The way slang language is driving you insane
When I returned from Germany the second time at age 18 I was running around the streets of Portland Oregon. On the way back from the skate park one day I crossed paths with a young man my own age who asked ” where ‘da bomb at?” I immediately ducked for cover! As it turns out he was just looking for some marijuana. I had no clue, the slang had changed so much in the two years I had been gone it took me months to catch up. This was my introduction to the perils of slang and the communication issues it creates. It only got worse from there.
Talking to my friends was fraught with issues in communication. Often I found myself correcting my peers during conversations when their terminology didn’t match with the tone and intention of the discourse. This was a little abrasive at first but ultimately essential in my eyes. To quote Alan Moore “Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.”
The fact that words are thoughts and the paths to meaning and subsequent communication is as obvious as the over-sized nose on my face. When I hear someone qualify an experience as ‘wicked’ or judge something ‘sick’ my knee-jerk response is ” oh, that’s to bad” . Wrong again. In this day and age it seems the world has turned on its head; terms like sick, wicked, and hell are now indicative of positives. It is my assertion that calling good= bad, and bad= good is a short-cut to insanity. How can one truly judge when one is so confused? As it says in Isiah 5:20 ” Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil ; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness ; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
Prolonged exposure to these reverse ideas is sure to impair our ability to form accurate thoughts and communicate effectively. My Grandmother often encouraged me to think before I spoke, going as far to impart a philosophy to me I often muse upon: “It is better to hold your tongue and be thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt”. Wise words certainly, I wish I was better at following them.
I don’t want to represent slang or jargon( shop talk) as completely un-useful, In many ways the ability to communicate to a select audience has its value. Many times in my life a pretender to military service has revealed themselves by their lack of appropriate terminology, and a qualified expert in a specific field is easily distinguished by their easy use of technical terms. In these ways communication is facilitated by jargon and not the opposite. Distinguishing between the two variances can be a challenge however.
To best make the distinction between helpful slang and confusing nonsense we must ask ourselves a simple question: are we communicating effectively with our audience? As a writer this concept is ever on my mind, and in daily life it can be much harder to be mindful of this in the moment. One of the best examples that many of us can relate to is how we communicate with our children i.e. refrain from profanity, using terms they understand and even baby talk. Carefully choosing the words we use may seem arduous, but to me the effort is well worth it.
George Carlin said ” We think in language. The quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language” I whole-heatedly agree. An even more severe indictment of language-bending is expressed in the book 1984 : Slavery=Freedom, weakness=Strength, etc. If we are to arrest this disturbing trend we , as a society, need to be more responsibly about the words we choose, the ideas we teach our children, and the euphemisms we accept in our lives. When I was in the army it wasn’t an ambush- it was a “preemptive counter-strike!” Euphemisms abound, from calling the handicapped the ‘differently-abled’, to ‘buying the farm’ instead of dying. Soldiers have gone from shell-shock, to combat fatigue, to now having PTSD! As if any of this reconfiguration of terms changes the nature of these things. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.
When we accept this rearranging of terms we forfeit truth for lies and voluntarily subject our minds to an insanity insidious. A ” Bad Mother-Fucker” is not someone I want on my team, I don’t want a ‘sick’ tattoo ( sounds like it’s infected), and ‘Hell’ is something I want to follow with NO, not YES. I highly encourage everyone , regardless of age or class, to reject this misuse of language and never acquiesce the truth for social acceptance or ‘trendiness’ . Lets all stand at the banks of the river of truth and never give an inch no matter how large or loud the opposition.
-Steven William Robinson. all rights reserved 2019