Slang. It’s a strange concept, really. The way people talk is often talked about, no one more so than young people. But it’s not only young people who use slang, and the kind of slang you use is most definitely determined by your location.
Let’s take a bread bun, for example. Tesco may name it a bun or a bap, but in the North West we call it a barm or barm cake, head south into the Midlands and it’s a cob. There may be other names for it if you travelled to other parts of the country.
It’s certainly not the only word to be given a variety of names depending on where in the country you are.
Missus, bird and chick are all various forms of the word girlfriend and though all names are, to an extent, interchangeable, you will probably find specific words are preferred depending on location.
Young people are renowned for being users of slang, more so than their parents or other adults, but perhaps that’s not the case. Perhaps it’s just that young people take on board slang in a very different way, and are less likely to change their speech in order to come across as more professional. After all, when do a lot of teenagers need to sound professional? (That’s debateable, but perhaps another story for another day.)
The internet has certainly made its mark when it comes to slang. Text speak isn’t just about changing words into numbers (i.e. m8 – mate, l8r – later, 2 – to/too/two, 4eva – forever), shortening words (i.e. u – you, ur – your, r – are) or creating acronyms (i.e. LMAO – laughing my arse/ass off, BRB – be right back), it’s also created new words.
LOL, though originally an acronym for laugh out loud, has become its own word, as has YOLO (you only live once). The problem with these two examples is that they’ve both become rather frustrating and/or annoying.
LOL used to refer to laughter, yet these days people (myself included) end sentences with it, when there’s not much reason for laughter. It’s also an awkward, not sure what else to say, thing. Sometimes I use it when I want something to sound more light-hearted than it may come across without the use of said acronym. In reality, it’s over used and quite frankly, a lot of people are sick of it.
YOLO is perhaps the most infamous of the two, despite being around for only a fraction of the time. It’s become a symbol of youth, of those ‘annoying teenagers’ that you no longer associate yourself with. It’s made its way onto clothing, shops and probably a number of tattoos which may one day be regretted. The concept, the idea, of YOLO is actually really important, but it’s been lost in how annoying the phrase has become.
Words are subject to change at any given moment, whether they’re controversial or perfectly acceptable depends on the general public’s reaction to said words.
The word ‘gay’ has had a number of meanings over the year, with a history as ‘happy’, ‘homosexual’ and more recently ‘stupid/unfortunate’. There has been plenty of debate over whether the use in the latter term is acceptable, whether the association with being gay as homosexual and being stupid is perhaps a step too far in a world where homosexuality is still deemed in a negative light by many.
It’s not just in the UK where slang terms have controversial meanings. The word ‘nigger’ has had a lot of negative connotations over the last couple of centuries. It used to be used, in a very negative way, and is often a very strong symbol of the racism black people faced at the hands of white people. It had such strong meaning that it is deemed offence for a white person to use the word (though I feel in this context, it’s perfectly acceptable). This perception of the word is so strongly felt that novels published when the word was an acceptable word to describe a black person are being amended in order to remove it from history. Whether this is right or not, is a subject for another blog.
Over the years, however, the word ‘nigger’ has been reclaimed and it’s often heard in rap music and some consider it to be a term acceptably used between people who have the same, black, skin tone.
Controversial words aside, language changes regularly (or at least over the course of a century or two) and it’s always evolving. Every day, week, month or year, it feels like there are new meanings for otherwise simple words, or new words, for previously abandoned ones.
The biggest controversy in recent years is, perhaps, the suggestion that Shakespeare (a perfect example of how much language has changed over the last few centuries) should be translated into text speak. 2 b or nt 2 b tht is the Q? Something which I disagree with because I think it’s hard enough maintaining ‘proper’ English in a world where slang is so acceptable.
So, is slang useful? Is it annoying? Is it offensive? Or is it just a part of everyday life? That would depend on who you ask, where they live, and what sort of environment they’ve been brought up in.
I would say that tolerance towards slang depends on age, but I think that’s only part true. YOLO and ‘that’s so gay’ may be terms used more commonly by young people, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are free from slang use. I use LOL, LMAO and BRB on a regular basis, I use text speak when I need more space in a text message, and I use colloquial terms such as barm because it’s an acceptable phrase for where I live.
Some slang is frustrating, it’s overused and it’s downright annoying. Some words are so ingrained in our local communities that without using it, we may not be able to communicate efficiently with our fellow locals.
That leaves me with the middle ground, sitting on the fence wondered is slang 2b or nt 2b?