Archive for the ‘Language of teenagers’ Category


February 6, 2014

A Roz Chast cartoon:

Generational differences. Slang. An inadvertent pun.

(Original lead from Jonathan Lighter on ADS-L. This image via Ben Zimmer.)

Like, uptalk, and Miami

September 10, 2013

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.


Finger talk

April 5, 2013

Today’s Zits, with Jeremy communicating with his fingers but not with his voice, to his mother’s dismay:

This could be about teenagers and their parents, or about the fabled laconic nature of boys (and men), or of course about both.


Snowboard Zippy

March 23, 2013

In Today’s Zippy, our pinhead reverts to adolescence on a snowboard:

The slang in the body of the strip — airdog, boned out, shred, shred the gnar, pop, nollie, pow-wow — is all genuine snowboarder slang, listed in the enormous collection of snowboarding terms here. The title, “Shagnasty”, is slang, but apparently not slang specific to snowboarding.


It’s all in the wrists (and nowhere else)

December 17, 2012

Today’s Zits, with Jeremy strumming, texting, and typing:

Ah, the problem with snow shoveling is a simple physical limitation!



November 8, 2012

Friday’s Zits returns to some old themes for the strip:

The theme is that women — especially, teenaged girls — talk talk talk, in a rapid, never-ending stream, one sentence flowing into the next, one story into the next, without pause. You can’t get a word in edgewise, the saying goes. (The truth is far from this, of course.)

But Jeremy has found the solution, a very satisfying one: the punctuational kiss.



September 26, 2012

Today’s Zits:

This is the latest in a series of strips about Jeremy and Sarah: Jeremy seems not to be listening to Sarah at all (and Jeremy’s father is presented as doing the same to Jeremy’s mother), and now, when Jeremy responds, it’s in monosyllables — he’s speaking, but not communicating.

That gives us two stereotypes at once: genderspeak and teenspeak. Males don’t listen, males are uncommunicative (especially when talking to females), and the teen stereotypes are for “laconic guys and gabby guys”.

In the strip above, Jeremy finally produces a minimally non-monosyllabic response. I doubt that it will satisfy Sarah.


Zits relevance

August 28, 2012

Today’s Zits:

Here we have a deliberately uncooperative response from Jeremy, who treats his mother’s request entirely literally, rather than thinking “Why is she making this request?” and calculating the reasons for her request and the kind of response she’s looking for. So his answer flouts Grice’s Maxim of Relation (or Relevance), as in this discussion of an earlier Zits. Jeremy is given to evasive uncooperativeness.

Note Jeremy’s facial expression in the first panel, and both facial expressions in the third.


Zits replay, slower and faster

August 27, 2012

Today’s Zits — with Jeremy talking so fast his mother can’t understand what he’s saying — turns out to be a repeat performance; I posted about this strip on Language Log in 2009, under the title “Teen speech in overdrive”.

Jeremy’s mother: “Can’t you just talk slower?” Jeremy: “Can’t you just listen faster?”

On slow/slowly, see Language Log here and here and Motivated Grammar here.




July 17, 2012

A Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon by Ruben Bolling, caught yesterday in Funny Times (which was reprinting it from April):

Many guffaws, especially at the last panel, with its hazmat decontamination team.

Cooties are part of the popular lore of childhood (at least in the U.S.), with an interesting linguistic history.