The language of teenagers has changed radically over time, the use of slang and clichï¿½s are now commonly used in everyday English Language, in particular amongst teenagers. For this essay I visited a local high school to gain evidence of how teenagers express themselves and converse with peers and adults, including adults in authority. I also observed an anger management session and listened to the language used in this setting and also at break times. The findings of these observations are on a tape recording enclosed.
The language of teenagers is greatly affected by television and pop music and this contributes to the change in modern day English and the phrases and slang that teenagers use, for example in the high school I visited the teenage boys used a lot of phrases and words that are used in rap music, a boy referred to his friends as ‘homies’ rather that ‘mates’ of ‘pals’ the word ‘homies’ is used a lot within American rap music. This shows how teenagers are influenced and how these kinds of words become popular amongst teenagers.
Swearing is also part of modern day language and is very common and has increased hugely over the years, swearing is now socially accepted amongst teenagers and their peers, swearing has always been frowned upon in the English Language but has increased drastically through the past ten years. The change in language is obvious amongst teenagers and adults, most of the teenagers in the school I visited said that they would never swear at parents and teachers and it is disrespectful, although they would not be as concerned about swearing at someone the same age as them as it is not offensive anymore to their generation. This is because when the teenager’s parents and teachers were growing up, swearing was seen as very offensive and a sign of disrespect.
I asked a 15-year-old girl to find the five euphemisms that she would use for the following: (a) to die, (b) to urinate (c) to be a drunk (d) to say hello to a friend.
I also asked a 15-year-old boy to do the same exercise, these are my findings:
Chloe – To die: to pass away, to kick the bucket, to be no longer with us, to have slipped away, to have ‘kiffed’ it.
To urinate: to go for a wee, to do a number one, to have a piss, to wet the daisies, to relieve myself.
To be drunk: pissed, bladdered, wasted, trollyed, out of it.
To say Hello to a friend: alright, hi, hiya.
Lee – To die: to kiff it, kick the bucket, passed away, to have gone to the pearly gates, passed onto the other side.
To urinate: to have a piss, to have a slash, to drain the main vain, to go the bog, to shake the snake.
To be drunk: wasted, bladdered, pissed, out of if, wankered.
To say hello to a friend: alright mate, alright, how do, hi, or a head nod with no speech.
The findings show that gender influences teenagers speech slightly the girls language is slightly more polite than the boys and the boy used a lot of slang when referring to the above words and phrases, the most obvious ones were the words used when the male teenager refers to passing urine as ‘shake the snake, and drain the main vain’ these sayings caused much amusement to Lees male and female peers. The teenagers are showing how they contribute to new meanings for words and linguistic change. Euphemisms are one of the most fertile sources of new meanings, things that were thought to be to nasty to talk about directly were given polite but roundabout expressions. An example of this is when indoor plumbing was first installed into houses in the eighteenth century the room were first called water closet, this was soon abbreviated to W.C and then replaced by toilet, which had previously meant ‘dressing table’.
These words are still seen as crude by many people and other euphemisms have came into force such as toilet, bathroom. The teenagers regularly referred to the toilet as the ‘loo’ and ‘bog’. Sex is another area where euphemisms flourish amongst teenagers, in the nineteenth century Jane Austin wrote in her novel ‘they had no intercourse but what the commonest civility required’ , Jane Austin would of not of expected the effect that this sentence would have on the modern day reader, in her time the word ‘intercourse’ meant ‘dealings between people’.
In the twentieth century the phrase ‘sexual intercourse arrived this was used as a delicate way to refer to ‘sex’. This has now been shortened to intercourse, and this sexual sense is now so common that the teenagers in the school I visited found it impossible to use the word ‘intercourse’ in any other sense. They also have their own words for sexual intercourse these words are not seen as offensive and are common in teenagers language. This shows how teenagers influence the change in word meanings and euphemisms in society.
The teenagers in the school I visited also use a lot of clichï¿½s which, again is another sign of language change in today’s society, adults are also guilty of using clichï¿½s in modern day English, which is were the
Influence could of came from for the teenagers to use clichï¿½s in their everday language, some of the most popular clichï¿½s I heard amongst the teenagers were ‘ at the end of the day’, ‘I hear what your saying’ and ‘basically’. The most common one was ‘you know what I mean’
Another chacteristic of teenage language is rising intonation at the end of a sentence. This has long been noticed as a characteristic feature of Australian English, and is also favoured by some speakers of American English and is very popular within the language of teenagers, this was something that I noticed whilst speaking to the majority of the class.
To me as a listener, a sentence ending on a rise sounds like a question – as if the speaker is saying ‘She comes from Sydney?’, rather than making a declarative statement. But in the last ten years or so, the popularity of Australian soap operas among British teenagers has led to the widespread adoption of this feature among younger people in the UK. It is too early to say whether this is short-term or whether rising intonation will become standard practice for a significant number of British speakers and the teenagers will make it more popular the more they use it.
The increasing popularity of the rising intonation can be traced back to a specific event: the arrival in the UK of Australian programmes like Neighbours and Home and Away. Teenagers are big fans of these type of soap operas mean exposure to repeated instances of this feature has had measurable effects on the linguistic behaviour of quite large numbers of British speakers of all ages.
Music such as rapping also influences teenagers and many adopt this way of speech some of these words appear below with the translations taken from a book of slang words:
Bluh – slurred pronunciation of “Blood”, meaning homie or friend.
Bredren – meaning mate, or one’s audience. It derives from the Jamaican ragga scene, not the German.
Buggin – Acting weird or upset. Same as acting bug.
Herb – spliff, bud, dodo, doja, ganja, weed, etc.
Wack – Awful, cheap, stupid, weak, etc. Rarely spelled whack. Only preceded by “wiggedy” by the tragically ancient.
Murk – Murder. Also leave, as in “I’m finna murk. Peace.”
Punk – Coward or arsehole (not in the anatomical sense).
Bling – excessively showy or expensive jewellery, cars, etc. From the supposed “sound” made by light bouncing off diamonds. Its first known usage was in The Silvertones’ “Bling Bling Christmas”.
(Fo) shizzle, my nizzle – “(For) sure, my nigger”, or alternatively, “yes, dear”. -izzle is a standard suffix. So shizzle could also mean “shit” (meaning good), shoes, shirt or shed. (Slang a bluffers guide.1999.pg22)
Wigga – a white nigger, a wannabe.
This way of speaking seems very common nowadays, but I suspect if we were to listen to teenagers from London we would hear a lot more of these words as London’s rap scene is a lot more popular than that of the North West. David Crystal says “It’s very recent, this new rhythm that comes from rapping,” Until recently, people have spoken in the rhythms of Shakespeare: ‘tum te tum te tum’. But this new hip-hop accent is ‘rat tat tat tat tat’. It’s more common than Received Pronunciation these days. Hardly anyone speaks traditional RP any more – maybe one or two per cent.” (The language revolution pg22)
As the language of teenagers changes there will be many linguistic changes and different features introduced over time, as teenagers are very impressionable it is easy to see why these changes spread so quickly.
The language revolution. 2002. David Crystal(Cambridge: Polity Press),
Flappers to rappers- American youth slang-.Tom Dalzell
(Merriam-Webster / Springfield, Massachusetts. 1996.)
Socialinguistics : Nikolas Coupland and Adam Jaworski. Palgrave (1997)