Sociolinguistics in songs

I’m not a sociolinguist, by any means, but the song Throw the ‘R’ Away (1987) by the Scottish band The Proclaimers has long been one of my favorites. Imagine my delight when I found a version of it on the now ubiquitous YouTube. These are the lyrics (minus repeats):

I’ve been so sad
Since you said my accent was bad
He’s worn a frown
This Caledonian clown

I’m just going to have to learn to hesitate
To make sure my words
On your Saxon ears don’t grate
But I wouldn’t know a single word to say
If I flattened all the vowels
And threw the ‘R’ away

Some days I stand
On your green and pleasant land
How dare I show face
When my diction is such a disgrace

I’m just going to have to learn to hesitate
To make sure my words
On your Saxon ears don’t grate
But I wouldn’t know a single word to say
If I flattened all the vowels
And threw the ‘R’ away

You say that if I want to get ahead
The language I use should be left for dead
It doesn’t please your ear
And though you tell it like a leg-pull
It seems you’re still full of John Bull
You just refuse to hear

Oh what can I do
To be understood by you
Perhaps for some money
I could talk like a bee dripping honey.

Any other songs come to mind where the singers tackle dialect discrimination head-on? I can’t think of any. Please let me know if I’m missing out on some more great linguistic-y songs.

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2 thoughts on “Sociolinguistics in songs

  1. Tara Sanchez September 1, 2008 / 3:35 pm

    ‘La Gringa’ by Cano Estremera doesn’t exactly tackle lx discrimination head on, but it does have a sociolinguistic theme. The (Puerto Rican) guy gets dumped by the gringa, supposedly because of his ‘Puerto Rican English’. There’s some great codeswitching in the song.

  2. tulugaq September 1, 2008 / 8:12 pm

    Thanks, I’ll try to find it and have a listen.

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