Slang: Once Taboo, Now Dope
by The Milton Measure on Friday, April 24th, 2015
Most high school students speak two different languages during the course of their days: the language they speak with their friends, out of the earshot of teachers and parents, and the words confined to a classroom or family dinner. However, words that only a decade ago were considered unthinkably rude are now spoken in front of teachers without severe repercussions. Students have become so accustomed to using slang in their daily speech that they are not cautious about the use of coarse language in sensitive environments. There is a distinct line between common speech and formal dialogue, but how distinct is this line in today’s society?
Our generation has been taught since childhood that one must use a different type of language when speaking to elders or teachers than when speaking casually to friends. Common slang phrases such as “what’s up,” “yo that’s dope,” and “bruh, she’s mad chill” are usually frowned upon in the classroom and often result in a talk with the teacher. Lately, though, students have been less shy about using this style of language in front of teachers and elders. I overhear whispers in the middle of class that incorporate slang words or even swears. Some students have even been caught in the act, receiving warnings from teachers, but many continue their use of inappropriate language in the classroom.
I believe that with different age levels come different expectations for behavior. When one addresses a peer, no formal approach is necessary. However, in an email to a teacher, a student ought to be more respectful.
A student sends an email to his teacher: “Yo, Mr. X, What’s up? I was wondering if we could chill sometime and talk about that essay you gave me a horrible grade on. Good talking to you.” This vulgar language has become more and more common. Throughout my years at Milton Academy, teachers have told me time and again that talking to a teacher requires a more formal type of dialogue, and I completely agree. I, as I hope others do, have a high amount of respect for my teachers and the adults in my life. Though I don’t necessarily respect my friends any less, I am comfortable expressing myself in a different way around them. I am sure that with the common use of slang and profanity, adults are also realizing that this shift in language is inescapable. However, while today’s language is definitely changing, one must be careful to still use “proper” language when appropriate.
In an article published by the Sun Sentinel called “Slang Influences Today’s Society. That’s So Dope”, a senior at a school for advanced studies stated that most teenagers habitually resort to slang because it proves points more easily and is more widely understood. The article also remarks that some slang words, like “dope” and “phat”, have become so incorporated into the vernacular that they have been added to online dictionaries.
The ephemeral quality of slang influences greatly influences our vocabulary; words that were considered too profane for polite conversation just a few decades ago are now commonplace. As our society evolves and popular influences change with time, we too evolve in our understanding of language. Even seemingly negative phrases become so incorporated into our daily speech that, after a while, the connotation becomes more positive and the words are no longer considered so taboo. Interestingly, some teenagers today use phrases from the 1970s, like “hip” or “groovy”, as if to underscore that, although language changes, we, as English-speakers, are at the very least cognizant of this evolution.
The line between phrases and words that are acceptable to use and those that are not has always been very distinct. However, as people age and new words come into play, this line shifts, and more words are considered acceptable where they might once have been shocking. What once was taboo is now dope and totally fly to use whenever, so let’s make our classrooms even more hip by saying “YOLO” and pushing the boundaries with our choice of words.
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