This article explores how language represented in a YouTube video came to be interpreted as the speech of the stereotypical Southern redneck. Specifically, it examines how viewers drew on three strategies of contextualization, over the course of 502 comments, that allowed them to define specific utterances as exemplifying instances of white, working-class, racist language. First, viewers provided timestamps and quotations as discourse flags, marking specific stretches of discourse within the video as culturally relevant signs. Second, viewers engaged in discourse evaluations, whether through the explicit evaluative description of speakers or through implicit affective stance markers. Third, viewers’ comments highlighted indexical juxtapositions between the words of Southern speakers and their accompanying signs, including the Confederate flag and nonstandard features, presupposing that these signs jointly and consistently emblematized Southern redneck racism. The author argues that the ideological significance of media representations of Southern language, even while guided by content producers’ particular mediatizations, ultimately became shaped by the ways in which listeners—collaboratively and cumulatively—engaged in public acts of listening, contextualizing specific linguistic moments as relevant and assigning them with recognizable sociocultural value.

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