The English Language on Fleek

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When my ears hear the harsh tone of slang, steam comes out of my ears and I start breathing fire. Most of the time, people legitimately use these words to fill voids in conversations. So not fleek, guys.

People who speak with purpose and confidence send chills down my spine. Maybe I’m an old soul who appreciates a well-spoken person, but in an argument with a friend, I’d rather hear “Kirstin, you are refusing to understand my point of view and that alone is very frustrating” instead of “Bitch, you’re cray, like, no.”

Listening to a fellow classmate speak amidst a class lecture clearly and without hesitation mesmerizes me. Those who manage to finish sentences without adding in the word “like” 27 times is the 8th wonder of the world. Free hugs to everyone who doesn’t need vocal fillers.

Now-a-days, conversations overflow with terms like cray, bae, slay, lit, amaze-balls and the list goes on. This new vocabulary is like a modern day morse code; if you don’t understand it, you never will.

These aren’t words, people. “There is a beauty to language, even slang, but that beauty is much like painting a pumpkin—it may be attractive for a time, but soon, the base rots and the luster leaves,” Florida State University English Honors teacher Belinda Collins said.

Slang and phrases develop from TV, books, movies and other mediums. People subliminally form a habit of copying what they hear and see. This act breaks down genuine conversations. “Comments and colloquials replace care and consideration for true expressions that can clarify and impact conversation,” Collins said.

Students follow the trend of common colloquialisms so that when they explain to a roommate how their interview with Insight Global went, they end with “and stuff like that.” But, what stuff like that?

Students face a rushed life, too hurried to fully illuminate the depth of any subject matter. Happy hour only lasts so long, after all. “Grammar mechanics aside, words matter,” Collins said. I agree, Belinda. Words matter.

Without any form of language, we would literally regress back to relying on cave markings to get our point across. Do you know how to depict through drawings that there’s no more guacamole at Chipotle? Me neither. Therefore, I choose words.

FSU English Professor Dr. Kathleen Blake Yancey speaks on a new phenomenon in today’s communication amidst our slang.  “[It’s] what linguists call phatic communication, which is the kind of filler we use, including just grunting or hmm-ing, to keep conversation going,” Yancey said. Grunting…cavemen—coincidence?

To top it off, the dictionary joined in on the nonsense. If you flip to the F’s, you’ll now find the word “fleek.” Webster’s dubs this term an adjective and/or noun meaning “flawless” or “on point.” The publications of these terms subconsciously cause people to continue their usage of them.

Can you imagine “fleek” in a black and white film? Picture George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life talking to Mary after the dance and saying, “What do you want? You want the moon? Because that’s fleek.” Just, no.

Shame on you, Merriam Webster. We rooted for you; we were all rooting for you. Oh, and might I add that Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2015 was an emoji. Not the word “emoji”— an actual emoji. The emoji you use to laugh at someone’s joke. I guess Oxford set themselves up for that stunt. Again, not a word.

For those of you who think I’m not “yolo-ing” enough due to my harsh demeanor towards slang, Florida State University Associate English Professor Dr. Ned Stuckey-French explained that he isn’t as fearful about slang as I am.

Dr. Stuckey-French noted I take a “prescriptive approach” to language. Essentially, a prescriptive approach holds that we should “regulate language and how it’s used.”

So if you want to sound intelligent in your argument as to why slang is normative (the irony) for today’s modern times you may dub yourself a descriptive. “[Descriptives] think we should go with the flow and enjoy language in all its variety and recognize that it is constantly changing,” Stuckey-French said.

Disclaimer: I, too, take part in the slang usage. I’m all about using eccentric syntax to bring a comedic flare to a conversation. But when is slang taken too far? What happens when a recent graduate enters his first post-grad interview and starts speaking colloquially instead of professionally? Some might think this wouldn’t happen; people know how to speak in particular environments and situations.

While those people might be correct, how many of you have accidentally typed “lol” in a term paper? If you claim you haven’t, you’re lying. Using text language 17 hours out of the day eventually crawls over into your schoolwork like a tiny ant, and no matter how many times you attempt to smash it, you come out defeated.

Older generations already target Millenials as sheltered, unaware and narcissistic. Using dumb (for lack of a better word) slang words and speaking like an unintelligent twit doesn’t make us look any better. We’re the future.

I know slang has existed long before us; maybe it’s engrained in our DNA. In fact, I’m aware every decade or so will form their own language; it can be seen as a way to connect the people. However, our generation took our specific dialect to another level, one that I just can’t seem to connect with.

There is such beauty in communication. We got so caught up in the world of texting, and now people don’t remember how to speak with one another. People feel uncomfortable meeting face to face because they find it easier to laugh at their joke at 11:43 p.m. via iMessage than in person.

“It makes one a bit nervous that we’ll only find true bits of our beautiful, traditional language left in books published before the onslaught of digital publishing,” FSU literature Professor Shonda Stevens said.

If you find a job where all communication is text-based, go ahead and forget all about this article. Maybe employers will soon catch up with today’s casual jargon. But for those who realize jobs and employers like that only exist in an alternate universe know it won’t be “lit” when your lack of a vocabulary prevents you from getting a job.

Dramatic? Maybe. Just consider yourselves warned.

Senior at Florida State University studying Editing, Writing and Media. Lover of good lighting and Nicholas Sparks. Small town girl with a big city mindset.

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