chapter  35
‘I’d Better Schedule an MRI’
The Linguistic Stylization of ‘White’ Ethnicity in Comedy 1
WithCarmen Fought
Pages 12

In the development of sociolinguistics, the study of ethnicity was centered on the language of marginalized ethnic groups, while communities of white speakers were treated as unmarked. This chapter contributes to the growing body of sociolinguistic research that seeks to challenge this notion of social categories such as whiteness and masculinity as unmarked, and to investigate them as sites for the linguistic construction of identity. It explores the stylization of ‘white’ ways of speaking by comedians of color, through a qualitative and quantitative analysis of their use of various linguistic features (e.g., intensifiers, technical terms, post-vocalic /r/). The goal is to document some of the features of this style and to show the different ways that ideologies about whiteness can be expressed linguistically. In addition, following the example of Rickford and Rickford (2000a), this study highlights the usefulness of media performances in reflecting and constructing ideas about ethnicity and language.