“Mans gonna jam behind the decks.” – Jafaican? The destruction of English Language? Made up slang? Neither.
Lots of old people keep saying English is dying, the youth today are speaking complete nonsense.
I’m doing a degree in English Language. Everyone thinks that means I sit memorising books. Nope. This degree at Worcester is completely different. We learn how men and women speak differently, how language is used on social media and indentifying accents and dialects.
After the riots in 2011, the renowned historian David Starkey said it was due to the working class using a ‘false language’ of Jamaican patois. Firstly, Jamaican patois isn’t ‘false’ and secondly it’s only one of the many influences into the way they speak. Plus language has nothing to do with behaviour.
For an assignment, I investigated one interesting feature in particular of this dialect, which is saying “Mans” instead of “I am”.
This blog is going to be discovering where it came from and how it came into our language.
But, most importantly, to prove Starkey wrong.
Who uses it?
It’s mainly spoken by the inner-city working-class throughout England and it is very popular in the afro-Caribbean community because the feature’s found in the London dialect ‘Multicultural London English’ (MLE).
MLE is described as being a mixture of Cockney, Received Pronunciation and a mixture of accents from various ethnic groups, primarily Caribbean. Nowadays, it’s very common to see Londoners under 30 speaking in MLE, as it originated in the late 20th century.
Who invented MLE?
With all dialects, it’s hard to tell but this dialect immigrated into London as a style of English that black and other non-white settlers would have picked up as their second language.
Are there any examples of ‘mans’ in the media?
‘Mans’ appears frequently in the lyrics of ‘Grime’ and ‘Rap’ genres of the music industry stuffed with mountains of other slang words and grammar that could only possibly be understood by those speaking or learning Multicultural London English.
Any examples of tracks?
‘Boy Better Know’ is an urban London rap group that’s very popular in the ‘Grime’ scene and ‘mans’ often appears in their tracks ‘Too Many Man’, Boy Better Know states “…mans gonna jam behind the decks.”
What does that line suggest?
These lyrics show it’s heavily influenced by speech rather than written English, we can see this with the elision of ‘going to’ to ‘gonna’ and a lot of grammar that could be seen as illogical.
The title itself should read ‘Too Many Men’ as the track is complaining about how there are too many men at nightclubs. ‘Man’ has lots of different meanings in MLE, like ‘bare man’ meaning ‘a lot of people’ and also ‘my man’ meaning ‘my friend’.
Where does ‘mans’ come from?
Throughout lots of research, I’ve found out that it is indeed German! In German, ‘Man’ is the indefinite pronoun translated as ‘one’ with ‘Man ist’ translating as ‘One is’.
Doesn’t that sound familiar? It appeared in upper class Queen’s English “One’s ever so delighted you’re here for tea!” It still appears nowadays in formal writing by replacing “…you would say, your…” with “…one would say…one’s” to make the writing have more of a serious tone.
Funnily enough, ‘Man’ in German also means ‘people’ in English. Therefore, the ‘man’ in ‘Bare man’ means ‘people’ with influences from German.
Any final thoughts?
Yeah, so if you hear people rambling on about how they’re mimicking Jamaican, they’re not. It’s a melting pot of second-language speech and accents. If you think about it, English itself is comprised of so many different languages.
On the other hand, if you hear someone say “You man speak bare posh.” You can tell them that what they said is ever so ironic.
The only mug you see is filled up with earl grey