Sociolinguistics in Practice: Oxford Talk

Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1962), with its intuitive vocabulary, has inspired me to document my linguistic environments. I will write about a different environment each week without explaining any vocabulary used. My hope is that readers will gradually learn what these words mean as they read on and notice if I insert a word that does not belong. Through this, I will explore belonging: Does knowing the words of an environment help increase belonging, even if one has never been in the environment themselves?

Disbelief, sad, excited. Mask mask mask mask. Appleton to Detroit to JFK to Heathrow, disoriented taxi ride on the wrong side of the road, to the Grad Centre? No, Mary Warnock — Porter comes and helps, brings me to the right place, helps with my bags. No contact with anyone for quarantine period. See other visiting students for our four hour History Seminar class, Luke or Aurelia. Sophie Tim Sherry Nicko Jana Clara me. Very lonely and only some care that I’m lonely or even ask. Takeaway fish and chips from Head of the River pub with Sophie Tim Xufeng Lexie to celebrate finally finishing quarantine. And third floor Mary Warnock, Sainsbury’s, down Cornmarket, coconut ice cream and holy cow at G&Ds with Sophie. Settle in, six hours ahead. St Aldate’s is too noisy to sleep. Too many sirens utilizing the NHS. Last week of Luke and Aurelia then 0th week or North week, if that’s how you spell it? I never understood Josephine saying that. No idea how to walk around a city, get to the main site of my college, how to cross the street so I get lost and J walk and get hit by a bike. On Holywell! By the Rad Cam and Blackwell’s and Hassan’s and the Alternative Tuck Shop and the RAI and college and EFL and and and … Bikes everywhere and crazy and city too loud so walk through Christchurch Meadows and along Thames Path to Sally’s narrowboat at Rope Ham. Black tea with milk, nostalgia now. The rowers and the speedwalking and the podcasts and the horses with coats on by Her Majesty The Queen’s swans. The rain and the cat and Simpkins! Marquee tuna melt and chips or crisps wait what’s the difference? My accent gives me away first but they still don’t understand shoot. Pet Simpkins because no Piper or Figaro. Alice’s help, ORLO, SOLO, lower reading room, Gladstone Link, thirty minutes to the EFL but past Christchurch Meadows to the High Street to—Magdalen no “Maudlin”—onto Longwall to St Cross Road. I miss steak pie Hassan’s cream tea clotted cream hot chocolate Milano from Caffe Nero and silly words like “aubergine,” “courgette,” “rocket,” “bacon” that’s really Canadian bacon and “pancake” that is really crepe. And beans on English breakfast? Gosh that paired well with The Crown. But no beans. I miss these things and the people and talking to George in the kitchen for hours about our accents and dialects and Appleton and Nottingham and tutorials. And our scout! Major tutorial rough but good and always late but I got the hang of it and the rain insult. Oh, Sally. You must purchase some Wellingtons! I tell Sophie. Minor tutorial great too but different, Tessa reads my essays for me, love Araby but that Tory guy says I can’t like it because I’m a woman. I say screw that and feel shock and love Araby even more. Stay away from the Tories, I hear, and the Oxford Union and Christchurch and St John’s, problematic. Labour party good, Hertford open, state school good. So many differences and imagine all this with “s” not “z” and two “l” not one and British syntax and dialect, but I won’t pretend. I’m still me even with these words. I won’t change my spelling. Except I guess with labour and centre but ignore that, I confirmed some conformity. But bag! Magazine! Wisconsin and vacuum not Hoover and what’s a kettle? And what’s that rack in the bathroom? And how do your school systems work? Oh but takeaway and cutlery and tescalator and oxlove and oxfess and oxmas and Sainsbury’s and Oxford Tube and Michaelmas and City Centre shoot centre again not center. Oh and tea! I like tea now! Whittards is great and mint tea and dirty chai but only from the nice woman in Missing Bean. Sally says I’m too old for my age but I also have no clue. How did such an amazing experience get to happen to me? Kimberly Lawrence Hertford Oxford?

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