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The teenage dialect is often mocked by their parents’ generation. When they are busy ruminating on the decline in society, as evidenced by their children’s actions, the topic of modern language usage inevitably comes up.
However, a careful examination of the language reveals that these critics simply do not understand the next generation of the English language. Like so many before them, they have labeled as evil that which they do not understand.
First and foremost, there is the language of the electronic communication. Adults tirelessly mock the teenager’s uses of “4” in place of for, “u” in place of you, etc. However, these abbreviations came into widespread usage out of necessity, not laziness.
The two most frequently used forms of this communication are the text message and Twitter.
Both off these formats require users to limit the size of their messages. However, this limit measures characters, including spaces, as opposed to words.
So, unlike in a research paper, longer words bring an author closer to breaking the limit than shorter words. With these abbreviations, less space is taken up by these small words.
Critics also forget that the abbreviations are phonetically identical to the words they abbreviate. The number four is pronounced four, which sounds exactly the same as for. Look at the shorthand for later, l8r. Since 8 is not a letter, it is pronounced eight.
So, the abbreviation is pronounced ll-eight-rr, which is phonetically identical to later.
Plus, this trend is no different from the abbreviation of through to thru, which has been around longer that the parents of these teenagers. Furthermore, the technique has only been used elsewhere, like on Facebook posts that are not limited by size, simply because it is far more efficient, both for the author and the reader.
Also, parents and teachers tirelessly mock the frequency of the word like. However, a careful examination of the exact content of their criticism reveals that, once again, they are simply condemning what they misunderstand. Contrary to the claims of English teachers, like is almost never used as an “umm” or “uhh.”
This would be grounds for legitimate criticism. Look at the definition of like as an adjective: “similar to.” This is the meaning of the word that the teenagers use. Like is used as an adverb, expressing uncertainty in a statement, i.e. “There were, like, 30 people there.”
The “like” tells the listener that the speaker is not exactly sure of the answer, but that it is pretty close to the one given. Thus, the speaker admits to being uncertain, but still tries to give an approximate answer, and the listener understands that the statement made is only approximate.
Thus, far from being contemptible, the teenager’s use of the word like improves both the honesty and the clarity of the statement.
Of course, I do not defend every aspect of the new English. The disappearance from common usage of words larger than three syllables, for instance, scares me just as much as it should any parent.
Parents and teachers of the new generation should not be so hasty to criticize the new English. They simply fail to realize that the world is changing rapidly, aided by the rise of the Internet and text messaging.
The new English is simply an adaptation to this new environment. Truly, it is the language of the future. This page is, after all, called Teen Pulse.
This is more than just a cool-sounding name. The word “pulse” implies life and motion. The new English is truly the life and direction of the future.
Cary Bronson is a junior at Los Alamos High School.