Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

The People Vs. Conversate

I get the feeling that one of these ninjas conversates and the other one converses.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why some Black folks HATE the word “conversate” so much. In the reading Blacks commrunity, hearing a Black person say “conversate” is akin to a white person using the n-word. All of a sudden the sky opens up and the spirits of dead slaves pour down their disappointments and blackberry molasses upon the souls of Black folks. You know somethings will never change.

But really, what’s the big damn deal? I get it. It’s not a real word. (Sidenote: According to Dictionary.com, it is commonly recognized as a word nowadays, who knew?) But we make up words all of the time. Look —-> trill.

I know for a motherlovin’ fact that a huge segment of the reading populace was runnin’ around talking about how “trill” things were. I know I was. There was even a southern d-boy argument about who came up with the term. That’s how serious it was. Granted it’s a slang term and perhaps that’s where the argument breaks down. Perhaps the big problem is the assumption that people using the word “conversate” don’t actually know any better. Maybe, these ignant mofos really are ignorant. There’s no joke. No punchline. They’re allegedly using it because they don’t know that it’s “converse”. But are they really? Put a pin in that, we’ll come back to it later.

Now, I could chalk that up to syntax and English snobbery. Hell, Twitter has proven that even the smartest of people really have no idea how to spell common words and phrases they’ve been using for eons. This commonly riles people up, understandably, I suppose. For example:

“For all intensive purposes”

I can’t tell you how many people I know with degrees show up on Twitter or Facebook and write that statement and effectively admit that they have no effin’ clue what it is that they’ve been really saying despite knowing how to use it.

Back to “trill” for a second and this idea of not knowing any better. While the educated savant in me loves made up words, I also know when to use them. I won’t be sitting in a meeting with my boss and point out how “trill” a certain estimate of something is. It won’t happen. And I think we can safely assume that most of us reading this won’t. But, again assuming, that the people who use “conversate” don’t know any better, maybe the fear is that they WOULD use that word, on purpose, in a setting where they’d make us all look bad. Is that it?

Indubitably, somebody who uses conversate just might use that word in any setting or circumstance, regardless of who’s present. Whereas I, again, know better. Here’s another monkey wrench – does it carry more weight if a white person says it? I’m asking because I get the impression that this isn’t a Black thing, it’s a “conversate” thing. It’s a tricky English language thing. I can imagine a foreigner mistakenly thinking that two people have a “conversation”, but one person might “conversate” with another. Would anybody be upset if that happened?

To make that even more f*cked up, you go from “orientation” to “orientate”. Tell me that ain’t confrusing, Young Buck.

Let’s be real, English is one of the hardest languages to learn because of how many other languages we’ve pulled from. Not to mention the myriad homonyms, synonyms, etc. Hell, I can barely make it through some books, like Souls of Black Folks, because of the language use and I’m educated as fuck with multiple degrees. We’re all aware of people who are extremely learned who don’t have a full grasp of the English language and all of its nuance. And it’s not SUCH a huge leap to think that “conversate” is a real word. I mean, Converse iz and are shoes.

Hell, quick, quick…somebody define, without looking up: gerund.

But “conversate” is like nails on a chalkboard for many Black folks. It’s almost like the delineating point between ignant niggadom and breaking out of the hood or something. In an odd twist of irony, I think I’ve jokingly heard “conversate” so much that I’ve had to check myself before to make sure that it wasn’t actually the right way to say “talk to a nigga”.

Actually, that might be the legal definition of “conversate”.

Here’s another issue, I think “conversate” actually sounds better than “converse”. Unlike “irregardless” which sounds horrible and is a double negative. But that all comes down to personal preference, I suppose. And seeing as my ignorance is sophisticated, for all intensive purposes, I only use “conversate” in the midst of a powwow with somebody who eats #flamingyoung. Or who can at least appreciate what just happened there.

If you have no idea what #flamingyoung is, then you also have no idea what #theplate is and need to spend more time dealing with Black people who deal with other Black people who spend inordinate amounts of time on Twitter.

