The Good and the Bad: Food Service Workers vs Nerd Girls

Blog » The Good and the Bad: Food Service Workers vs Nerd Girls

Posted on 12 Mar 2013 20:32

*Just as a note, this BP does not follow the suggested structure (but if the components happen to overlap, great)*

The two readings, “Why be Normal?: Language and Identity Practices in a Community of Nerd Girls” and “Learning to Serve: The Language and Literacy of Food Service Workers,” outline the authors’ journeys to finding out more about two very interesting discourse communities. After justifying that these two communities are indeed discourse communities, the authors take on unique methods regarding these easily overlook populations. The latter has a method that is more inspiring for a similar investigation.

Mary Bucholtz first tackles a widely believed view on how discourse communities are usually analyzed linguistically. Language is usually conceived as the “central object of social analysis” (205), but both linguistic and non-linguistic language should be examined to analyze sociolinguistics. It is very interesting how she rejects previously set models of how research should be done in regards to discourse communities. After suggesting alternative methods and listing the faults of the current model, she then justifies her own actions and describes her findings. However, when it came to the research component, I didn’t think it was enough for her to only analyze two conversations the groups had. It was clever how she did not only focused on what the members of the group said but HOW they said it; but it did not show much about the discourse community at the end. It can be clearly seen that her goal was to show that nonlinguistic communication is as important as linguistic communication but she fails to use it to make contributions to the discovery of new characteristics of the discourse community and its functions. The few assumptions she does make seem very forced, based on very few pieces of evidence. It is also notable how her writing is very dry due to lengthy descriptions of syntax, word choice, and vocabulary choice. This would not be a good example to follow for a project like the midterm project.

In the article about the food service workers, Tony Mirabelli investigates the way waitresses interact with customers. The goal of the author is to give service workers the respect they deserve. He uses a variety of methods to find out more about this discourse community including how he (pg. 147):
1. Does research on two diner restaurants
2. Looks at behavior in key events
3. Analyzes conversations
4. Analyzes sociocultural characteristics of work events

He even utilizes different literary forms to investigate in above components, including “direct participation… field notes, documents, interviews, tape recordings… and… historical and bibliographic literature” (147). The author mainly focuses on the conversations surrounding the menu offered at the restaurant. He sees that the data he has collected shows a lot about the goals of the waiters and waitresses, which are to promote certain foods and to get a hefty tip for their service. The means through which they accomplish those goals include specialized ways of communication that is very elusive to someone not familiar with the discourse community or someone who has never figured it was worth the research. The case that this author presents is a lot more believable. The author uses an interesting website to start off his article, which has already grabbed the readers’ attention.

The two authors both have interesting methods for their research. It seems that Bucholtz starts off well, using her own beliefs about the interaction between discourse community members to fuel her research. However, she does not make substantial findings. Mirabelli’s approach is more reader friendly and engaging. It is important for research of this type to be informative, straightforward, creative, and engaging. Based on the four goals of this type of research, I think Tony Mirabelli did a better job at presenting his analysis of food service community; it is the model researchers should consider following when doing research of their own on discourse communities.

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