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'Jimbo me baby' analysis

Course: Spoken English

Week: 4

Lecturer: Keith Richards

Topic: Conversation analysis: Analysis of text used in workshop

Text for analysis

This taken from a local radio phone in programme based in Manchester and begins with an introduction to a new caller (B). A is the host. Davenport, Stockport and Hazelgrove are areas of Greater Manchester, but I can only speculate as to the identity of ‘Hookvale’ (my conclusion is offered in the analysis which follows the text).

01 A: Davenport and Stephen Earnshaw

02 B: Ah, Jimbo me baby

03 (3.0)

04 B: Come on ┌speak then.

05 A: └Jimbo me baby?=

06 B: =Oh it’s you. Right,=

07 A: =I’m not- I’m not aware that this is an appellation which has

08 hithero been used in connection with my inestimable self,

09 B: Inetimable? Well, there you go, another famous first from

10 the deep south of Manchester, I suppose ... Ahm (.)

11 whereabouts does (Hookvale) live?=

12 A: =.hhh=

13 B: =He was very disparaging when I said I was from Davenport

14 which is the posh end of Stockport he says (.) no it’s not it’s

15 it’s near Hazelgrove.

16 A: Oh Stockport’s a birrovadump isn’t it? It’s er..


In this analysis, I’ll work through the text line by line. This is rarely the best way of presenting an analysis, especially where more than one text is involved, but it happens to work fairly well here and it provides a useful means of checking your own comments against mine. I don’t insist that mine is the only possible line of analysis, but I do think that there is strong textual evidence to support my claims. If you have come to slightly different conclusions or noticed features which don’t receive attention here, don’t automatically assume that you are wrong, but do look very carefully at the evidence you have provided for your claims.

In the analysis, I have deliberately avoided making any reference to work which we have not covered in the sessions, but that doesn’t mean that a full discussion wouldn’t benefit from such work. I’ve chosen to stick to what you should already know in order to keep my analysis in line with yours and to demonstrate what is possible on the basis of what we have covered on the Speaking English module. If you’re particularly interested in broadcast talk, you could chase up work on that subject (e.g. Scannell P. 1991. Broadcast Talk. London: Sage).

01 The extract opens with an introduction by the host. We need to remember here that this exchange is not ‘ordinary conversation’; it is a telephone conversation which is designed to be overheard by listeners, and both participants will be aware of this. This may influence the way they design their contributions, and here we see an introduction which identifies the caller (Stephen Earnshaw) and the place from which he is calling (Davenport). This seems to be designed to provide the listening audience with information which is relevant to the caller, while at the same time serving interactionally as a cue for the caller to begin the call.

02 The caller responds to the cue by greeting the host. What we notice about this greeting is that it seems excessively familiar. We must assume that the caller does not know the host personally (although we can accept that it makes sense to say that talk show hosts build up a relationship with their regular listeners), and the use of a diminutive form of the host’s name (‘Jimbo’) followed by ‘me baby’ is a form of address which would normally be reserved for intimates. Interactionally, this greeting serves as the first pair part of greeting-greeting adjacency pair and is designed to elicit a greeting from the host.

03 The greeting is not forthcoming. In fact, what we have instead is a three-second silence, a considerable period in this context. This failure to respond to B’s greeting constitutes an attributable silence.

04 Since the selected speaker has failed to speak (turn-taking rule 1(a)) and no other speakers are available to self-select (rule 1(b)), B continues speaking (rule 1(c)). In fact, he responds directly to A’s failure to provide the projected second pair part, making the interactionally very unusual move of explicitly demanding a response from A.

05 In fact, A interrupts B’s turn, responding directly after B’s ‘Come on’ and in advance of the TRP at the end of B’s turn. What is particularly interesting about A’s response is its form: the projected reply to a greeting is another greeting, but this is not what B provides. Instead, he repeats B’s greeting with particular emphasis on the word ‘baby’ and in the form of a question. This unusual response draws attention to B’s initial greeting, marking it as problematic.

06 In acknowledging B’s greeting, A also announces his presence on the line and B recognises this, including the identification (‘you’) which A’s unusual response has failed to provide (a response to a greeting which returns the greeting implicitly acknowledges that the identification in the first pair part is correct, but A’s response has not followed these conventional lines). B then signals (‘Right,’) that he’s about to get down to the business of the call.

07-8 Despite the continuing intonational contour of ‘Right’, A interrupts B in order to focus attention on the problematic greeting which his earlier response had highlighted. Had B gone on to introduce a new topic, it would have required careful interactional management in order to return to the greeting sequence, which is normally no more than a preliminary to the call proper. However, by interrupting now, A is able to ensure that B’s greeting remains relevant to the ongoing talk. In framing his comment on that greeting, A chooses a register (‘appellation... hitherto... inestimable’) which is in such stark contrast to that which might be expected to co-occur with ‘Jimbo, me baby’ (see my Week 2 webnotes on address forms and alternation & co-occurrence) that it draws attention to the inappropriacy of the latter.

(Note at this point that speculation about A’s mental state has no relevance to the analysis. It may be that he has designed his response in this way in order to entertain the audience — an option which would not be available if this were a conventional telephone call — or it may even be that he is annoyed by the presumption of intimacy implicit in B’s greeting, but we have no way of knowing this and, more to the point, neither has B.)

09-11 This time B interrupts, in order to draw attention to A’s use of ‘inestimable’. This is the first time B has recognised, albeit indirectly, the issue to which A has drawn attention. What happens next is particularly interesting. B uses this as the basis for a comment about A’s location (either currently or in terms of his origins), neatly establishing the ground for a shift of topic achieved when, following a brief pause (10) in which A does not self-select, B asks a question about ‘Hookvale’. We have no evidence confirming Hookvale’s identity, but since this is someone known to both and who has talked to B, the caller, we can assume that Hookvale is the name of the person who filters callers to the programme and sets them up for the announcement (e.g. 01) which starts their call. Whether or not this is the case, the reference to Hookvale has moved the talk, via a reference to place in the response to ‘inestimable’, onto a new topic.

12 B’s question is the first pair part of an adjacency pair, and A’s intake of breath indicates that he is about to respond.

13-15 A, however, is quick to cut him off in order to make the relevance of his question clear. The location of Hookvale is relevant to matter of local areas because Hookvale has made a comment about the caller’s own location which the caller (B) disputes. The link with ‘the deep south of Manchester’ (i.e. location) and back to the opening line of the call (01) establishes this as a relevant topic. What is also interesting is the word ‘disparaging’, which aligns comfortably with A’s earlier inflated register (07-8), but less convincingly with B’s own greeting.

14 B’s comment invites a response from A, which he now provides. In his response, which agrees with the line taken by B, he refers to Stockport a as a ‘birrovadump’. This formulation is in marked contrast to his earlier elevated register and in this respect interestingly mirrors B’s own shift.

In any conversation it is essential to establish a way of talking to one another and to settle on a topic, which is what the interactants here achieve. In phone-in programmes, callers are usually expected to introduce the topic, but B is not allowed to do this because his initial greeting has made problematic the issue of ‘how we’re going to talk to one another’. By drawing attention to this greeting, A makes this a relevant issue which needs to be resolved. The resolution is achieved in this extract via the establishment of a contrast between form of address and the response this receives. By focusing on the linguistic issue and at the same time shifting register, the two speakers eventually settle on a way of speaking which is appropriate to the context, the subject and the interactants. At the same time, this is used itself as a basis for introducing a topic of conversation which can then be pursued. At the end of this exchange, the participants have settled on a topic and a way of speaking.