“Language forces us to perceive the world as man presents it to us”
– Julia Penelope
When I walk down the streets I can hear it, in short bursts or extended sentences, students breaking the status quo and verbally rebelling against the acceptable. Since the swinging sixties in America, British youth have become fixated, and mastered the art of breaking away from social norms. Language used to be clearly linked to the class structure and only the most verbally prestigious used Received Pronunciation. Language used to be employed as a way of controlling and deciding which class you were confined to, but as technology develops, teenagers have now developed their own sociolect that is different all together.
Many feel language has lost its power in society as there is no longer a perceived acceptable standard of English. But is this true? Surely now that everyone speaks in a way which is good for them they can use language to its full potential.
Firstly, let's look at how slang has enhanced our love for language. Young people were becoming less and less connected with language and no longer had a yearning for it in my opinion, slang has helped revive language; while some see it as less sophisticated, I think that slang has enabled young people to express themselves.
Many find it hard to say or type emotional things, especially males. Therefore, once things are said in slang it tends to lose its emotional stigma, but still get the meaning across. Maybe that's why people prefer 'luv u' to 'I love you', the former seems less serious.
Another thing slang has brought to us is the ability to be bilingual. Personally, I feel if you are fluent in slang and can switch to perfect Standard English with ease then you are bilingual.
You see, when it’s broken down there are clear benefits to slang, so why does it have such a strong opposition?
Well firstly, many young people can't make the switch, and slang comes across in writing essays. Personally, don't see why you should be marked down for slang, the same way you shouldn't mark someone down if they have an accent in a speaking exam. Education should accept slang as a way people speak, a way people learn and a way people understand. Education’s job is to keep up with the times and make sure it is still relatable to the modern age. Education is meant to be conclusive and understanding, it’s meant to be a gateway to opportunity and not a curse to the oppressed. How can it do this if it tells a student that they are unintelligent because they said ‘fam’ instead of ‘family’? The fact we are forcing people to speak in a way we like, restricting their voice and telling them they are below us if they don’t is too scarily close to a police state for my liking.
So then we get the Gove’s of this world telling us slang is corrupting and poisoning our beautiful language and will change it forever, well it should! The same way much of the language we use today which is seen as ‘proper English’ would have been considered as slang 50 years ago, is the same way slang today will be seen as posh stuff in 50 years time. Slang enriches and liberates our language in a way which can only be positive.
So in the complexities of this thing we call language what should we be fighting for? Our stubborn misconceptions of slang, or a modern, forward-thinking, revolutionary society.
By Ife Grillo