The Transformation of Language in Gloria Naylor’s “The Meaning of a Word” and Jimmy Baca “Coming into Language”

The Transformation of Language in Gloria Naylor’s “The Meaning of a Word” and Jimmy Baca
“Coming into Language”.

Michelle Schultz
Neosho County Community College
This paper discusses something amazing about language as it relates to Gloria Naylor and Bill Bryson. Naylor and Bryson point out that language comes from difference places. Naylor and Bryson views are on language are significant because they want to figure out where and what word mean.

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Keywords: Naylor, Bryson, Language, Meanings, Words
The Transformation of Language in Gloria Naylor’s “The Meaning of a Word” and
Jimmy Baca “Coming into Language”.

Gloria Naylor and Jimmy Baca share similar tones and style, but their themes differ. They both share emotions behind each of their writing styles. Naylor way in the mean of words can transform into a different meaning if used in a different term. Baca is discovering new ways of channeling emotion of his writing style.

Naylor talks about her first encountered with the “Nigger” word. She shows her thoughts and feelings from when it happened for the first time. The feelings Naylor brought home with her was uncertain what that word meant until Naylor asked her mother went she got home from school. Naylor chose to do this because she believes that the “Nigger” is in the black community can be used in a friendly manner as well as become a derogatory term. “Our math tests were being passed down the rows, and as I handed the papers to a little boy behind me, I remarked that once again he had received a much lower mark than I did, and He snatched his test from me and spit out that word” (Naylor para 3).

However, Naylor wants her readers to become educated with the fact that when saying the “Nigger” word. From her experiences, this is very true. The “Nigger” word, as Naylor has explained in her article, is either positive or negative depending on the tone or context in which you use it. Positive uses can make the word become a term of endearment, the pure essence of manhood, confirming worth, and harmless for the young ears. “Older children were sent out of the living room when it was time to get into the juicy details about” “you know who’s” is “p-r-e-g-n-a-n-t” (Naylor Para. 5). Also, the “Nigger” word can become an internalization of racism and can be a way to humiliate others.Also, Naylor speaks about the “Nigger” word, and she is using identity when she is using the word. Naylor goes deep into the different contexts of the “Nigger” word. She explains to us that she does not believe that the “Nigger” word in her social stratum of the black community. Her main idea was that a single word or term, in this case, the “Nigger” word, can identify a person and have multiple meanings whether it be positive and negative. “When used with a possessive adjective by a woman–“my nigger” –it became a term of endearment for her husband or boyfriend.” (Naylor Para. 9)
Baca was around 17 years old when he was not able to read nor write. Baca views were that of total ignorance. “Teachers had been punishing me for not knowing my lessons by making me stick my nose in a circle chalked on the blackboard.” (Baca Para.3) Baca had gone to go to prison on two different occasions. Each prison sentence revealed a new part of him with the hunger and the need for language. In his second term of imprisonment, Baca decided to fully immerse himself in the vast world of communication and imagination which help him cope with being in prison.

However, Baca understood that the way to be free was to become educated. Baca had learned from his previous lessons from the bits of information. Baca was able to extract from white boys in the streets. He was able to formulate the meanings behind words in books and found himself able to read. Baca learned to read and discovered everything his master had said became true. Baca became upset with his masters, and he became extremely discontented with the life he was forced to live. Baca frustration, he pushed himself to write so one day it might prove to be useful to him.

Baca needed the education to improve his lives and bring him out of his expected life paths. Baca found the determination within himself to rise against every obstacle and set himself free. Baca had a very different were very much the same in many respects. Baca used his language to break the chains of society. “But soon the heartache of having missed so much of life, that had numbed me since I was a child, gave way as if a grave illness lifted itself from me and I was cured, innocently believing in the beauty of life again.” (Baca Para.11)
Gloria Naylor and Jimmy Baca have similar articles in that of their narrative tone, and style. They use these rhetorical elements to explain how different languages can affect the social communities. They are entirely different in that Baca had to learn English, while Naylor gained new information about her culture and now feels more attached to it because of her interaction with the “Nigger” word.

The Meanings of a Word – Gloria Naylor (1986)
Coming into Language – Jimmy Baca (1991)


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