“The post-racial, non-rhotic, inner city,
Th-fronting, cross cultural,
dipthong shifting, multi-ethnic,
L-vocalisation, K-backing fusion of language”
As a linguist and lexicographer who once worked as a designer, I have long nursed the idea that an iconic reference work, especially one which celebrates and explores creative, exotic and subversive forms of language, could – should – also function as a work of art.
In 2013 I had the privilege of helping Chris Nott in the preparation of his graduation project at the Royal College of Art. Chris designed a glossary of, and a guide to MLE – Multiethnic London English – that functions as document and documentation as well as being a unique art object.
Chris, now working as a design specialist in the studios of Brody Associates, has given permission for this artefact to be shared for the first time. It consists of a glossary and a separate guidebook (which highlights the words from the glossary too)
Please do consult it, dip into it, read it from virtual cover to virtual cover, or, better still, print it on to high-quality paper and savour its tactility. Place it on a lectern under a strong light. Use it to teach your students, to inform your friends.*
The contents of this reference work, which includes contributions from other lexicographers and linguists, are still topical, relevant, revelatory three years on. The visual elements and format remain unique.
The samples of language and the commentaries presented in the book move our thinking beyond ‘slang’, beyond older notions of race and class, to consider the post-ethnic realities of a UK subject to what theorists now call Superdiversity, in which, especially but not only for younger speakers, complex questions of identity are bound up intimately with language, style and symbolism.
For me what is also essential in treating slang, dialect or jargon is to go out into the streets, the clubs, school playgrounds and workplaces and record the actual words of their users, words which might never otherwise appear in popular or academic publications.
MLE, Multiethnic London English, now sometimes referred to as Urban British English or Interethnic Vernacular was the designation given to a developing social dialect, featuring a slang vocabulary and new patterns of pronunciation and accent, that came to notice at the end of the 1990s and has since influenced the speech of younger speakers in particular beyond London itself.
Here is Chris Nott’s work. First the Glossary…
In a few days Chris’s 300-page Guidebook to MLE will be made available too
*But please don’t try to monetise it. It is Chris Nott’s copyrighted work.