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Roca-Pads Analysis

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Roca-Pads Analysis

There are two females in this commercial. One of the females is white and the other is mixed—black and white. The racial difference creates an important dynamic that can be seen in the language used by the two females. The mixed female, Pam, seamlessly switches from SE to AAVE and back. When the white female switches from SE to AAVE, it seems absurd and Pam points this out to the other female through her reaction. The absurdity of the white female’s language and dialogue when she switches to AAVE is immediately apparent to the viewers of the sketch. This is especially apparent because, in the first part of the dialogue, the white female seems confused by the AAVE while in the second part she tries to adopt it herself.

The “folk” would most likely view Pam’s code-switching as a tool for comedic expression. The sudden and deliberate switch to AAVE is unexpected which creates a comical twist, especially considering that it is uncommon to see AAVE used in television commercials. The set and costume designers obviously try to create a “pure” atmosphere with the long, flowing white dresses and bed sheets where one would expect a nice, sweet, and feminine dialogue to occur between the two females. However, upon analysis, the writers are making a statement about people that cross languages. In this sketch the writers seem to be making fun of people who try too hard to use AAVE as if it’s their own language.

Roca-Pads dialogue, Part 1

(Sitting on a bed together)

Pam:   Hey what’s the matter?

F2:       Pam, do you have anything sanitary? I’m all out and my flow is heavy.

Pam:   Do I? Girl, I got something that will keep your flow muthafuckin’ tizz-ight!

F2:       Muthafuckin tizz-ight?

Pam seems very concerned about her friend, F2, and asks in a very caring manner, “Hey, what’s the matter?” After F2 explains her problem, Pam switches from a standard style of English to AAVE by stating, “Do I? Girl, I got something that will keep your flow muthafuckin’ tizz-ight!” This code switch as serves multiple functions. First, by switching to AAVE, Pam is able to place a stronger emphasis on what she is saying and is able to exert more authority on the topic. Mestherie et. al (2009) citing Gal point out, “switches…can fulfill other functions—for instance, they can express expertise or knowledgeability when a speaker is giving an opinion. “ (p. 165) This is what is happening with this dialogue. The switch allows Pam to show her expertise with this product.

Pam’s use of AAVE marks part of her social identity. The switch allows Pam to represent herself more expressively. A social gap is created which is apparent in F2’s response. She repeats part of Pam’s dialogue when she says “Muthafuckin’ tizzight” but her rising intonation of the words illustrates that she is confused by and questions the meaning. By doing this, F2 is reinforcing the social distance between herself and Pam.

Roca-Pads dialogue, Part 2

(Both coming out of the bathroom laughing)

Pam:   You feelin’ fresh now?

F2:       (doing a dance move) mmm, fo’shizzle my bizzle!

Pam:   What are you doing?

F2:       What? Nothing.

In the second part of the sketch, F2 attempts to adopt AAVE has her language and it does not work. Pam asks in AAVE, “You feelin’ fresh now?” F2 now attempts to switch to AAVE with her response, “mmm, fo’shizzle my bizzle!” By doing this she is crossing languages. She is attempting to lower the social distance between herself and her friend by adopting a language from a group that she doesn’t belong to.

Rampton (1995) states, “[Language crossing] is concerned with switching into languages that are not generally thought to belong to you. This kind of switching, in which there is a distinct sense of movement across social or ethnic boundaries, raises issues of social legitimacy that participants need to negotiate.” (p. 280)

F2 adopts AAVE although she would not be considered a speaker of AAVE. This adoption of AAVE is a “movement across social or ethnic boundaries.” She even performs a dance move to try to move her closer to Pam, a speaker of AAVE. She uses a common language augmentation in AAVE by using “fo’ shizzle” instead of “for sure” and “bizzle” instead of “bitch”. F2’s “performance” is meant to seem quite ridiculous and Pam’s response to it, “What are you doing?” demonstrates that. Realizing that crossing languages has created an issue with Pam, F2 hastily responds in her normal dialect by answering, “What? Nothing?” as she attempts to downplay or move away from her AAVE switch/performance once she realizes her faux pas and act as if it has not occured.