POP Goes the Vernacular

Vernacular is a good word to know but not a good word to use in a speech, song or sentence.

It means the language of the people. Which is where Shakespeare found his poetry.

It’s the reason Leonard Cohen left poetry and became a singer/songwriter. 

It’s the secret to writer Alice Munro’s success including her Nobel Prize. She extracts great themes from ordinary lives. And finds meaning in the everyday. 

It’s the reason hip hop now outsells rock and roll. Check out hip hop artist  Kendrik Lamar. He’s the first rapper to win a Pulitzer prize. He also produced the soundtrack for the Black Panther movie. His lyrics may be hard to understand when you first listen to him. Just like opera. But he’s pure genius. And worth the effort.

It’s why spoken word poets such as El Jones, SPIN El Poeta, Meharoona Ghani and Shane Koyczan are reaching audiences who would never open a book of poetry.

It’s why I like country music and its flirtation with the maudlin, trite and trivial.

It’s what I try to do with each of these posts – keep them short, plain and focused on one topic.  Which I find hard to do.

Here what I’m learning about the vernacular:

  • Its themes are timeless and profound
  • It plays out everyday, while washing dishes, changing a bedpan, wiping noses, pulling weeds… And bubbies over in kitchens, laundry rooms, back alleys, backyards, stockyards and mountain slopes.
  • It reconnects you with your roots. Most of us are one or two generations removed from the farm, the forest and the factory.
  • It’s where most of us hang out.
  • It happens while you are busy making plans and policies.
  • It means something special to an awful lot of people.
  • It’s essential to change making.

All you have to do is translate people’s happiness and sufferings into the language of all. And not take yourself too seriously.


People’s lives, in [my home town] as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing, unfathomable – deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum. ~ Alice Munro

Musical selection this post is SPIN El Poeta’s To All My Boyz in the Hood. He says things to young men flirting with the law that few adults can get away with. Aside from being national Slam poetry champ he is an arts educator and youth advocate.


Making Political Love

Blessing Your Presenters

You Don’t Need to Start Another Movement

Adversity Makes you Wiser

The World Needs More Peacemakers not Social Innovators

Death’s Tug of War with Mystery and Science

Artisans for the Common Good

Visit socialchangequotes.com to browse Canada’s largest collection of quotes about social change, curated by Al Etmanski.

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