIMPLE.

I COULD BUY A NEWSPAPER IN MY LANGUAGE TODAY.

I COULD TALK TO A DOCTOR IN MY LANGUAGE TODAY.

I OVERHEARD STRANGERS SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE TODAY.

I COULD ORDER IN MY LANGUAGE AT A RESTAURANT IN EDINBURGH TODAY.

I CONSUMED MEDIA IN MY LANGUAGE TODAY. THIS COULD BE AS SIMPLE AS A VINE-COMPILATION OR AS COMPLEX AS AN AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY ABOUT VINE-COMPILATIONS.

...THERE ARE VINE-COMPILATIONS IN MY LANGUAGE.


OOH, I CAN SEE FOLK GETTING THEIR FIRST POINTS!

REMEMBER, YOU WANT POINTS,

CAUSE YOU WANT PRIVILEGE!


LET’S MOVE ON TO PART TWO: THE STATE!


I CAN INTERACT WITH THE POLICE IN MY LANGUAGE.

I CAN INTERACT WITH THE COURTS IN MY LANGUAGE.

ONE OR MORE OF MY REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKS MY LANGUAGE.

MY LANGUAGE IS AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF A COUNTRY.

SPEECHES ARE REGULARLY GIVEN IN PARLIAMENT IN MY LANGUAGE.

THE NAME ON MY BIRTH CERTIFICATE IS IN THE SAME LANGUAGE

AS MY ACTUAL NAME.


OKAY, OKAY, A FEW FOLK TAKING AN EARLY LEAD I CAN TELL.

I HOPE YOU’RE ALL KEEPING TRACK!


SPEAKING OF STATES AND POLITICS, SCOTTISH FOLK THIS TWO PART BONUS ROUND IS ESPECIALLY FOR YOU, WHICH IS ALSO PRIVILEGE!

YOU READY?


THA CÒIR DAOINE EILE MO CHÀNAN IONNSACHADH.

NÍL ACH AON TEANGA AGAM.

IF YOU DIDN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD OF EITHER OF THOSE STATEMENTS, DESPITE ONE BEING IN A LANGUAGE OF SCOTLAND, AND THE OTHER ONE OF ITS CLOSEST NEIGHBOURS, YOU JUST EARNED FIVE WHOLE BONUS POINTS!

CHEERS! OR SHOULD I SAY……..SLANNNJAAAAAAA?


IF YOU’RE A WOKE ENLIGHTENED LEFTIE IN SCOTLAND, BUT DON’T REALLY GIVE A SHIT ABOUT GAELIC AND SCOTS, CONGRATULATIONS!!! YOU JUST UNLOCKED THE ACHIEVEMENT ENTITLED

‘MY WOKENESS HAS A SNOOZE BUTTON!’


THE SCHOOLS ROUND!

TO QUOTE TONY BLAIR:

EDUCATION, EDUCATION,

ILLEGALLY INVADE IRAQ.

HERE COME THE POINTS!


THERE ARE MORE THAN 3 HIGH SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD WHERE KIDS ARE TAUGHT IN MY LANGUAGE.

I WAS NEVER ASKED ON THE PLAYGROUND WHY I SPEAK MY LANGUAGE.

I NEVER HAD A TEACHER WHO WAS FLUENT IN MY LANGUAGE BUT WAS LEGALLY, NOT ALLOWED TO TEACH ME IN IT.

I NEVER CAME TO THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE CLASSROOM IS JUST PART TWO OF A BATTLEFIELD.

I NEVER HAD MY LANGUAGE BEATEN OUT OF ME. THAT ONE’S A CLASSIC FOLKS. OH IT’S GREAT, YOU TAKE A CHILD, LITERALLY THE MOST VULNERABLE HUMAN YOU CAN FIND, AND YOU BEAT IT UNTIL IT SPEAKS YOUR LANGUAGE.

IF THAT WASN’T HOW YOU EXPERIENCED SCHOOL, POINTS POINTS POINTS!


ANOTHER TWO-PART BONUS ROUND!


IF YOU’VE EVER DISMISSED A LIVING LANGUAGE AS A DEAD LANGUAGE, BONUS POINT! IF YOU’VE DONE IT TO SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS THAT LANGUAGE, BOOM! 5 BONUS POINTS!


IF YOU’VE GENUINELY THOUGHT THAT SOME LANGUAGES ARE JUST BETTER, OR BETTER SUITED FOR 21ST CENTURY LIFE, AND THAT’S WHY THEY’VE SURVIVED, AND YOU’VE NOT REALLY QUESTIONED THE IMPERIALIST, COLONIALIST AND SUPREMACIST FOUNDATIONS OF THOSE THOUGHTS, ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED! IT’S CALLED,

‘Who the fuck is Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o?’


WHO IS READY FOR THE CULTURE ROUND?

THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO RACK UP SOME REAL POINTS. REMEMBER,

YOU WANT POINTS BECAUSE

YOU WANT PRIVILEGE.


THERE ARE MORE THAN 2 SCI-FI NOVELS WRITTEN IN MY LANGUAGE.

NETFLIX HAS SHOWS IN MY LANGUAGE. OR A SHOW. OR SUBTITLES.

THERE ARE MORE THAN 3 YOUTUBERS VLOGGING IN MY LANGUAGE.

MOST SOCIAL EVENTS I GO TO USE MY LANGUAGE.

I CAN GO TO AN OPEN MIC IN MY LANGUAGE IN A CITY SOMEWHERE ON EARTH.


WE’RE APPROACHING THE END OF THE SHOW FOLKS. JUST TIME FOR THE ‘YOU THINK’ ROUND! TIME TO SORT THE PRIVS FROM THE PRIVIES!


YOU THINK PEOPLE WHO COME HERE SHOULD LEARN THE LANGUAGE -- BUT YOUR EXCEPTIONS INCLUDE ANY MINORITY LANGUAGE, OR ANY LANGUAGE THAT ISN’T ENGLISH, REALLY. I’VE SEEN YOU ON HOLIDAY.

BOOM! POINT!


YOU THINK IT’S MORE RIDICULOUS THAT A SCOTTISH NEWSPAPER HAS GAELIC AND SCOTS COLUMNS, THAN THAT NO OTHER NATIONAL NEWSPAPER HAS EITHER.

BOOM! POINT!


YOU THINK LANGUAGES SHOULDN’T BE POLITICISED, THE SAME WAYS GUNS SHOULDN’T BE POLITICISED AFTER A SHOOTING, RIGHT?

YOU THINK THAT COMPARISON IS INAPPROPRIATE, I MEAN, IT’S NOT LIKE ANYONE EVER DIED OVER LANGUAGE, RIGHT?

BOOM! POINT POINT POINT!


YOU THINK SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST APPLIES TO LANGUAGES (AND PROBABLY PEOPLE), YOU TORY.

BOOM! POINT!


YOU THINK WOULDN’T IT JUST BE SIMPLER IF EVERYONE SPOKE THE SAME LANGUAGE? AND THAT LANGUAGE JUST HAPPENS TO BE YOUR LANGUAGE.

BOOM! POINT!

YOU THINK OTHER PEOPLE ARE RAMMING THEIR LANGUAGES DOWN YOUR THROAT, NOT NOTICING YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE NOT CHOKING.

POINTS! SO MANY POINTS!


WHAT A SHOW, FOLKS!

WE THANK YOU FOR TUNING IN.


I WANT TO REMIND YOU, LIKE WE DO AT THE END OF EVERY SHOW, IF YOU FELT PERSONALLY ATTACKED BY ANYTHING IN THIS SHOW, YOU ARE FREE TO COME AND COMPLAIN ABOUT IT TO ME AFTERWARDS IN WHAT IS NOT MY LANGUAGE, WHICH IS, IRONICALLY, LINGUISTIC PRIVILEGE AND WORTH AN EXTRA 5 POINTS!


AND BEFORE WE GO, WE WILL SIGN OFF IN THE USUAL WAY.

POINTING OUT THAT IF I’D DONE THIS POEM IN MY LANGUAGE,

STATISTICALLY, I’D BE THE ONLY ONE IN THE ROOM TO UNDERSTAND IT.

I HOPE, LADIES AND GENTLEFOLK, THAT IS NOT THE CASE TONIGHT.


THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT!


*Illustration by Emily Donnelly*

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