Explain why Calpurnia speaks differently when she is around other black people.

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Going to church with Calpurnia is revelatory to Scout, who has only seen her as a worker and substitute mother in the Finch home. Scout is so young that it had never occurred to her that Calpurnia has a very different life when not with the Finch family.

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Going to church with Calpurnia is revelatory to Scout, who has only seen her as a worker and substitute mother in the Finch home. Scout is so young that it had never occurred to her that Calpurnia has a very different life when not with the Finch family.

Scout is surprised to hear Calpurnia code-switching, speaking in different dialect at First Purchase Church because she has only ever experienced her speaking "white" English. When she questions Calpurnia about this, Cal responds that she is, after all, black. Jem presses Calpurnia, saying:

That doesn’t mean you hafta talk that way when you know better. . . .

Calpurnia then goes on to explain that her black peers would find it strange and think she was "puttin' on airs" if she spoke to them in white dialect. She offers the life lesson that people resent it when you act smarter than they are. As she puts it:

it's not necessary to tell all you know. It's not ladylike—in the second place, folks don't like to have somebody around knowin' more than they do

The episode is interesting for several reasons. First, the children, especially Jem, simply assume that white dialect is superior to black. Second, like many subaltern people, Calpurnia has learned the value and safety of silence. Further, the children are oblivious, being part of the more powerful race, to the adjustments less powerful people have to make to accommodate them. It is not they, but Calpurnia, who has to juggle two languages and two cultures.

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Scout notices that Calpurnia speaks differently when she is around other black people at First Purchase African M.E. Church.  Around the Finch family, Calpurnia uses more formal language.  Scout thinks that Calpurnia should always speak the way she does around her and her family.  She tells Calpurnia that she knows better and should not speak differently at church.

Calpurnia notes that it is a difficult situation to be in.  She tells Scout that if she spoke formally to her friends and family at church, it would seem out of place.  To them, it would not seem like her talking.  She is concerned that they would think she is "puttin' on airs to beat Moses" (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 12).  

Again, Scout reminds Calpurnia that she knows better than to talk the way she does at church.  Calpurnia tells Scout that "it's not necessary to tell all you know.  It's not ladylike—in the second place, folks don't like to have somebody around knowin' more than they do."  Calpurnia does not want anyone at her church to feel left out because of her talking.  She also does not want to draw attention to herself or put on airs.

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