Language and Culture

The speed at which English is changing boggles my mind. As a lover of words and an English teacher, I have mixed feelings about the changes. While it is fascinating to see a language morph in real time, I have some real concerns.

Nouns Changing to Verbs: For example, coupon has become a verb as well as a noun, as in, “Do you coupon? That’s a great way to save money.” Friend often functions as a verb now thanks to facebook. For that matter, facebook is used a verb sometimes, too. “Just facebook me.”

Verbs Changing to Nouns: Take the word invite, as in, “Thanks for the invite.” It should be “Thanks for the invitation,” but with the advent of shortening words (mostly due to texting and im-ing), the verb form of the word has become a noun.

Adverbs Changing to Verbs: Up has become a verb now, as in, “We have to up the budget to meet our needs.” That runs all over me. What happened to raise or increase?

The Advent of New Vocabulary: tweet, blog, and the constant creation of new words via hyphenating (vegan-friendly, child-free, teacher-speak) and word combining (dramedy, staycation, webinar).

What does all this mean for our culture? Here are some of my thoughts:

Generation Gap– The fact that our language is technology-laden (oops! another hyphenated word!) is pushing younger generations and older generations further from each other, which just perpetuates the lack of appreciation for the elderly that already pervades our culture.

Dumbing-Down of English – Are we doomed to lose some of those under-used but wonderful words like fastidious and serendipitous and mollify? Will writers be able to keep such words in the mind of the public, or will they be reduced to using “pop culture” vocabulary? I truly think that English is losing its value, not in a global/economical sense, but in a linguistic sense.

Lower Standard of Writing – Teenagers who spend their days using text language are at a disadvantage when it comes to academic writing. When I taught high school and my students were turning in papers with “u”, “nite”, “l8t”, and “lol”, I used to get so mad. But that is how kids today learn to write. And now teachers have the challenge of un-teaching them text-speak and teaching them standard writing.

How do you think language is changing our culture? And vice versa?


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3 comments

  1. I have heard that some teachers are REQUIRED to accept papers and assignments with the text/im shorthand. I am appalled!!! I learned how NOT to use contractions while writing, why can’t kids learn to NOT use shorthand? Granted I use “b/c” and “abt” in typing emails or notes to myself, but if I were to do a formal composition of any kind those “words” would not be included.

    Of course, I always think these messes come back to the parents. Do they accept children speaking in this shorthand? Do they monitor how much their children do of formal writing and text/IM? Maybe that’s the key- kids are texting so young now they never really have a chance to form the clear distinction in their heads.
    I don’t know . . . it’s definitely a mess!!

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