Hey, just chillax! OK, so I’m one of the illiterati; just call me a noob. If I were a screenager, I’d be textspeaking twittering, and I’d turn into a blooming infomaniac just like all you young ‘uns do these days.
Right now, I’m going to shut down this computer and head off to the farmers’ market. It’s a great place for locavores to hang out. The produce is droolworthy, and they don’t sell any Frankenfoods there.
Most readers, especially those over 30, will need a translation of those two paragraphs. Here it is:
Hey, just chill out and relax (chillax). OK, so I’m not educated in the ways of the computer (illiterati); just call me a computer novice (noob). If I were young, with an aptitude for the computer (screenager), I’d be texting, twittering and I’d develop a compulsive need to accumulate information (infomaniac) via my mobile phone or computer just like all the young ‘uns do these days.
The farmers’ market is a great place to hang out if you’re a person whose diet consists only or mainly of locally grown foods (locavore). The produce is extremely attractive and desirable (droolworthy), and they don’t sell any genetically modified foods there (Frankenfoods).
Those are all examples of new words that were just added to the dictionary, along with many others. Most of those words, not surprisingly, were coined by young people – especially young computer-savvy kids. The world of computers, after all, is a Brave New World, so unlike the days of my youth when jet-age innovations like a four-slice toaster, a touch-tone button phone and snazzy fins on the butt end of a car were positively amazing – the cat’s meow.
It’s hard to adjust to this youth lingo. But, parents, don’t despair. Always remember that for generations, teenagers have been driving their parents nuts with their goofy kid-speak. T’was ever thus. My parents turned gray-and-wrinkled almost overnight when we long-haired kids started sprinkling our know-it-all conversations with words like squaresville, dullsville, hip, cool, groovy, far out and bread (for money). My poor parents – they were convinced aliens had landed and taken over.
Another bit of advice for parents: Be proud of your children because they are natural-born wordsmiths who are enriching our language, keeping it from calcifying.
Some of these new words, even though they’ve been hallowed by inclusion in the dictionary, will likely become obsolete. They’ll teeter and fall over into the ditch of dead words. Some new ones, however, will be around for a long time, and still others will morph into slightly altered forms with newer meanings. And that’s as it should be; that’s exactly how language works. Language – living language – is never set in stone but rather constantly evolving, becoming new and then newer – unlike, say, Latin, a dead language. English, especially, is a vigorously changing language. French, on the other hand, is slow to change, partly because there is a French Language Academy that acts as a draconian gatekeeper, barring those jarring, rude words – foreign invaders – from polluting the purity and exactitude of French. The gatekeepers, however, sometimes suffer defeat as words like “le drugstore” and “le weekend” manage to barge through the barriers.
British English has always been our prim and proper cousin, rather like an old-maid aunt. American English, on the other hand, is a sprawling, raucous, rough-and-tumble language that makes a lot of commotion. It’s like an energetic acrobat that springs and somersaults this way and that, picking up new words wherever it goes. And that’s the glory of American English – that acrobatic suppleness that makes for such rousing, vivid, descriptive speech and writing.
American English was, once upon a time, British English before it was reworked among the new realities of a New World, soaking up influences from thousands of sources as the country expanded West: immigrant lingo, ocean-sailing terms, frontier-farming words, riverboat bluster, stagecoach talk, railroad words, gambling terms, gold-mining camp vulgarities, Southwestern Spanish-Mexican words, Creole terms from Louisiana and last but not least Native American expressions (one of which is “Minnesota”).
In the latter half of the 20th Century, thousands of words entered the language via industry, technology, transportation, space exploration and – most recently – a vast number have come from computer technology.
American English is a boisterous, energetic, colorful language that reflects where this great nation has been, where it is now and where it is heading. We should be very proud of it – our nation and our language.