Slang words are negatively changing the language


Just as clothing styles are traded every few years for newer, more exciting trends, slang and dialects are changing the way we communicate at a staggering rate.

New words have been making their way into society for decades, with a limited amount of ramifications. However, the current trend involving texting abbreviations and monosyllabic words is taking its toll on the vocabulary of the next generation of teachers, businessmen and writers.

Michelle Belleniesees, an English teacher at Central High School in Burlington, IL, said she sees this trend in her students.

“What really surprises me are the simple words that students don’t know,” she said. “A lot of the time, they are words that are so commonly used that I have trouble giving them a definition for it.”

A frequently run Dove commercial features video of a woman showering and a voice-over actress recalling a recent shower with the new body wash. The set up is pretty standard; the script, however, makes me shake my head in shame.

The actress describes her experience with the soap, saying it made her feel covered in soft, “velvety bubbles. It felt like velvet was covering my skin.” I hope the substantial lack of variety in both verbs and adjectives can be contributed to the writer’s strike – the alternative is just too depressing to think about.

In a similar “loss-for-words” situation, former president Bill Clinton displayed his verbosity in response to the democratic nudge toward his wife to withdraw from the race. Clinton said, “If we just chill out here and let all the voters have their say, my gut is it’s gonna come out all right.”

Chill out – that is the advice he chose to give Democratic voters and politicians. He was not speaking with a friend over beers in a bar, where “chill out” would be more acceptable and understandable. This was an on-the-record interview that surged through the newswire in the days to follow.

Associate English Professor Edward Callary, however, said the increasing use of these informal words shouldn’t scare us.

“Society itself is becoming less and less formal and this is reflected in the language we use,” he said. “Shortening words, using shortcuts and abbreviations when texting, using slang where it used to be inappropriate all indicate a general decrease in formality, as do things like informal Fridays in businesses and the fact that fewer and fewer male professors wear coats and ties. It’s merely another of the ways language offers insights into society and social relationships.”

He does, however, note that there should be clear difference in our vocabulary among our friends and family and the vocabulary we use for larger, less specific audiences.

“It’s only when we speak and write for a more abstract audience that a larger vocabulary matters,” Callary said. “When we don’t know who our auditors or readers are … bigger vocabularies certainly do help.”

Whether we choose to accept it or not, the way we exchange ideas is changing. A constant recognition of this fact is perhaps the best way to arm ourselves for the vocabulary of our future.