That Slang Thang
You hear it all over: A group of sweaty teenagers on the subway hollering about how some party was “mad lit”. Some girl’s eyebrows being “on point”. Someone “low key” having a crush on a guy in class. A deep, full of wisdom conversation ending with the word “facts”. Slang is everywhere, but have you ever wondered why people use it, and even better, where it comes from in today’s world?
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (no, not slang for “book”), slang terms are, “unconventional words or phrases that express either something new, or something old in a new way. Slang emanates from conflicts in values, sometimes superficial, often fundamental.”
Slang is an incredibly important component of human language, allowing us to share and take hold of our personal expression. It allows us to continue pushing the norms of communication. Much like cursing, slang allows us to communicate ideas with a specific meaning behind it that cannot be expressed with any existing words.To quote YouTube creator “VSauce” in his video, Why Are Bad Words Bad?,
“Bad words are the precipitate of a larger reaction- the process of what we want to become. And that is some deep sh**.”
Although cursing is not necessarily slang, both touch on the point that new words and the widespread usage of them, makes understanding way easier. Using colorful language to push a point across that you are annoyed, in a casual setting or are in a certain societal group is much like how slang can be interpreted. With students in the digital age, slang has allowed for great growth in our vernacular, as well as a near social phenomena with how fast slang can spread and either stay cool, or burn out.
Cheyenne Haskins, an art senior at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts explained that her use of slang is based in both being comfortable, and creating a space where if everyone understands the context behind the used slang, the more entertaining the conversation.
“My slang mostly comes from the Internet or the people I’m around, like family and friends. I think speaking in slang makes things more intimate with people you know or people you are getting to know. It also makes things funnier or gets across a meaning that other words may not get across as well. I usually don’t speak in slang to people I don’t know, so I guess I only use it with people I feel comfortable around or familiar with,” Cheyenne said.
A very interesting point made here is the effect that the Internet has had on conversations in the real world. An in depth look at the slang term “on fleek” from Bustle.com suggests that the term was believed to have come to light on urbandictionary.com in 2003 to mean “smooth, nice, sweet”, but only really became popular in 2014 after Peaches Monroee created a Vine using “on fleek” to describe her brows.
Looking at the reasons why people use slang and the role internet plays in the lives of youth today, we can conclude that slang has only accelerated due to the fact that social media expands humans’ reach in terms of connecting with each other.
The only reason why anyone would use a word that is virtually meaningless without context is because essentially everyone is searching for acceptance and understanding. Language is the most powerful tool to channel that expression. So before you go and start judging the next slang craze, remember fam, we all low key just want to be understood.
– by Lisa Moore ’16