What’s Slang for This?
Heidi Patalano’s recent Metro piece on “slanguage” got me thinking about how the emergence and domination of the World Wide Web has broken and forever altered the rules of entry into our geographic vernacular. As mentioned in my post on trendsetting, the “tell me how you feel” rhetoric has flown the coop of the doctor’s office and permeated every aspect of our lives to the point where the intelligence of the English language is in jeopardy. We’ve bypassed the time-tested method of artfully and acutely describing our feelings — making friends with Webster and Roget — for a posthaste route to making up our own words. A quick visit to the Urban Dictionary proves just that. Take the word dejabrew for instance. Urban’s definition: “Much like déjà vu, dejabrew is when you start to remember things you did last night while drinking an excessive amount of beer.” Or, rebooty: 1) a booty call made with an ex. 2) a renewed relationship with an ex. Seriously? How about “That was imprudent and looking back I’m going to regret this, but at the time it seemed like a good idea. Sh*t” (last word strictly for effect.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m the furthest thing from an etymologist you’ll ever find, and I have been known to use slang terms on several occasions, but I try to relegate them to WTF (because it appeals to my warped sense of morality) and def (short for definitely. I reserve this for mornings where I’m running on less than six hours of sleep).
If you’re still asking how these slangs make it into the collective conscious as opposed to being lost in cyberspace, I’ll tell you. It’s because we’ve provided the means to validate them. We know that the Web is viral. According to the Metro, Urban Dictionary receives 2.5 million page views per day and 13 millions users per month. By virtue of using the word, dictionary, in the site’s name, Urban Dictionary has positioned itself as a legitimate source of knowledge for the masses. Time magazine (yes, the venerable, international voice) rated the site as one of the 50 best in 2008. We’ve validated the site, and subsequently the definitions, because parents, children, teachers, and people from all walks of life (myself included) have visited the site to privately learn definitions of words that we would otherwise be embarrassed to admit that we do not know.
It’s disheartening to think that one day I will be threatening to wash my childrens’ mouths with soap for using terms such as cakes (a female with a large ass), joo mama (slang for “your mama” — a bit more of an insult when used as an insult), or for believing the second definition of democracy (four wolves and one lamb voting on lunch) is true, but there may be nothing I can do to stop the force of time. I guess this is par for the course when language is approached as a free-for-all as opposed to a linguistic masterpiece.
Posted by Elizabeth