[Varieties of English Around the World G67] 2022
► pp. 105–132
Tell me Pastor
Certainty, directness and the assertion of moral norms in a Jamaican newspaper advice column
In any society, advice-giving and -receiving are everyday practices of knowledge transmission between people in private, public and in institutional contexts. Advice is part of a complex speech activity in which the speaker typically gives a directive which they believe to be beneficial to the hearer. Depending on the situation (solicited or unsolicited) and the relationship between hearer and speaker (familiar, hierarchical, expert or user, etc.), this speech act might also be seen as face-threatening. In face-to-face contexts, Sidnell (2005a, 2005b) has shown the complexity of interactional organization of advice-seeking, advice-giving and -receiving.
For many sensitive areas in social life concerning sex, relationship and health matters, advice is sought from experts (doctors, counsellors, etc.) in the anonymity of written exchange. Dear Dolly (Mutongi 2000) or Dear Dr. Springer (Springer 2013) as types of advice columns have existed in many newspapers and magazines around the world, including many postcolonial anglophone countries, ever since the early 1960s. This chapter looks at the construction of expert and user roles in the display of certainty, directness and evaluation in advice-giving in contemporary Jamaican newspaper advice columns (Doctor’s Advice, Tell me Pastor). Particular emphasis will be placed on the advice-seeker’s request as a form of confession and the assertion of moral attitudes and norms in the advice column Tell me Pastor. An outlook to user-user advice in online forums will also be given.
- 1.Introduction: Advice in everyday life
- 2.Form and function of advice columns past and present
- 2.1The nation’s confidante: Advice columns as education and negotiation of social norms
- 2.2“What you might do is …”: Advice strategies in public and private situations
- 2.3Advice columns in cultural comparison
- 3.Advice in Caribbean contexts
- 3.1Expert-user contexts: Advice columns in Jamaican newspapers
- 3.2Confession, judgement and absolution: Directness and certainty in the Jamaican advice column Tell me Pastor
- 3.3A corpus analysis of Tell me Pastor columns: Quantitative and qualitative aspects
- 4.Outlook: User-user advice forums online