So VSBNation, I ask you, what’s the big damn deal with the hatred for the term “conversate”? And why do we seem to make it mean so much more than it actually does?

Conversate with P.


Filed Under:
Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • they WOULD use that word, on purpose, in a setting where they’d make us all look bad. Is that it?
    Yes, this is it!
    My mama told me I couldn’t use slang until I understood when and where to use it.

  • iNeedANewVSBName

    It’s a #BougieNinjaPractice to not except “conversate” as a word. Low class people like Charlie Wilson and Beyonce use the word conversate, so educated folks cannot.

    Sidebar: If these people have “writers,” how do they end up with these made-up words?

    Sidebar Part Deux: Does anyone pay atttention to the #RedLine anymore? You know, the line that tells a person that “conversate” is, in fact, not a word?

  • doesn’t gerund have to do with something about verb conjugations? *shrugs*

    I don’t have a huge issue with “conversate”…I mean swag isn’t a real word and who hasn’t said/heard that used a hundred different ways. Beyonce got “bootylicious” in the dictionary, so let’s keep working black folk – conversate is on it’s way up.

  • CurlyTop

    “All of a sudden the sky opens up and the spirits of dead slaves pour down their disappointments and blackberry molasses upon the souls of Black folks.”

    Erm, I is DEAD! I actually pictured 400 years dead slavery pouring from the sky as I read this. Why this is funny to be, Iunno but I laughed.

  • Be On It

    I don’t like the word conversate, but it only grates on my nerves when people who claim to be bougie use it all.the.dang.time. Like really? You’re just going to drop that non-word in every other sentence and expect me to view you as highly educated and cultured? Okay playa O_o

    But, knowing that [American] English is the king honeybadger of language in co-opting, creating, and repurposing slang and colloquialisms into its formal lexicon, I can’t get too angry at people who use the less appropriate term. Unless they are wannabe bougie.

  • In fact, I told my dear dear Spanish-as-a-first-language friend that it wasn’t a word, then learned via the interwebs that it had been added to the dictionary just like the much aligned “ain’t” of my youth!
    Color me happy and indignant when I could proudly proclaim to my mother that ain’t was now in the dictionary and therefore an actual word. She was NOT impressed, I was still not allowed to use ain’t with her.

  • I am one of the haters. But I’m a self-admitted Grammar Nazi as well. Hell I wrote a whole post about it. I don’t like that conversate has been voted into vernacular by popular vote (same with bootylicious and d’oh!). Given the rampant rise of the intellectually challenged, or the Stupids as I call them, I don’t think we should be allowing colloquialisms into the dictionary. If for no other reason, it’s because of the “fad quality” they have. Conversate has about every right to be in there as “Groovy” (unless you’re talking about a vinyl album full of grooves). So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Stop voting in slang and stop letting Tyrese tweet, and we may see a brighter day.

  • Be On It

    A gerund is a -ing form of a verb (I believe its the perfect participle, but since I”m going from memory, I could be wrong) that is commonly used as a noun, as in the following:

    “Running is my least favorite activity, but it is a necessary part of my workout routine.”

  • Andi

    I definitely don’t think conversate is better than irregardless. They both come from the same sad place…..

    You hit the nail on the head for me here:

    “Perhaps the big problem is the assumption that people using the word “conversate” don’t actually know any better. These ignant ninjas really are ignorant. There’s no joke. No punchline.”

    That’s my biggest issue with conversate. People aren’t using it as slang, they’re using it as an actual word.

    And I don’t really take it personally if Black people use it vs unknowing people of any other race. Unless you’re using it ironically, everyone gets the same inward sigh and silent tsk tsk. I’m an equal opportunity snob :)

  • BisforBrittani

    I like conversate but ONLY when it’s used as conversate …like you can’t go around putting -ing (conversating) on it because then it just looks (and sounds) weird…….and I only use it when around people who know me well enough to know I am not using the word because I don’t know its not a word or whatever

    Ok so I think I got the #flamingyoung reference but I can not for the life of me figure out #theplate…what does that mean?

More Like This