A follow-up to my posting “That goes without”, on an Amanda Hess piece in the NYT Magazine of 6/14, about the (largely) teenage use of “I can’t even” to convey being rendered speechless by strong emotion. Now to the letters section in the magazine for 6/28, which comes with two Tom Gauld cartoons illustrating reader comments.
Archive for the ‘Language of teenagers’ Category
From the June 14th NYT Magazine, a “First Words” column by Amanda Hess, “When You ‘Literally Can’t Even’ Understand Your Teenager”:
A little paradox of Internet celebrity is that a YouTube personality can amass millions upon millions of young fans by making it seem as if he’s chatting with each of them one to one. Tyler Oakley, a 26-year-old man who identifies as a “professional fangirl,” is a master of the genre. He has nerd glasses, pinchable cheeks, a quiff he dyes in shades of blue and green and more YouTube subscribers than Shakira. Some of his teenage admirers have told him that he is the very first gay person that they have ever seen. He models slumber party outfits and gushes over boy bands, giving the kids who watch him from their bedrooms a peek into a wider world.
In March 2012, Oakley faced the camera, balanced a laptop in his sightline and paged through a photo set of the curly-haired actor Darren Criss, whose turn as a hunky gay singer in “Glee” made him a fixture of teenage dreams. In these new pictures, which had just been leaked online, Criss was lounging on a beach wearing only a pair of low-rise jeans and a layer of perspiration. Oakley’s videotaped reaction was exultant. “I literally cannot even,” he informed his fans. “I can’t even. I am unable to even. I have lost my ability to even. I am so unable to even. Oh, my God. Oh, my God!”
Criss in high-hunky (almost shirtless) mode:
Soon, Oakley’s groupies had immortalized his soliloquy in GIF form: “Can’t” upon “can’t,” looping forever. Now they could conjure the GIF whenever they felt so overcome by emotion that they couldn’t even complete a thought. Oakley was not the first to recast the sentence fragment “I can’t even” as a stand-alone expression. He just helped shepherd it out of the insular realm of Tumblr fandom and into the wide-open Internet.
While we slog through grading for Winter Quarter, two cartoons today: a Zits and and a Pearls about keeping secrets, or at least trying to.
Four recent cartoons, from several sources and of very different tones: a Bizarro, a Zits, a Doonesbury, and a Paul Noth New Yorker cartoon:
A Zippy on lexical semantics, and a wry Zits on watching your language:
Define sup, and distinguish the referent from slurp. The proper names are, as usual for Zippy, entertaining, and the title is a separate bit of language play.
The joke here, of course, is that Jeremy censors not just his speech — that would be routine — but also his thoughts.
A Roz Chast cartoon:
Generational differences. Slang. An inadvertent pun.
(Original lead from Jonathan Lighter on ADS-L. This image via Ben Zimmer.)
I’ll start with a three-strip series from One Big Happy:
The two features at issue here — the discourse particle like and “uptalk” (a high rising intonation at the end of declaratives) — have been much discussed in the linguistic literature. The popular, but inaccurate, perception is that both are characteristic of young people, especially teenagers, especially girls, and both features are the object of much popular complaint.