Stop bashing young people who use slang. Millennials have a plethora of new word choices that are constantly criticized by members of older generations and even other elitist millennials.
While it is expected that older folks do not get the appeal of “swag” or “bae,” it is interesting to see the division within our own generation. And a little infuriating.
If you’re on your high horse about what words are proper, get right off it. Language is ever-evolving adding new words every day. Language expands and contracts; some words gain popularity, some words die (looking at you, “tubular”).
No single entity decides what “good” language is. Sure, academia pressures us into using elevated language for term papers and coursework, but we don’t use such speech in our everyday discourse.
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There is no almighty book that tells us what is, or is not, a word – unless you count dictionaries, which actually do add slang from time to time. “Twerk” and “selfie” have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, for instance.
Dictionaries are not meant to tell readers what words are “proper,” rather dictionaries are a record of words that have had enough cultural and literary significance to warrant a definition. If our language only consisted of words recorded in dictionaries, we would all be speaking like Data from “Star Trek.” Who wants to be Data?
When people use slang, they are making the decision to add to this generation’s vernacular. Every generation adds to the world’s vocabulary. Haven’t you ever read “Frindle”?
William Shakespeare was prolific in adding to the common vernacular. He is credited with coining words such as “bedazzled” and “majestic.” In fact, Shakespeare did not actually invent those terms; he simply picked them out of popular language of the time and put them in his plays. They were the words those in the lower class were using, until they became immortalized by the Bard.
The arts are often are crucial to popularizing phrases. Drake (not Sir Francis) gets credit for being the first to use “YOLO” as a shortcut for “you only live once” in 2011. Within a few years, the term as mainstream. and is now found on clothing around the world.
The Internet is massive in understanding how slang has become even more common than in previous generations. Terms spread like wildfire through social media. Our exposure to new language is unlike any prior generation.
Terms now have the power to be trending in just a few hours with the popularity of hashtags. Millennials now connect through language across the world in minutes while in the past use spread through word-of-mouth. Now that we can make friends with people on different coasts, we pick up the slang of their region. In California we say soda, but in the Midwest many say pop.
Slang has most often arisen from the underprivileged. In the past, it was ridiculed. Now we realize that to dismiss the language of a group of people dismisses that group. Take away the way people speak, and you are silencing their voices.
Judging people for their word choices is not only classist, it is often racist. Modern slang often appropriates its use from black culture. When dismissing words like “fleek” or “boo,” entire subcultures are censored. Instead of disrespecting individuals who use terms you might not understand, look them up.
There are plenty of slang dictionaries online, with Urban Dictionary being among the best. It tracks different colloquial terms from around the world, often providing humorous and accurate definitions. You don’t have to use “ratchet” every day, but do not hate on others who do.
Respect the language choices of others. Don’t be a fuddy-duddy, Daddy-O. Don’t be basic, yo.
Megan Bronson is a senior at Fresno State majoring in English.
- Bae: term of endearment that is an acronym for “before anything else.”
- Basic: unsophisticated
- Boo: term of endearment that is a bastardization of “beau.”
- Daddy-O: a term from the 1950s that means to be the best man possible
- Fleek: perfection, a combination of the words “fly” and “sleek.”
- Fuddy-duddy: crabby and no-fun individual
- Ratchet: insult directed at a person considered lowbrow and undesirable
- Selfie: To take a photo of oneself.
- Swag: stylish, interesting, cool.
- Tubular: a term from the 1980s that means “awesome” or “cool”
- Twerk: a suggestive dance move that involves moving hips and rear