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Current conversations are filled with linguistic differences that are characterized by unique speech and language patterns. Most of the unique utterances in casual conversations can be termed as slang. Slang is the term used by a majority of people in reference to poor grammar and choice of vocabulary. While it is easy to identify the application of informal language in other people’s conversations, studies suggest that most people actually use slang on a daily basis, since it is often considered part of the normal and accepted language. In addition, most people are quick to judge the use of slang by other people, yet they fail to contemplate how the society perceives their own use of slang, which they claim to be acceptable language, especially when used in a setting with diverse social backgrounds.
Besides the personal opinion of formal and informal dialect, slang is also a function of race, gender, income, and region, among other factors that influence and identify with societal and socioeconomic stereotypes. Each social group employs a certain type of slang, whereby all members of the group are able to identify with each other owing to their unique diction and grammar. Over the years, the popularity of slang as a defining trait has continued to grow. This diversity of language has, in turn, led to more bad than good, including heightened social and class separations.
Origin of slang
Slang has its origins in social circles including cliques of minorities, teenagers, and soldiers. However, recent trends have indicated that slang is no longer limited to small groups, with some informal terms expanding across age groups and societies to become accepted as standard language. Some types of slang, like “y’ all” instead of “all of you” and “the bees knees” instead of “that’s great” have actually become fashionable in most South American social environs, and most people have become accustomed to hearing and using them in their daily conversations. Despite the adoption of some terms at societal level, the use of slang is yet to transcend geographical barriers. For instance, the use of the informal phrases provided earlier is acceptable in certain regions of America, though some sections of the US perceive it as uneducated and unacceptable.
The regional acceptance of slang can be attributed to the fact that it originates from a specific cultural or socioeconomic group, which makes it acceptable to that particular society, and not necessarily other areas. African-American diction, for instance, employs a certain kind of slang that is common in city areas. While African American linguistics has had a massive impact on contemporary conversational language, it is still not accepted by lots of communities. The use of words like “playa” to refer to men with multiple sexual partners, or “bitch” as a derogatory term for prostitutes is often considered improper in most scenarios for a majority of social circles. However, less offensive words like “ride”, “bling” and “holla” are often frowned upon by certain groups of people, terming them as uneducated and low-class.
The Adoption of Slang in Society
Slang is most prevalent among the youth, especially teenagers, who freely include phrases like “dude” and “Let’s Bounce” in their day-to-day colloquial speech. While adolescents use their kind of slang to provide a sense of belonging, most adults and the media often mimic it and associate with immaturity, unintelligence, and irresponsibility. For adolescents, the use of slang words and phrases serves as an indicator of both knowhow and interest in a certain peer group, which provides them with a sense of social superiority and mutual acknowledgment. Much of the slang used by muddle-class white adolescents includes a blend of diction borrowed from African American speech and American west coast surfer.
On the surface, slang looks like an incredible language that is full of creativity and originality. However, all the words used in slang are deliberately borrowed from specific sources. For example, the slang used by American youth is consistent with the speech used by urban African Americans, which the former associate with masculinity and strength. Furthermore, American youth borrow some diction from the west cost to portray “coolness”, using words like “chill” and “like’. Youth is an incredible motivator for the development and growth of slang, not only as a way for their generation to be associated with a certain slang vocabulary, but also to rebuff the slang used by older generations as “uncool’ and outdated.
Perception of slang in society
Studies suggest that people have the tendency to overlook their opinions regarding the use of some slang vocabulary, but have no way of ignoring its existence. This is because human beings tend to subject all words and phrases that they hear to extensive scrutiny, whether consciously or unconsciously, replaying them in their minds as they try to figure out whether those words are acceptable. Acceptability in this case refers to the level of comprehension offered by the new slang term, or the ease of integrating it in normal speech.
The main discrimination towards slang is attributed to decades of continuous association of slang with lazy, stupid and disrespectful talk; a notion that is ingrained in people’s minds from a young age, as both teachers and parents discourage children from incorporating slang in normal speech, and instead, encourage them to use proper grammar and mature social skills. Yet, people continue to use slang in informal and even formal conversations, mostly because it comprises shorter words that do not only sound witty when conversing with peers, but also provide a comfortable way of speaking.
Individuals tend to associate slang with their roots, peers and community, where they cultivate a sense of familiarity and attachment to the language. This makes it easy for them to easily associate with other people who use similar slang vocabulary. However, the harmony that grows within a certain community also tends to draw those members further away from other societies, which is the primary reason why slang is perceived negatively when it is not one’s own, or used in a different context than one is used to.
A common perception regarding slang is that it is an inferior form of speech with lower prestige compared to Standard English. Furthermore, slang is considered as one of the many features of individuals with low status and minimal power of responsibility. This perception spreads to the workplace, whereby people with a certain dialect are considered to be unintelligent and disrespectful. The situation becomes extremely detrimental when a person’s speech becomes a marker for their race and status, making prejudice a serious problem posed by the use of slang.
The truth about slang is that it is a feature of all socioeconomic backgrounds and regions. Slang is a fun way of communication, and it is unfortunate that it drives societies apart, much like people of a particular political or religious inclination tend to gravitate towards each other.