“Come into My House…Give Me BoDAY”: The Sacred-Secular Continuum of AAL

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This is not an erotic interlude, keep in mind I move multitudes
The Asiatic black woman, hardcore beat drumming
It’s hard to keep a good woman down, so I keep coming
Blow for blow, I take and I get some, still I rise in a civilized wisdom
I hope the lyrical display has you around
It’s an open invitation, come into my house

~Queen Latifah, “Come Into My House”

In her “Soul N’ Style series” in the April 1974 issue of English Journal, Geneva Smitherman defines AAL as the language of “the old folks down south; the lingo of the young, urban hipster; the dialect of educated, professional blacks; the idiom of the preacher; the rhetoric of Black Power; the speech of the black working class.”  She also codifies three broad areas of style: non-verbal cues, lexicon and modes of discourse.

71NQ7WY7QJLLater, in her 1977 groundbreaking book, Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America, she goes on to argue for a sacred-secular continuum for framing AAL.  Today, we are going to follow Smitherman’s framing and traverse that sacred-secular continuum.

Smitherman notes that while not all people of Afrikan descent attend or support Church, African American sacred traditions still profoundly influence African American language. She reminds us that “while the secular style might be considered the primary domain of the street, and the sacred that of the church, no sharp dichotomy exists, but a kind of sacred-secular circular continuum” (p. 93).  We are going to use the circular continuum to hear, see, and understand AAL (African American Language) in our time together.  We are looking at “overall patterns” and “rhetorical qualities” in what Smitherman calls “strategies or modes of discourse.”

We will divide into four different groups and settle into one part of the sacred-secular continuum depicted below.  You will have a worksheet to guide your listening/viewing on the corresponding  pages that will prepare us for our discussion.  Choose one rhetor in the circular continuum depicted below…. very sacred to very secular:


After you have chosen between Rev. Dr. Stewart, Chike Akua, Rachelle Ferrell, or the Queen of the Ring battle, please navigate to that choice using the numbered webpages at the right.  Follow the directions provided for you there.


To view the performance of the background music, watch here: