The Power of Slang by Tom Dalzell
American slang has existed for over a century and is constantly changing from one generation to the next. The ephemeral nature of slang makes it to constantly evolve with each generation of youth, which makes it more appealing to them. Moreover, it creates in its speakers a sense of commonality and identity. Despite the language being admonished by ardent lovers of perfect English, slang has continued to be prominent among American speakers, especially the youth.
The slang supporters and its charged critics have constantly disagreed on its relevance and importance as both a form of culture and means of communication. Among pro-slang individuals, slang improves the English language by introducing new words that are more understandable to a specific generation, and that communicate specific meanings more appropriately given the environment and time in which the words are spoken. The critics have accused slang of degrading the English language by inappropriately mixing English words with foreign terms, especially those from African-American vernacular. Moreover, the use of vernacular in slang makes the language to lack originality. While lovers of slang believe that it is a unique language, those who are against it allege that in most cases, it is usually a repeat of phrases that were popular in the past. For example, words such as groovy and boss, which were popular among the youths of the 1960s had also been popular among those of the 1940s. To some extent, therefore, the manner in which one generation of the youth communicates is similar to how another spoke many years back.
One of the major impediments to the growth of slang is its lack of acceptance in the academic fraternity. Rarely is slang used formally in school. For example, there are no class lessons on slang language and academic papers, such as those in sciences and mathematics are never written in slang. Another major barrier to the growth of slang is its ability to create some sense of commonality among speakers. The type of slang spoken varies with the community of the speaker, a person’s neighborhood, social setting, and income. These many stratifications create a barrier to the creation of a standard national form of slang. Therefore, although slang like all languages is constantly evolving, its rate of change is usually too fast for it to be standardized. Finally, social pressures and the lack of formal acceptance are major impediments to the standardization of slang. In most cases, people stop speaking slang when they are past their twenties. Interestingly, this is the period when most people get employment. Therefore, the lack of acceptance of slang in the formal employment is a major hindrance to its growth. Furthermore, most slang speakers always face the pressure of fitting to their new status at work and thus adopt a more professional form of communication.
The growth and spread of slang is more of a social issue. Youths are always creative and always desire to look and feel unique. Therefore, they normally develop forms of art, dressing, and even speaking that are slightly different from those of the rest of the society. In addition, youth also desire to look like their celebrities. To achieve this, they usually copy their icons behaviors, dress codes, and even how they speak. In the 1950s and 1960s for example, slang was influenced by mostly fast-talking AM radio disk jockeys, who were popular among the youth (Dalzell.). Finally, the interaction of cultures and languages is a major contributor to the development of slang. In particular, the African-American vernacular has mostly being used to create various words in slang.
Overall, slang is not a problem, but a form of art and communication that creates a sense of identity among the youth. Moreover, the effects of slang on a person are mostly temporary since most people stop acquiring and using slang once they are in their twenties. Nonetheless, slang will always be there since each generation of youth will try to come up with their unique form of communication.
Question: Does the use of slang generate more effective expressions?
Dalzell, Tom. The Power of Slang. PBS, 2005, www.pbs.org/speak/words/sezwho/slang/. Accessed May 10, 2018.