The Art of Being Sassafrass


The Art of Being Sassafras

Everyone is raised different ways. Depending on our cultures and how we see fit to raise our children. Everyone is different. Since everyone is different, we all have different ways of viewing the world, and different ways of speaking depending on your culture and your society. Your culture, society, and your personality all shape the way you function in your everyday life.  

“She’s so rachet”

“She’s so what?”


“Like a wrench?”

“Ghetto, uncouth”

“Umm... ok”

I never typically speak slang. I’ve never seen a need to have my language adapt or evolve  due to what seen as fashionable during time period. There is so many disadvantages to speaking slang such as people misunderstanding your, not taking you seriously. Since these terms are used by only a select group of people when another hears you speaking one way they can form misconceptions about you and you culture. The main reason I shy away from the usage of slang is because its not appropriate in every setting. Having to change your language depending on the setting gets tiring. So I rather just keep it out of my vocabulary.   

If you are from the Philadelphia area you may use the word “Ratchet”.To describe a personality trait, or an object that you find displeasing. In definition terms “Ratchet” is a type of wrench. A culture can switch the definition of a word so drastically, changing a noun to a adjective. Society determines the way you speak. Such as vocabulary, accent, and slang.  

Its when meeting a person different from your culture, society, and your personality that’s language begins to clash. You have this mindset of what right, or what's grammatically correct. Others not from your culture or society may see your grammar as wrong, and vice verse for your culture. Having these two different opinions of  language determines how your language is perceived. These opinions of language that have been dubbed as wrong can become a pariah. They do not fit into the “idea“ of the group.

Its not always the fault of the first group, they can’t accept the preferences or opinions of another. Some people can’t deal with difference. So the only way for them to acknowledge or deal with it is to censure it.  

Coming from New Jersey and being raised in Philadelphia it was difficult to adjust to the differences of this society. Even though there isn’t much distance between the city to state the culture change is huge. An example would be, where most would call it a sub sandwich or even a hoagie. In New Jersey's culture it is called a “hero”, possibly because its longer than most sandwiches and saves you from hunger.

Language is both the opportunity to confuse and enlighten. We are constantly influenced by our society. Language, words, and even definitions are changing at this very moment. Meaning the dictionary you're right now using, the one you got in 5th grade is no loger relevant to this time period or this society. Not all the words will be outdated but some and maybe even most will have changed. It is perceived at young age that language is something set in stone. That if you can’t find it in a dictionary, then it's not a word. Say there is one specific way to say or pronounce something. But if language is constantly evolving then maybe one day “Me and Logan” can go to the mall, instead of

“Logan and I”.

“I spread them out (so black and full of possibilities) and pretended the curtains were swinging open, flying up, one after another, sunlight underneath, mighty operas.”

This quote I feel it captures language in it purest form. From Marine Hang Kingstan “Tongue-tied” the text introduces language with the portail of innocence and unknowing. This quote talks of how language is branched out and how there is so many possibilities for it to reach ground shaking heights. Although we may breakaway from the roots we are left with the mighty trunk (dialect, accent), and leaves (jargon) which all strive to touch the sun (striving to be more and create more).

“Hi, welcome to Rita’s want would ya like?”

“A vanilla cone with rainbow Jimmies”



“So just for clarification, a vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles?”

 “Thats what I just said”

This is what my third grade teacher told us after she got back from visiting family in North Carolina. I remember thinking “Jimmies? What are Jimmies”. Everyone else in the class was tentatively nodding their heads, confirming they knew something I didn’t. I just didn’t get it. “Why would you put Jim on top of a vanilla cone.” “What did Jim do, that could be so bad that made you want to eat him?” This all happened at between a very confused Rita’s employee and a Philadelphia native. When she said the word “sprinkles” in relation to “Jimmies” that’s when the meaning of the word finally clicked into place.   

It is crazy how many words we could make up and then have it become actual vocabulary for another. Adapting the word into your mind without even realizing it.

When did it stop being sprinkles. The sign at Rita’s never changed, its clearly states sprinkles as one of it toppings. Yet some how jimmies wiggled its way into your vocabulary changing the word in your mind from sprinkles to jimmies.  

Seeing as words and meanings of words are changed all the time anyone can literally be the start, the change, the evolutionist to a new generation of astounding vernacular speech. Meaning I could take the word Sassafras, which is the name of a plant known for their leaves and bark. Change its meaning to showing great amounts of energy; related emotions such as happiness, exuberance and excitement. As long as a word can be identified as something by more than one person, it is infact a word. Even if it is not in the Merriam-Webster's dictionary.

Although making and changing these words can be fun. Changing a word takes away it history. The word being reintroduced into society as one word, but never to use the old definition of the word. Thereby killing and robbing the word of it true purpose and meaning. When changing words  we scan over and forget the words that got us to the place we are at. Words of the past get lost in translation.

Dialect, accent, slang, and jargon is just culture expressing itself through words. Every culture is different and change is inevitable, so embrace it. Im not saying that you should pick up every slang term you hear, but if words are a part of your culture, then EXPRESS YOURSELF. Have fun. Its your language. You shouldn't have to bend to its laws, make the laws of language bend to you.
~ Chelsea Middlebrooks

Comments (3)

Haisha Hahsy (Student 2017)
Haisha Hahsy

The title was the grabber for me! I learned that Chelsea really cares and has deep though of why not speak slang. I knew that she didn't say much slang but I didn't know the exact reason till now. I felt like you should add one more qoute with people talking ghetto and how would it be of a change if you tried using more slang.

Haisha Hahsy (Student 2017)
Haisha Hahsy

The title was the grabber for me! I learned that Chelsea really cares and has deep though of why not speak slang. I knew that she didn't say much slang but I didn't know the exact reason till now. I felt like you should add one more qoute with people talking ghetto and how would it be of a change if you tried using more slang.

Shaina-Nicole Keenan (Student 2017)
Shaina-Nicole Keenan

The thing that originally grabbed me was the title! I thought it was unique, and I really wanted to read and find out the relevance to the paper. I learned that Chelsea does not speak slang, and a lot about her background. If I could anything to this paper, it would be more dialogue/anecdote. There were maybe two or three really small examples of anecdote. I felt like it would give more information to work with while reading.