Hi guys! I mean it’s, like, awesome when you a**h**** f*** it up so a** bad it becomes, like, totally cool, but then, one of you goes, like, "The world sucks anyway," so — Holy S***! — it, like, really, really doesn’t, like, make an a**-whooping difference, does it? Why can’t any of you get that? I gotta, like, split now. Love you!
Guy (Random House American dictionary): Slang for a fellow. . . He’s a nice guy.
Awesome (Oxford English dictionary): . . .the attitude of a mind subdued to profound reverence in the presence of a supreme authority, moral greatness or sublimity, or mysterious sacredness. . .the feeling of solemn or reverential wonder. . .
Cool (RHA dictionary): Moderately cold; neither warm nor very cold; also, not excited, calm, unmoved. . .
Suck (RHA): To draw into the mouth by action of the lips and tongue which produces a partial vacuum, to suck lemonade through a straw.
Go (RHA): To move along: proceed
Like (RHA): Resembling (followed by a noun or pronoun); he is just like his father.
Love (RHA): A strong or passionate affection for a person . . .
Get (RHA): To obtain, gain, or acquire by any means; to get a good price.
Split (RHA): To rend or cleave length wise; separate or part from end to end or between layers, often forcibly or by cutting.
What to make of the hourly abuse of the complex and beautiful English language exemplified in the opening paragraph? Slang has been around for generations, e.g. "Swell" was a popular 1930s approval word, and dozens more descriptive words become trendy but then fade away. Today, however, slang has acquired a new and disturbing quality by ignoring the difference between sexes (guys), grossly overstating (awesome), and adding a different meaning (cool). Much of it is disgustingly vulgar. Worse, it’s everywhere and used by people of all ages, backgrounds, educational and economic levels.
In the past, young people always used fun language twisters, but when reaching maturity grew out of them and talked like adults. This maturation is no longer happening. Sixty-year-olds spout the same descriptive words as kids, e.g. "Awesome" to describe every mundane thing from ice cream to automobiles and "Cool" to sound appreciation for whatever one favors no matter the subject. Obscenities are ubiquitous. What used to be called "four-letter" or "curse" words now appear in mainstream magazines, newspapers, and books. When profanity becomes the norm, what words are left to describe truly blasphemous things?
Aside from noting the obvious paucity of vocabulary and lack of individualism displayed by the constant babbling of misused and "dirty" words, research into the habitual (and annoying) injection of "like" after every third word uncovered a possibility for its origin. If accurate, this is pathetic: The introduction apparently began in the early 1980s with the song "Valley Girl," a Frank Zappa parody on adolescent, white, upper class, females residing in San Fernando Valley, who developed their own vernacular by staccato-punching "like" into their lingo to spice up their prattle in order to spike up their boring little rich-kid lives. Zappa’s daughter sang his send-up song, with lyrics interrupted by the word "like" at short intervals, which made the song hilarious by its ludicrousness.
Unfortunately, the repetitious word-break caught on with Zappa’s following and then spread to the general population. So what began as a nonsensical put-down became nonsensical public-speak.
Words can be meaningful expressions of thoughts, but they also can stunt the process of thinking. If the same words are used habitually, the mind slows down its creative center and coasts along passively. Like muscles not used regularly thus allowing atrophy to set in, the brain can also diminish its capability to generate or assimilate new information through disuse.
Furthermore, words lose meaning from constant repetition. Notice how many people end conversations by chiming "Love you," which rapidly becomes a mere sign-off phrase. What does one say, then, when passionate feelings of "love" swell up and cry out for verbal expression? The word love has lost its powerful meaning of strong affection, so what is left?
Losing the richness of language is losing thought, and losing thought is losing reason. Since reason is an active faculty of our mind and our main tool for survival, an individual who robotically repeats the same words, consequently dulling the acuity to reason and judge, can become vulnerable to others stepping into the mental void and manipulating behavior by manipulating a stagnant mind. This is how a lazy populace that looks alike, speaks alike, and soon thinks alike begins to accept political slogans that can lead to oppression over both mind and body. Mass robotic repetition of words in the mind can lead to mass robotic behavior in general, and this is what we are witnessing today as clueless Americans become interchangeable in apparel and language.
Parents and teachers, of course, should not permit these brain-numbing word habits in home or school, which would force youngsters to monitor their words at least part of the time and, perhaps, break the cycle. Sadly, most parents and teachers speak as thoughtlessly as kids, so life for too many Americans has become never-ending worthless chatter. Listen around. Maybe even to yourself?
Alexandra York is an author and founding president of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART) a New-York-City-based nonprofit educational arts and culture foundation. She has written for many publications, including "Reader’s Digest" and The New York Times. Her latest book is "Adamas." For more on Alexandra York, Go Here Now.
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