Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ladies first

Today's Sunday Times runs a story reporting on the American Dialect Society's annual meeting. According to one of the speakers at the event, Sali Tagliamonte associate professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto, “Girls are the single most powerful force in the English language today”. Young women are leading the way when it comes to lexical change: in other words, girls are picking up on new words and coining new expressions much more readily than boys, leading the way in changing our language.

So are young women more innovative with language or do they just talk about each other more and therefore find new ways to bitch about each other? "Muffin top":a bulge of flesh over low-cut jeans, and "whale tail": the appearance of a thong above the waistband, are just great two great examples of phrases used to describe other women's appearance!

If girls are leading the way, how much of what they come up with will be picked up by boys? Will it be like the pattern that many linguists have noted in conversation between males and females, where women introduce many more topics than men, only to have men reject nearly every topic they start?

The implications for research into changing slang and varieties of English could be pretty interesting...

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