"I want to (read and) write books that unblock the traffic jam in everyone's mind." ~J. Updike
Chill, It’s All Good! What So Wrong With Slang?
By Laura Diaz original article published for BlueSuit Mom Magazine 2010
One rare and lazy Saturday afternoon, I parked myself at my local Barnes and Nobles/Starbucks, and happened to hear from a nearby table, “Chill! It’s all good, Ellie!”
And then the reply, “You do know that as a grandmother you shouldn’t talk like that?”
The grandmother replied, “I was saying ‘cool’, ‘awesome’, and ‘chill’ before you were even born, girlie.”
Yes, the grandmother! Now if you think the grandmother’s use of slang had me gritting my teeth and calling Grammar Girl, you’d be wrong. Although the grandmother was much older than me (so I’d like to think), I felt a sense of kinship. You see, I have been guilty of peppering my casual conversations with “cool,” “awesome,” and yes, the ever-annoying “dude.”
However, this unintended eavesdropping did mark the beginning of some serious introspection for me. I began to consider that when those first few lines around our eyes begin to appear in the mirror, if our use of the slang from our youth should begin to disappear?
Chances are that even the most hardened ambassadors for the proper use of the English language would find that they unknowingly use slang in their everyday speech. For instance, if you refer to someone as being an “ace” at something, that’s slang! If you say “O.K.,” that’s slang! Okay, so maybe that’s not as bad as “awesome” or “dude,” right?
Not right! Emma Thompson would disagree. The 51-year-old Oscar winner told the Radio Times in September 2010 that people who used slang when they spoke drove her “insane.” She added, “Just don’t do it. Because it makes you sound stupid!”
Elena Neitlich, an international etiquette expert who has trained etiquette trainers in over 30 countries and is owner of “Etiquette Moms” by Moms on Edge, says that although she agrees with Thompson to a point, she views the teen use of slang as “harmless.”
However, regarding adult use of slang, Neitlich says, “I believe that by the time we reach adulthood, our days of exploiting the slang lexicon are over. Slang use by adults is ‘ginormously’ sophomoric.”
Is “ginormously” slang? Or “sophomoric”? I’m so confused!
Concerning slang use in general, “Etiquette Moms” list a few simple rules:
Teens agree with Moms on Edge about the adult use of teen slang. In fact, there is a Facebook page, “Adults shouldn’t use teen slang,” dedicated to protesting this heinous crime. The page Officers, listed only as Debra’s Doodle, Vernacular Vigilante, and Jessica Wallace, Jessican of Jargon, say on the page description, “Adults out there get your hands off our vernacular!” They go on to clarify this statement by saying, “Don’t worry if you’re in your early to mid twenties…BUT OLDER ADULTS THERE, we are watching you!”
In fact, in 2008, they claimed August 20th as “International Correct an Adult Using Slang Day.” Wow! Sounds harsh, dude! I think I’ll stay home on that day.
Is there anyone out there who thinks adults SHOULD speak slang with their teens? I don’t think so; but there are those who say parents need to know WHAT their teens are saying in order to understand them.
Joining this movement is “Middle Earth,” a non-profit, community-based organization in Somerset, California. Their March 2010 article, “Teen Slang and Acronyms,” provides a list of common teen slang and encourages parents: “Although sometimes it feels easier to live in the dark rather than try to understand teenspeak,” parents shouldn’t give up.
In an article in The Independent, “Teenspeak is not for adults,” Martha Robinson writes that adults should steer clear of teen vernacular. She says, “You don’t need to speak like a teenager to speak to one, but you’d better respect them enough to talk to them like a grown-up.”
I am in agreement with many of the points Robinson and the “Etiquette Moms” make. However, is it really so wrong to occasionally use teen slang from our own era?
I am the mother of three teenage boys, two teenage girls, and a “tween,” 12-year-old girl. Since I have my finger so firmly placed on the pulse of teen angst, I decided to interview the “real” experts.
My sons, unanimously, with all of the enthusiasm a teen of the male persuasion can give, each mumbled a variation of, “I don’t care. You got anything to eat?”
My daughters shed a more illuminating light on this perplexing puzzle, especially my 17-year-old, who told me that she didn’t mind my occasional use of “awesome” or “cool.” She even said that this just made an adult more personable when they occasionally used their own slang. She made this stipulation, however: “If you try to use our slang, like, ‘bomb-diggety, or ‘g’, I tell you this—we’ll just stop listening to you altogether, ’cause it’s fake!”
She then put her arm around me in a motherly gesture and reminded me that I should never go to work and say to my boss, “Dude! This is awesome!”
Then , in an echo sounding vaguely like my own voice, she continued, “Because we both know that there is a time and place for casual conversation. Capeesh?”
My 13-year-old chimed in with, “Yeah. What she said. You just gotta’ stop snorting when you laugh. Because that’s WAY more embarrassing!”So, this is my vow to all those teens up-in-arms with adults who hijack their teenglish: I will never tell you that something is ‘bomb-diggety’ or ‘g.’
However, you will just have to bear with me if I tell you, “Dude! You’re gonna’ hafta’ chill! This is an awesome movie and the light from your cell phone is so NOT cool!”But about that snorting business when I get to laughing?
Chill, it’s all good! ;)
I am an Educator, Award Winning Christian Author, Freelance Writer & Blogger,Youth mentor, Bible Teacher, and TREK AWANA director. Teaching provides an opportunity for me to engage in continual learning and growth on many levels. I work for my students not only to master the course material but to give them the indispensable advantage of having a growth mindset. This mindset has been stripped from many of our students; yet this is the undisputed secret ingredient for their success in the world outside of my classroom. I strive to be a globally connected educator. With my #LatinoEd #Edublog I seek (as J. Updike says) "to unblock the traffic jam" in the minds of my students and peers. In this way, long after they have left my classroom and they encounter a world that will try (and many times succeed) in knocking them down and telling them they "can't," they will bounce right back up, and with an intrinsic confidence say, "Watch me. Watch me make a difference!" It is then I will feel that I too have made a difference.
Educator and Christian Author, Laura A. Diaz, is the mother to seven and as a reading intervention para-professional in an urban elementary school, the teacher to many.
She is the author of Come What May: A devotional collection of short story and poetic musing. Laura is currently working on and seeking representation for a unique YA Christian fiction, multicultural book, "They Call Me Blanca." It has been described as a book that lands you on the Cross-road where Diversity and Faith meet Reality and the Supernatural.
While in the Air Force she lived in Italy for four years and wrote a successful monthly column, "Single Minded," for a local mission-newsletter, The Shofar.
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