the etymology of my tongue
Jordan Brown

When you come from a family that has fallen into the trap of respectability
But lives in non-respectable places,
You learn to feel different from your peers.
My mother was born and bred in Jamaica’s interior, the country
But raised by a Bajan minister father who would not allow Patois in his home.

My mother raised me on the East side of Atlanta, the hood
And would not allow Ebonics in her home.
Between grandma’s house and church and school
I learned to speak languages with names like
Queen’s English
Standard American English
African-American Vernacular and
Jamaican Patois.
I mix
“Wuh gwan” with
“Yeen een know” and
Hiss my teeth after I say
“Das some crazy shit.”

Codeswitching is a constant
Because the lingua franca of my family is a hodgepodge of
Jamaican mannerisms and first-generation anxiety,
Colloquialisms and propriety.
I do not know when I am codeswitching versus when I am not
Because my natural way to talk
Is a unique cadence and prosody,
Which to me flows so naturally but
No one but my siblings would be able to understand.

I will be considered other no matter what
Because of who I am
So I talk the way I talk
Because I am the culmination of everything that made me
And I did not come here to fit your expectations.