Where there is no true kinship of interests, where power relations determine the conditions of meeting, linguistic exchange becomes a duel. Very often the seeming inarticulateness of the labourer, the thick twilight of Cockney speech, or the obeisant drag of Negro response are a well-judged feint. The illiteracy of the trooper or the navvy were porcupine quills, calculated to guard some coherence of inner life while wounding outward. The patronized and the oppressed have endured behind their silences, behind the partial incommunicado of their obscenities and clotted monosyllables.

– George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (1975)


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