The Importance of Slang

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The importance of slang within our culture, and the growth of slang into literary terms.

Submitted: February 09, 2010

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Submitted: February 09, 2010

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Language. It propels everyday life and keeps us in touch with one another. Through many historical instances we have gained further insight into increasing our ability in the way of this language – telegrams, post, telephone, e-mail, instant messaging and the most infamous of all – text messaging. We talk to people in some form everyday whether it is calling your friend to see if they want to go to the mall, chatting about the weather to a colleague or ‘chewing the fat’ on some online forum.

Demands on our time have increased because of this upsurge in talking, and so we shorten words, and we shorten sentences. We talk so much that we seem to be running out of time to do just that… It all seems so impersonal when we have to rush away to get to the next conversation. We become inconvenienced by how much talking we want, and need, to do. And so we use Slang, or “Slanguage”.

First allow me to explain what slang and slanguage is not: What is new and popular at the time, catch phrases, slogans, graffiti, even colloquialisms – all of these, do not fit the bill of slanguage. Slang goes far deeper, slang is something that is said and yet never seems to be forgotten – even when it goes out of style. In the middle ages slang was essentially a different more “vulgar” pronunciation of words, in fact today’s slanguage was only formed in the sixteenth or seventeenth century by criminals, cut-throats and blagards. In fact, Slang was quite the taboo… But look at today. How many times have you gone up to a friend, or at least someone you know pretty well, and said “What’s Up?” This single phrase manages to capture a virtual plethora of questions all in one: “How are you?”, “Anything interesting happen lately?”, “What’s going on later?”, “Will you entertain me with what you have to say?” You wouldn’t go to a friend and ask all of these questions, or any of these questions, no. You would just say “What’s Up?”

Some people may express that slang is a “hideous beast” or a stain on the cloak of language and literature, but even Shakespeare as verbose and wordy as he may seem used the ‘slang’ of the time. Words like “bandit”, “watchdog”, “torture” and many more were considered slang words in the bard’s time, and yet we revere his work as some of the best of all time, we have our students study him in school while we show disdain towards the slang of today’s world? Those people really need to get real and take their chance now to realize that today’s slang-users are tomorrow’s Shakespeares. In the words of G. K. Chesterson, one of the most prolific writer of the twentieth century, “All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry.“ All slang, and all poetry, also vary in their lengths and their purposes.

From the early days of the telegraph where brevity was a matter of necessity, now comes the proliferation of text messaging in today’s society. Slanguage is a means to get things done. As Carl Sandburg says, “Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work,” that is to say it does not dilly-dally it just goes straight to the point. In a conversation back in the days when telegraphs were bountiful, you might ask someone to “accost you at the general store when the sun is half triumphed in its depart from the sky…”, in person at least. But in a telegram you were far more likely to say “store, half past sundown”. The same is true with texts, while in conversation we may say “Hey, let’s we meet at the mall at three P-M.” if we’re texting we’re far more likely to shorten it to “mall 3pm”. Accomplishing our “work” in seven characters instead of the original thirty-three is a pretty big feat, and it gives us more time to get ready to go to the mall.

Slanguage is the most prolific advance in language in the last two, three, four or five centuries. It is an astounding change in how we do things, whether it is simply to make things more convenient, or maybe to make them just a bit more personal. We always use slang to make our lives easier, to make them better, to make them more interesting. A brilliant novelist, playwright and poet – the author of Don Quixote himself, Miguel de Cervantes, said that “By such innovations are languages enriched, when the words are adopted by the multitude, and naturalized by a custom.” Slang is indeed a great innovation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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