Uncle Remus puts the little homie on


{Br'er Rabbit Sitting on a Rock, A. B. Frost 1912}

Editor's Note: See, THE SIGNIFYING MONKEY A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. By Henry Louis Gates Jr. Illustrated. 290 pp. New York: Oxford University Press. $29.95.

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The following is a translation of an African American folktale entitled Uncle Remus Initiates the Little Boy. The original text was recorded in 1880 by Joel Chandler Harris. He attempted to approximate the sound of the slaves he'd heard telling this and similar stories across the Southern United States. I found his original text to be a bit cumbersome if only for the outdated terminology used by the characters in the story. Below, I've tried to render the text in (what I'll call for now) Contemporary Ebonics. Although this may seem to be a hasty labeling, the fact stands that the "Old Ebonics" recorded by Harris and the "Contemporary Ebonics" you'll find below represent unique ways of speaking that do not have widely agreed upon names to identify them by.

Here is where my linguistics and AfAm Studies folks come in: does anyone know what you call the style of speech found here in Harris' original text? I've seen terms ranging from "Gullah," to "African American Vernacular English," to "ethnolect" and "creole". Some one bless us with the knowledge. Either way, enjoy this story wherein we get our first glimpse of how the cunning Brer Rabbit manages to never get caught slippin' by Brer Fox.

Uncle Remus Puts the Little Homie On

One evening recently, the lady whom Uncle Remus calls "Ms. Sally" was looking for her little seven year old boy. Looking around for him in the house and in the yard, she heard the sound of voices in the old man's cabin and looking through the window, saw the child sitting by Uncle Remus. His head was leaned up against the old man's arm, and he was looking with an expression of the most intense interest into the rough, weather-beaten face, that beamed so kindly back at him. This is what "Ms. Sally" heard:

"One day, after Brer Fox had been doin' everythang he could to catch Brer Rabbit, and Brer Rabbit had been doin' everythang he could to make sho' he didn't, Brer Fox said to hisself that he'd set Brer Rabbit up, and he befo' he even got the words out his mouf, Brer Rabbit came flossin' down the street lookin' just as fly and dope as a brand new Hummer sittin' on the lot.

"'Aye, Hol' up, Brer Rabbit,' said Brer Fox.

"'I ain't got time, Brer Fox,' said Brer Rabbit kinda gettin' ready to make moves.

"'I wanna holla at you Brer Rabbit,' said Brer Fox.

"'OK, fasho' Brer Fox, but you better holla at me from where you at. I got mad fleas on me this mornin',' said Brer Rabbit.

"'I saw Brer Bear yesterday,' said Brer Fox, "and he kinda aired me out cuz you and me can't never be cool and be neighbors, and I told him that I'd come holla at you and see if we could work somethin' out.'

"Then Brer Rabbit scratched one ear wit his backleg and gave Brer Rabbit the side-eye, then he said:

"'Iight then, Brer Fox, why don't you come through tomorrow and have dinner wit me. We ain't got a whole bunch of food at the crib, but I think wifey and the youngins can hook somethin' up for you to fill you up.'

"' That's wussup, Brer Rabbit,' said Brer Fox.

"' Iight, I'll see then,' said Brer Rabbit.

"The next day, Mr. Rabbit and Mrs. Rabbit got up early in the mornin' and raided a garden like the one Ms. Sally got out there, and got some collard greens and some rosemary and some sparrow grass and they hooked up the bomb dinner. Later on one of the little Rabbits, playin' out in the back yard, came runnin' in talkin' 'bout, 'Momma! Momma! That fool Mr. Fox comin'!' And then Brer Rabbit took his kids by the ears and made 'em sit down, and then him and Ms. Rabbit was just chillin' waitin' for Brer Fox. And they kept chillin' but Brer Fox ain't even show up. Afterwhile, Brer Rabbit went to the do', creepin', and looked out, and right there stickin' out from around the corner was the tip of Brer Fox tail. Brer Rabbit closed the do' and sat down, and put his paws behind his ears and started singing:

"'The place where a nigga spill the grease,
Is where that nigga is bout to slide.
And where you find a bunch of hair,
You'll damn sho' find the hide.'

"The next day, Brer Fox sent a message through Mr. Mink, talkin bout 'My bad, I was too sick to come through, ' and he ax Brer Rabbit to come have dinner at his spot, and Brer Rabbit was like, "Cool.'"

"Later on, when the sun was startin' to go down, Brer Rabbit got fresh and started strollin donw to Brer Fox crib, and when he got there, he heard somebody groanin', and he looked in the do' and saw Brer Fox laid back on the couch all wrapped up in a blanket lookin' all sick. Brer Rabbit looked all aroun' but he ain't see no dinner. The dishpan was sittin' up on the table, and close by was a big ass knife.

"'Look like you finna have chicken for dinner, Brer Fox' said Brer Rabbit .

"' Yeah, Brer Rabbit they finna be nice, and fresh and tender,' said Brer Fox.

"Then Brer Rabbit stroked at his mustache and said, 'You ain't got no herb, do you, Brer Fox?' I done got to the point now that I can't eat no chicken unless I season it up with the herb.' And with that, Brer Rabbit ran out the do' and into the bushes, and sat there watchin' for Brer Fox; and he wasn't even waitin' for that long, cuz Brer Fox flung off the blanket and crept out the house and tried to sneak up on Brer Rabbit. Then Brer Rabbit was like, 'Aye, Brer Fox, I'ma just put yo herb right here on this tree stump. Better come get it while it's fresh,' and with that Brer Rabbit shook the spot and went home. And Brer Fox still ain't caught him yet, and please believe, little homie, he ain't never 'bout to."

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