Don’t get me wrong.
I like the Black Eyed Peas.
They are one of the most dominant musical groups in the world, which means they wield great power and influence. What they say and do means something to tens of millions of young people. Maybe, just maybe, they are crushing our civilization with language.
OK, first, what does this have to do with law? Admittedly very little except that trial lawyers survive and thrive on the use of language. The ways in which attorneys use language can win or lose a case. To be effective, lawyers must use language in a way which connects with jurors. People on a jury panel, young and old, must feel some common denominator with the lawyer to believe him/her. Therefore, lawyers speak with jurors based on a common language.
The Black Eyed Peas are changing that language base. The band’s most recent hit is titled “Imma Be.” I have no problem with “Be,” but “Imma” has me in fits.
Look up the definition of “imma” and one finds “imma” is a large genus of moths in the family Immidae. That, however, is not what the Black Eyed Peas are referring to.
No. The Black Eyed Peas intend to say “I am going to.” Examine the song’s lyrics and one sees the Black Eyed Peas are going to be: rocking; on the next level; sipping drinks; cool, etc.
What is the derivation of “imma?” It sorts out like this:
Start: “I am going to”
(Note: Ignore the passive voice for a moment and assume it is acceptable to say this in ordinary English rather than the more active “I will”)
Next: “I’m going to”
Next “I’m gonna”
Anyone who follows the Black Eyed Peas knows the language of their songs tends to be slang. One of their biggest hits includes these lyrics:
“I like that boom boom pow
Them chicken jackin’ my style
They try copy my swagger
I’m on that next s**t now
I’m so three thousand and eight
You so two thousand and late
I got that boom boom boom
That future boom boom boom
Let me get it now”
With young potential jurors streaming into the jury box for voir dire with their iPods blaring, how can a lawyer compete with this type of language?
How can young jurors relate to me when I tell them:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I will demonstrate to you through the evidence that the plaintiff has been exaggerating his injuries for the past three years and pretending to disabled at a time when he has been fully fit for work.”
Maybe I’ll have to say:
“Yo peeps, imma smack down dat guy cuz he’s frontin and trying to be on de chill when he should on de clock.”
And that’s why I think the Black Eyed Peas are destroying civilization as we know it.