Slang. It's the basis of every teen's speech. Whether its shortened words or new words all together, it slips into everyday use without cause. Sometimes it's a play on words, or borrowed from another language. Either way it shapes the way one presents them self. It differentiates neighborhoods, race and even gender.
In daily life, it becomes easy to pick up the speech that others use. The first time the word or phrase is spoken it seems foreign on the tongue, but with enough practice an outsider might think you started the trend. Language is an art from the day we learn to say the simplest of words. With art comes practice. Creating art gives an individual a certain brand of power-- the power to be anyone, anywhere, anytime, crafting, twisting and forming a second dialect of sorts as everyone gets in on the trend. Every group, being a circle of friends, a school or neighborhood holds the rulebook when it comes to their speech. James Baldwin wrote that, “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality they cannot articulate.” James Baldwin understands perfectly how many teens work in today’s world. If there is not a word for something, make one up. To feel apart of a culture or even a neighborhood within a city, one will start using unfamiliar words to “control their circumstance”. Suddenly one person hears something they have never heard of or used. That new word is added to their vocabulary. They begin to say it with fervor as if they had made up the word themselves. Then in turn the masses begin using it. Thus, if you use it you are inducted into the club. Wear the badge proudly. Now you sound like everybody else. Beat that word to death until somebody else introduces another acronym or Spanish word that sounds funny. It is like you're in on the secret now. The word may have gone over your head three or four times until you pulled someone aside and asked them in serious undertone what it means.
Besides fitting in, speech can be crafted as a sport. Trendsetting becomes recreation. My friends are big on the whole “making fun of each other and not really meaning it”. One friend made a joke about the status of another friend’s relationship.
“Dude, you salty!!”
I exclaim, trying out my new word while motioning of screwing a top on a jar, “You just got jarred!”
My friends looked to me with inquisitive faces. Though I knew that they didn’t know what it meant I still said,
"Oh! You never heard that word before? Wow."
I had learned Australian slang and wanted to pass it on. Most people strive to introduce the next big thing. My best friend traveled to Australia over the summer. We had quite the time dissecting some of the things she had heard during her time there. With that, I told my friends at school about this Australian slang. Every time I said one of the words, I felt that individuality. James Baldwin’s quote works in this sense as well. I wanted to know something another didn’t and in an effort to “articulate a reality” I continued to evolve language we already used. It didn’t matter that we already had a phrase for what we meant. It was easy to get over that awkwardness when asked what something I said meant. It didn't matter because I got their attention and next time when I heard them say my word I would know I had started that. Before you realize, it melds into common language. Now that everyone knows, or pretends and asks later, what it means, a new trend has been initiated and accepted by the majority. I used a word from another country to stand out in a crowd.
Anyone can start a transformation of language. It is human instinct to learn and be curious as well as adapt to surrounding. One may find they speak in a way they didn’t think they could or never realized they did. To adapt to the people around you, change the tone or speed. To sound smart, use “big” words. Use a word from another town. You start out being the only one who says it, it gets people's attention, creates interest. If you have a British accent and cockney slang you may just be in the running for most popular kid in the class.