Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields. Sold in a market down in New Orleans.

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

The A.P. reports:

Federal agents are seeking to hire Ebonics translators to help interpret wiretapped conversations involving targets of undercover drug investigations.

Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Michael Sanders said the agency recently sent memos asking companies that provide it translation services to help it find nine translators in the Southeast who are fluent in Ebonics.

Ebonics, which is also known as African American Vernacular English, has been described by the man who coined the term as the combination of English vocabulary with African language structure.

Bonus points to the first commenter who knows the relevance of the headline. (And not just that it’s a lyric from “Brown Sugar”.)


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25 Responses to “Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields. Sold in a market down in New Orleans.”

  1. #1 |  Javad | 

    Brown sugar = heroin?

  2. #2 |  thefncrow | 

    The Wire reference.

    Prez figures out how to listen to the folks who are speaking on the tapped phones, where most of the unit can’t make out what’s being conveyed in the phone conversations. His example of being able to make out phrases is the opening line to Brown Sugar, which he used to hone his ear by listening to it over and over until he could make out the lyrics.

  3. #3 |  Mattocracy | 

    Once again, real life resembles an article from The Onion.

  4. #4 |  Radley Balko | 



  5. #5 |  Rhayader | 

    Damn, he beat me to it.

    The best wiretap joke is when that Drag guy is trying to re-up from Prop Joe’s people.

    “Nah, her. I mean her!….Cocaine, ni*ga, you feel me man? Goddamn!”

    Oh, I should have known it was on the youtubes:

  6. #6 |  Howlin' Hobbit | 

    Silly me. I thought that Ebonics had been scoffed into oblivion.

    That story about Prez on The Wire reminds me of Whoopi Goldberg in “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” plaintively saying, “Mick! Mick! Speak English, man!” as she tries to decipher the lyrics from the title tune.

  7. #7 |  Freelancer | 

    Damnit, beat to the punch.

  8. #8 |  Pinandpuller | 

    I’ve been working in Bordeaux (north Nashville) for the past month and I came across “Col’dranks”. This seems to be a unique north Nashville black term for coke, pop, soda etc.

    Oh and speaking of-I swear to God someone took an order for U-neequa tonight. Swear. To. God.

  9. #9 |  ED | 

    This reminds me of, I believe, Jacob Sullum’s comment on recruiting by FBI, DEA, ATF, and the rest of the alphabet soup in his drug book. By insisting on squeaky-clean agents, i.e. no “practical” drug experience, they miss a substantial part of the upper tail of the distribution of ability. Curiosity, even in drug use, is significantly correlated with high ability. I suspect they are not recruiting former hoodlums who could be useful, if only for their language skills.

  10. #10 |  Andrew Williams | 

    #2 Congrats! I’m definitely gonna have to start getting cable again when my cash flow problem is resolved.

    (Yes I know The Wire is off the air, but there’s so much good shit coming up on cable that it actually seems to me like it would be worth it to sign up.)

    And thanks for the Airplane! clip. Beaver’s Mom speaking jive always makes my day.

  11. #11 |  Matt I. | 

    It’s called, DEA.

  12. #12 |  Stephen | 

    OT but interesting.

    Sort of in the “man bites dog” category.

    Judge doesn’t believe cop!

  13. #13 |  Nando | 

    Seeing as it’s the combination of Ebony and Phonics (i.e. the way black people talk), I always thought that Ebonics was a disparaging term, invented by the KKK or some other racist bastards.

  14. #14 |  Ermkay Holtra | 

    Surely the DEA has someone amongst their ranks that will proudly step forward and claim authority and expertise in ebonics, while having no background, talent, ability or knowledge.

    Happens with medicine all the time. Makes you wonder why people go through 10 years of med-school when they can spend 6 weeks at a drug-thug training facility and apparently have the same level of expertise that MDs can claim.

  15. #15 |  JS | 

    Damn don’t they have any southern boys in their unit?

  16. #16 |  Bryan | 

    Direct TV 101 network is replaying the Wire. Uncensored with no commercial breaks. They also have Friday Night Lights before NBC airs it.

    Although I still think about cancelling every day since they no longer have the Tivo DVR receivers.

  17. #17 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Ebonics? Really?

  18. #18 |  Hunter | 

    Has to be said.

    Stewardess, I speak jive.

  19. #19 |  A Uhmerricun | 

    All y’all savages realize y’all speak yankee (pirate) english and not civilized british english?

  20. #20 |  Marty | 

    #10 | Andrew Williams-

    That WAS June! I completely missed that… crazy.

  21. #21 |  AndrĂ© | 

    Most of the people who can speak ebonics know what happens to narcs, though.

  22. #22 |  The Department of Justice Wants to Hire Ebonics Translators Who Will Give Them The Translation They Want | Popehat | 

    […] Plenty of people have been having some fun with the news that the Justice Department is seeking qualified Ebonics translators. The Department of Justice is seeking to hire linguists fluent in Ebonics to help monitor, translate, and transcribe the secretly recorded conversations of subjects of narcotics investigations, according to federal records. […]

  23. #23 |  B | 

    Wow. There is bottomless potential for someone to fuck with the DEA, here.

    Never prevent your enemies from doing something that is expensive and ineffective.

  24. #24 |  croaker | 


  25. #25 |  Alex | 

    @Matt I
    Dictionary’s all well and good for vocab, but Ebonics has got grammar too. Tenses are completely different to standard English.