STORY BY SYDNEY SCHULTE
“Wanna Netflix and chill, bae?”
“Nah, I think I’m going to get turnt up with the squad.”
For anyone unsure of what these two sentences mean, here’s a rough translation:
“Want to have sex tonight, babe?”
“No, I think I’m going out to party with my friends.”
Hopefully that cleared things up for any readers unversed in slang — slang is more or less an informal type of speech, often used to shorten or hide words or phrases.
“There’s a view of language as an organic, alive language,” said Drake English professor Carol Spaulding-Kruse. “Language will change because it is used, and people will always give abbreviations and say things more quickly. That kind of change that happens is just language evolution.”
With the Internet and social media, language evolves at a much faster rate than ever before. Words and images spread faster than wildfire. Like other evolving organisms, language faces aspects of what is called “survival of the fittest.”
“I think (slang) presents an interesting challenge for dictionaries,” Spaulding-Kruse said. “The dictionary entry may be risky if by the time it’s approved as a word, it’s on its way out. It’s funny how some words come back into existence after having died out.”
For example, the Oxford Dictionaries editors select a Word of the Year. The Word of the Year doesn’t have to be a new word discovered over the past 12 months. In 2010, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in the United States was the verb “unfriend.”
“I thought that was really cool because ‘to unfriend’ is a centuries-old word, and it came back into use because of Facebook,” said Spaulding-Kruse. She shared an example of vanishing words: “It’s unfortunate that the word ‘befriend’ disappeared because now we use ‘to friend’ someone as a verb, but there was a perfectly good verb to describe ‘friending’ someone that already existed… I think it’s kind of sad that that disappeared.”
If a word as old and common as “befriend” can vanish, what does that say about slang? Depending on the word or phrase, it could be around for a few weeks or several years—maybe even centuries. Maybe they’ll pop up again decades later. Who knows?
One thing is for certain: change is here to stay.