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"Saturday Night Live" made fun of Generation Z in a sketch called "Gen Z Hospital."
Social-media users said the show passed off African American Vernacular English as Gen Z slang.
John Rickford, a linguistics professor at Stanford University, called the sketch "an embarrassment."
"Saturday Night Live" tried to poke fun at teens during Saturday's episode with a sketch called "Gen Z Hospital," but the scene garnered major backlash online, with critics saying it tried to pass off African-American Vernacular English as Gen Z slang.
In the sketch, "SNL" cast members Melissa Villaseñor, Bowen Yang, Kate McKinnon, Mikey Day, Ego Nwodim, and Heidi Gardner played members of Gen Z - broadly people born after the mid-1990s - seeking updates from a doctor (the host, Elon Musk) on their friend's medical condition. The characters took turns using terms meant to evoke zoomers, such as "bestie," "gang gang," "catch hands," "the tea," and "sus."
Those terms, critics said, are not just mainstream teen slang - they were popularized in African-American Vernacular English, or AAVE, also referred to as American Ebonics.
John Rickford, a professor of linguistics at Stanford University who researches sociolinguistics, wrote in a publication for the Linguistics Society of America that "at its most literal level, Ebonics simply means 'black speech.'" The term was coined by a group of Black scholars who disliked labels like "Nonstandard Negro English" that were used in the 1960s, Rickford wrote.
Viral tweets criticizing the sketch accused "SNL" of appropriating the vernacular, following an ongoing debate about the use of AAVE by non-Black creators online.
"The appropriation of AAVE by white people is gross," one Twitter user wrote about the "SNL" sketch, adding that "the mislabeling of AAVE as a 'Gen Z phenomenon' is also gross, but on top of that, the SNL sketch reads like they just pulled a list of terms from UrbanDictionary and sprinkled them in, not caring that AAVE has a defined grammar!"
Another person tweeted, "This Gen Z hospital skit on SNL is so stupid. I'm so tired of nonblack people throwing random AAVE terms in their sentences and calling that horse s--- 'Gen Z language.'"
Rickford told Insider in an email that he felt the "SNL" skit was "an embarrassment."
Rickford said that this type of use of AAVE in comedy "negates the powerful, positive ways in which African American English is used in everyday life and by writers, preachers, singers, etc., to capture the vicissitudes and aspirations of everyday life."
The online outrage over the skit follows recent incidents of alleged AAVE appropriation by social-media influencers. TikTok star Brittany Tomlinson, aka "Kombucha Girl," and YouTuber Colleen Ballinger, aka Miranda Sings, have both been criticized recently for using language that some have said comes from AAVE.
Tomlinson posted a since-deleted video on TikTok in which she attempted to argue when it was appropriate for non-Black people to use AAVE.
"So when someone quoting that or when someone says 'period,' 'sis,' 'snatch,' all that, it's very much like internet culture. Like stan Twitter. Stan culture has its own language," Tomlinson said in the video. She has since apologized and said she was "uneducated on the issue."
Ballinger posted a tweet appearing to draw on AAVE and later apologized, saying, "I was trying to sound like an awkward mom who uses gen z slang, so I google 'gen z slang' and used all the words that popped up. I should have done more research and realized that the words were AAVE. I deleted it, and I'm sorry."
As Insider's Bria Overs previously wrote, "those critical of the appropriation of AAVE by white or non-Black people say that the practice reinforces toxic racial power structures in society that have an actual cost for Black creators."
"SNL" did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Read the original article on Insider