Tuesday, 5 October 2010

charlotte's thought of the week: take a chill pill emma thompson, show some slang love.

i would like to begin this piece of virtually broadcast literature using words of only the highest calibre. it has been brought to my rapt, yet youthfully ignorant attention that my generation has a below-par grasp of the very basest fundamentals of the english language. it has been stipulated by a certain female lucky enough to be fawned over by the national press that this continual ebb of grammatical tide is a guaranteed pre-cursor to my generation amassing a perceived dim-wittedness, innit.

emma, emma, emma. i used to think you were pretty decent. right up until you dissed my entire generation for embracing new facets of language. then you slipped a little in my estimation. a debate of almost epic proportions has launched surrounding miss thompson’s claim that the youth of today do themselves a disservice by using slang. admittedly, the exact definition of what slang is rather important here- it is necessary to differentiate between incorrect use of spelling, grammar and syntax, and another definition of slang more accurately described as merely a string of colloquialisms. to be brutally honest, I abhor the former. there is no excuse for not understanding the difference between they’re and their. Or DOH! and dough. one would hope that it is perfectly clear that monsieur simpson has nothing to do with baking. unless you are a twelve-year-old boy with a penchant for simpson heads for your birthday cake. these are the kind of standards that are necessary to uphold in order for the human race to communicate effectively- after all what use is language if we cannot express ourselves with efficiency? however, what i wholly disagree with is the perception that all new language is bad language. it is often discussed as though we are infecting the purest, unchangeable, sacred commodity. raping a virgin language with violent stabs of LIKE. i think not. language, beautiful and ever-inspiring as it may be, is constantly evolving. if i took a trip through deepest darkest peckham conversing with all and sundry in chaucerian english, not only would I not be understood, but I would most probably return with a few stabs of my own, and they wouldn’t have been metaphorical. even in shakespearean english it is not unusual to find an old school brand of slang, and surely the garbled english of lewis carroll’s jabberwocky can only be heralded as poetry at it’s inventive best- and in many ways a type of carroll-slang? or even more recently, the spoken words of benjamin zephaniah- this is masterful use of language, all sprinkled with a healthy helping of slang.

as a generation, we are continually encouraged to push boundaries of imagination, vision and invention in every other aspect of modern life- to look to the future with an open and inquisitive mind. why then, Ms Thompson, can we not do the same with language!? don’t get me wrong, i’m certainly not promoting inappropriate use of language. i’m not insinuating that it would be wise, for example, for the latest apprentice candidates to sit in front of ‘suralan’ and spew out that they is well pschyed to be in his presence innit blud, and that the apprentice is a well sick opportunity for them, and they’ll bust a cap in anyone’s ass that tries to get in the way of their dream- there’s a time and a place for everything- but the notion that slang is ‘dumbing down’ is a little closed-minded methinks.

there will always be generational gaps- what i understand by the word gay (homosexual, naturally), my great grandma would have understood as being jolly happy. similarly, i understand that the word sick could be used to indicate greatness, as well as illness, whereas if I described seeing the foo fighters live as ‘sick’ to my mother, she would probably think that they all started biting off rabbit heads on stage, or were all taken tragically ill mid-gig.

this week i was left hoping that Emma Thompson was stranded on an island with the most intense users of slang imaginable. i was praying for her to be put in a situation where slang was common currency, then maybe, just maybe, she would get off her high wordy horse, and understand that even in language, you keep up or are left behind. May the slang revolution begin!

[Charlotte Skeoch]

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