Rules for Ritual Insults

Part of the Modern Linguistics Series book series


A great variety of terms describe this activity:1the dozens, sounding and signifying are three of the most common. The activity itself is remarkably similar throughout the various black communities, both in the form and content of the insults themselves and in the rules of verbal interaction which operate. In this section we will refer to the institution by the most common term in Harlem — sounding.


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  1. Abrahams, R. (1962) ‘Playing the Dozens’, Journal of American Folklore, 75, pp. 209–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Dollard, J. (1939) ‘The Dozens: the Dialect of Insult’, American Image, 1, pp. 3–24.Google Scholar
  3. Kochman, T. (1970) ‘Towards an Ethnography of Black Speech Behavior’, in Afro-American Anthology, Whitten, Jr, N. E. and Szwed, J. F. (eds) ( New York: Free Press ).Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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