Archive for the ‘Language of teenagers’ Category

unfair / not fair

March 25, 2012

Yesterday’s Zits, with Jeremy bemoaning the unfairness of things:

Two Fair World assumptions:

an egocentric version, which seems to be Jeremy’s: In a fair world, I would get what I want/need;

an evenhanded, or utopian, version: In a fair world, everyone would get what they want/need.

Kids, teenagers included, are much inclined to the egocentric understanding of fair: what inconveniences me is unfair.


Annals of nouning: hang

March 15, 2012

From Dennis Preston, this item from Ann Arbor:

And we’d be surprised if some of the hiccups we encountered don’t get taken care of before our next visit. In the meantime, the Wurst is a really fun place for a hang and a nice addition to Ypsilanti’s food-and-drink landscape. (link)

Yes, a nouning of the intransitive slang verb hang ‘hang out (with)’. New to Dennis (and to me), but not to the world in general.



February 28, 2012

In today’s print NYT Science Times, a piece by Douglas Quenqua entitled “They’re, Like, Way Ahead of the Linguistic Currrrve”, about young women as trendsetters in linguistic change. Featuring a sizable cast of experts, starting with Stanford’s Penny Eckert.

The two main points:

Girls and women in their teens and 20s deserve credit for pioneering vocal trends and popular slang, [linguists] say, adding that young women use these embellishments in much more sophisticated ways than people tend to realize.

And, at the end, two points. One, that a bit of linguistic stuff — vocal fry, uptalk, and the discourse particle like are the three examples the article focuses on — is just a resource, which can be used in many different ways by different groups of speakers (that is, there’s no intrinsic meaning to a resource — as I’ve taken to saying, it’s “just stuff” — but only meanings as expressed by particular groups of speakers and meanings as interpreted by others). And two, that the meanings for speakers and hearers can be seriously at variance:

“language changes very fast,” said Dr. Eckert of Stanford, and most people — particularly adults — who try to divine the meaning of new forms used by young women are “almost sure to get it wrong.”

“What may sound excessively ‘girly’ to me may sound smart, authoritative and strong to my students,” she said.


GenX so

November 14, 2011

Today’s Zits has Jeremy using intensifier so modifying a verb: one type of what I’ve called GenX so (named that for its spread in people from Generation X):

The stereotypical associations of GenX so are to young white women (in the U.S.), no doubt because of its prominence in the movies Heathers (1988) and Clueless (1994). Studies of actual usage (though admittedly small in scale) suggest that the actual association with women, while apparently real, is smaller than the stereotype would suggest; and as the GenXers have aged, they seem to have carried this usage with them, and it’s spread to many people not in GenX (like me). For some assessment of these factors, see the 2007 paper by Douglas Kenter, Eric Lee, and Rowyn McDonald (written for me in an undergraduate seminar on linguistic innovations), available here.


Highway whateverism

August 17, 2011

A recent Bizarro with an instance of “stand-alone whatever“, a.k.a. “free-standing whatever“, “discourse marker whatever“, and “dismissive whatever“:

This usage is relatively recent, and is stereotypically (but not entirely accurately) associated with young people — airheaded girls and slacker boys (earlier discussion on this blog in “Dudetalk in the Arctic”, with another Bizarro cartoon, here).


Why didn’t you TELL me?

March 17, 2011

Today’s Zits continues a story line that’s been going on for several days. Jeremy’s parents have repeatedly reminded him that they were going to be away for one night. Now the day has come, and he protests that they should have told him:

Another cartoon on the (claimed) transcendance of social media for communication among the young, even over face-to-face talk: if it doesn’t happen on Facebook, it hasn’t happened.


Hucking at huckfests

January 8, 2011

Today’s Zippy is adrift in snow and youth sports slang:

I won’t try to gloss all the slang and sport-specific terms in the last two panels, but instead focus on just one, huckfest, a term used for demonstrations (often in competitions) of daring and skill, especially in stunts and tricks involving going airborne or going over a drop-off. In the world of snow sports, it’s applied to skiing, snowboarding, and snowcatting/snowmobiling, but it’s also applied to sandboarding, skateboarding, mountain biking, kayaking, and similar events with trucks (in the sand) and remote-controlled airplanes.

There’s even the magazine Huck, “a bi-monthly lifestyle magazine rooted in surf, skate and snowboarding”, published in English, German, and French, and distributed internationally. (Note the nice “reduced coordination” in surf, skate and sandboarding, going “inside” compounds.) And a Go Huck Yourself website, which provides a gloss:

Huck (hŭk): verb. To throw, to toss; in cycling, kayaking, snowboarding, and similar sports, to ride over a drop-off. See also: sending it, try it with more speed.

(Urban Dictionary has related definitions, but with less precision.) It’s easy to find lots of occurrences of huck used as a euphemistic replacement for fuck, and the name of the blog (suggesting go fuck yourself) and the term huckfest (suggesting fuckfest) point to fuck as the origin of huck. Perhaps related to the idiom fuck around, though huckers are in fact quite serious about their play.

Hucking seems to be very heavily an activity for dudes — and except for the truck events and the remote-controlled airplane events, mostly dudes in their teens. So the racy associations of huck fit right into this social world.


Decline of traditional e-mail

December 26, 2010

A report by Matt Richtel in the NYT of December 21, “In Youthful World of Messaging, E-Mail Gets Instant Makeover”, on the preference of young people for the speed and instant gratification of “online chats and text messages” over traditional e-mail, and the way internet companies like Facebook are altering their messaging services to make them less like e-mail and more like texting.

Old fogey that I am, I still prefer e-mail, as I noted in a posting a while back.



December 26, 2010

A Zits on the difficulty of interpreting brief responses when you don’t have the full context of the responses or knowledge of the speaker’s intentions — and especially when the speaker is a stereotypically laconic teenager:

Sarcasm? Irony? Rhetorical question?

[Added December 28, discussion by Mark Liberman and commenters on Language Log: 12/27/10: Txt and context (link), 12/27/10: Oh great (link)]


Translated from Mumblespeak

December 12, 2010

Today’s Zits, on the language of teenaged boys, with a translation for Jeremy’s mother:

The tip for the interpreter is a nice touch.