If you are an avid TV watcher, odds are you have seen the infamous Cingular wireless commercial featuring a mother and her daughter discussing her out of control cell phone bill. If you have not, here is the breakdown:
“Bethy!” calls the mom.
“WAU?” she replies.
“Your cell phone bill is what’s up! All this texting!?”
“It is a big deal! Who are you texting 50 times a day?”
“IDK, my BFF Jill?”
Although the commercial first aired back in 2007, my father continues to quote the line, “IDK, my BFF Jill?” in a sassy and exaggerated manner, usually during conversations regarding my tendency to go over on my cell phone bill. To me, the commercial perfectly exemplifies the tendency for older generations — in this case, Bethy’s mother — to criticize younger generations for their overuse of popularized slang terms in the realm social media and the Internet.
“People of all ages influence linguistic change, and it’s always been that way,” Adrienne LaFrance wrote in The Atlantic last Wednesday. The tendency for older individuals to be less tech-savvy than their youngster counterparts is not a new phenomenon. Texting shortcuts such as LOL, TTYL and GTG have snuck their way into everyday conversations between individuals, particularly tweens with the latest version of the iPhone. More recent examples might include phrases such as “I can’t even,” “SLAY QUEEN” and my personal favorite, “YAAAS.”
LaFrance’s article features an interview with Mary Kohn, an English professor at Kansas State University, who has done copious amounts of research on various linguistic patterns and tendencies. LaFrance writes:
“Because language patterns are so wrapped up in larger expressions of identity, Kohn believes that people’s word choices evolve in concert with other life changes—you might adopt new words when you start attending a new school, or take a new job, or have a baby, for example. The endurance of some slang terms over time, she says, has to do with how people navigate individual life changes against an also-changing social backdrop.”
Maybe it is because I am under the age of 25 and thus automatically categorized by my generation’s allegedly disturbing dependence on our cell phones, but I love popular slang terms implemented within everyday conversation. Personally, I know adults who think it makes conversation sloppy, and I would certainly never tell my boss or professor to “slaaaay,” but in certain contexts (and numerous BuzzFeed articles), I think it is fun. Toward the end of her article, LaFrance emphasizes that, “the tendency for older adults to criticize younger generations for how language changes is its own form of establishing identity or staking a space in a social group.” I believe that it is only natural for certain terms and phrases to become promoted based upon continual transformations of pop culture and new methods of communication. Crafting new ways of expressing oneself through language should not only be considered applicable to the younger crowd. The vocabularies of the older generation can — and should be — on “fleek” as well.