It’s been a very long time since I posted here, so apologies for that.
But the reaction I had to a tweet today got me thinking, and I decided this was the best place to put it out there.
Here’s the tweet in question:
Okay, I know this is ‘classic me’. Pontificating about the decline in standards of the English language, and complaining about all these weird words the kids use these days.
But then came a reply… actually series of 11 tweets from a follower, Fly. I’ve edited it down into one post here, just for ease of reading:
Kamahl, you keep asking questions like this.
21st century tech requires & facilitates a huge increase in CASUAL written language, whereas previously written language was mostly formal and did not reflect the casual structure, flexibility and playfulness of spoken language.
AAVE is the form of English with the greatest pop-cultural/cool cachet (although conversely it is regarded with snobbish disdain by those with a vested interest in maintaining a power structure which prioritises Anglo-American upper-middle class dialects and creates an artificial hierarchy of linguistics. This is snobbery).
AAVE and indeed all other dialects are complex and nuanced and effective.
Anyway, you will note that language is in a constant state of flux, and that includes stodgy mainstream speakers of formal English gradually becoming aware of terms like ‘bae’, ‘on fleek’, ‘yasss’ etc, and either grumbling about them or starting to awkwardly use them.
I mean – come on, Kamahl. You know this, really. “Yasss kween” carries concise connotations which would be absent from “yes”. Ditto “yasss”. These things exist and gain traction only because they are functional and express something not currently being expressed effectively otherwise; possibly something as subtle as membership of a group, even.
Now, believe me when I say I appreciate a response like this. Actually I think it’s the second time I’ve had such a response from Fly.
There is undeniable logic behind what he/she says, and the reply makes a strong case for the evolution of language. Of course, language must evolve. It is a growing and dynamic medium, and indeed half the words we use today simply wouldn’t have been around 100 years ago (I’m generalising here, but you know what mean!)
But personally, I don’t buy into Fly’s theory of “snobbish disdain by those with a vested interest in maintaining a power structure which prioritises Anglo-American upper-middle class dialects”.
I’m not trying to be snobbish when I ask questions like I did. I’m simply concerned that this is becoming the norm and that the ‘real words’ are being lost. I worry about my eight-year-old daughter thinking that yasssss or any derivative of it is actually how you spell the word yes. It’s not. Spelling IS important. Real words ARE important.
On a similar level, I also wasn’t a fan of the phonetic alphabet which kids are taught these days, although thankfully as they get older they revert to the regular ABCs rather than Ah-Buh-Cuh.
Yes I’m a traditionalist when it comes to language, but I’m also a realist. You can’t stop the march of youth, social media, and the changes those will bring. Heck, 50 odd years ago it would have been considered ‘wrong’ to use a word like cool to describe something that’s good, but these days I use it on-air!
Just as long as people, especially young people, are aware of etymology and where words come from and that they continue to be taught such things – not just by their teachers, but their elders and society in general.
Because yes, something might well be totes amazeballs… but if people don’t know that phrase actually came from the words totally amazing, then we’ve got a problem…