Exchanging text messages online is one of the most popular forms of communication around the world. People send billions of messages every day using emails, social media networks, mobile applications, and so on. The daily amounts of messages, as well as the valued speed of information exchange, has led to the development of digital slang—usually abbreviations or contractions of words used in communication most often. And although many people do not see the problem in slang language, there is an opinion that it can pose a threat to literacy.
Slang is a specific category of conventional language used by a relatively small group of people who share situations or interests. It consists of words and phrases that cannot be found in regular dictionaries, but possess real meaning and are used to efficiently convey information; slang words and phrases can be either completely made up, or based on existing linguistic constructions (Boston University).
Among the most common digital slang terms and expressions are well-known abbreviations used in electronic messaging: “bb” (bye-bye), “brb” (be right back), “lol” (laughing out loud), “idk” (I don’t know), “smh” (shaking my head), “c u m8” (see you, mate), “btw” (by the way), “u2” (you too), and so on. Although it may seem convenient to use such distortions in order to accelerate communication, in fact slang overuse poses a problem; nowadays, this can be most often noticed in the academic environment. Slang is common among students, and unfortunately it has moved from online communication to student assignments.
According to a study involving around 700 students between the ages of 12 to 17, 85% of them are actively using at least one form of electronic communication, whether through instant messaging, text messaging, or social media. Terry Wood, a foreign language teacher at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Md., believes that Twitter and Facebook are among the reasons of a great decline of students’ writing abilities. “They do not capitalize words or use punctuation anymore […] Even in emails to teachers or [on] writing assignments, any word longer than one syllable is now abbreviated to one,” says Terry Wood (U.S.News).
At the same time, not all of the experts believe slang is negatively affecting linguistic and writing capabilities. Slang expert Tony Thorne thinks slang is an appropriate part of the English language. “The very nature of the English language—and what it means to be British—is its flexibility […] A long time ago, slang was about work. Market workers, carpenters, public houses, farmers had their own slang […] All groups—it doesn’t matter whether they are soldiers, policeman, criminals or whatever—always generate to some extent their own language. It’s not just to communicate information, it’s in order to include people into your group and exclude people out of your group […] Slang has not become more prevalent, simply more public,” says Tony Thorne (BBC News).
It is hard to deny that slang has become a part of everyday communication. It is convenient for quickly exchanging messages in the environment of the Internet; slang can also be a part of professional, cultural, or other subculture. At the same time, young people tend to use slang words in inappropriate situations (in an academic environment, for example), which, as some specialists believe, negatively affects their communication and writing capabilities. So, slang should be used where it belongs—within informal and/or small groups of people, sharing the same situations, occupations, or interests.
“Slang Guide.” Boston University. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Lytle, Ryan. “How Slang Affects Students in the Classroom.” U.S. News. N.p., 13 June 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Barford, Vanessa. “Mind Your Slanguage.” BBC News. BBC, 08 Dec. 2009. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
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Academic Tips: 5 Popular Definition Essay Topics
As soon as instructors announce essays, most students begin to groan and complain. Despite their disgruntled attitudes about essays, there is one essay that ends up being much more interesting that students anticipated: the definition essay. In a typical definition essay, students are asked to investigate how the definition of a particular word has changed over time. Once students begin to realize how interesting the history of language is, they are hooked and want to know more.
When you have been assigned a definition essay and you are looking for a topic, these are a few popular options:
- Any type of slang. Words that have become slang tend to have fascinating histories. Students enjoy learning about the development of those words and how they became our favorite words. Students often enjoy looking at slang terms from early decades, especially from the 1920s and 1970s when slang words were especially unique. Some students prefer to focus on slang from certain geographic areas, like the way that surfers from California speak or the way that people from Seattle spoke in the 1990s during the Grunge era.
- Swear words. Nothing fascinates a student more than learning how those four-letter words became so bad. If you are going to write about these words, be sure to get permission before you start your paper. Some instructors might be offended by a paper about a swear word. While current swear words are interesting, students can always focus on other derogatory words from other centuries and how those words fell into and out of favor.
- Archaic words. Old fashioned words or words that have practically disappeared from the English language make for interesting papers, especially following the path the word on its way toward extinction. Students who are interested in Shakespeare or authors from other early periods offer words that could be studied.
- Words with strong connotations. The English language is full of words with overly positive and extremely negative connotations. Words that we use to categorize people tend to have the most polarizing connotations that can be interesting to discuss in an essay.
- Idioms. Many of our idioms come from the sports world, which has an interestingly collection of terminology, too. Even though idioms involve more than one word, they can still be interesting to follow through history to see how the meanings of those words have changed throughout time.