March 20, 2007

Z scorez

I wonder exactly how and when the fashion for spelling plural -s as 'z' got started, and how it spread. The common examples come partly from hip-hop and partly from hacker culture: boyz, niggaz, skillz, warez. I've always assumed that the hackers copied it from the rappers (who were certainly using it in the mid 1980s), but I don't have much evidence. Anyhow, Andy Capp's vicar is just catching up:

This fits the American stereotype of the British upper middle classes as concerned with form rather than content. Here's a more extensive survey of American (male) stereotypes of British (male) culture:

When did the American stereotype of British male speech as effeminate begin? Was it a side-effect of a more general cultural clash ("we don't like them so they must be sissies"), or is it because of the associations of particular characteristics of some British dialects (e.g. lack of flapping/voicing of /t/)?

If you've got answers to these questions, let me know.

Posted by Mark Liberman at March 20, 2007 06:07 AM