Friday, September 18, 2009

Teenglish? Allow that...

This article from Tuesday's Education Guardian is a good example of how some newspapers treat slang. While some of the definitions aren't exactly wrong (and it's tricky to say if a word meaning is ever really wrong if someone uses it in their own way with their peers) they're certainly only half the picture. To call these examples of "student slang", as Lucy Tobin does, seems to be forgetting that many of the terms (waste, wagwan, allow that/it, among others) originate specifically from young inner city (often black) roots. They might have spread to university campuses with the increasing numbers of working class and inner city students entering university over the last 10 years, but I suspect that only a handful originated on the campuses themselves.

However, grumbles aside, it's quite a good read as a source of inspiration for an ENGA3 Language Intervention (or even a B spec media text?) and there's even a quiz you can take here to test your skills.

3 comments:

Stephen Goodman said...

A Block's students agree with you there, Mr C. I wonder if there's any real process at work behind the way in which certain slang words with inner city origins get picked up by middle class suburban university posho's?

Dan said...

Hmm, i reckon it's linked to the wave model of language change, where change starts at the centre (e.g Brixton), spreads out towards other parts (Norbury, Thornton Heath and other godforsaken places like that) and then into Surrey and beyond. On the way there's a process of semantic drift in which new users of the slang term don't always have exactly the same understanding of its use as the original users, hence the iffy (and plain wrong) definitions in the Tobin article. That's my theory anyway and A block nodded their heads vigorously and occasionally yawned as I expounded it tediously this morning.

Stephen Goodman said...

It's true...they are godforsaken places and you get all of the white trash out in New Addington using the terms as well as the posh kids who go to Whitgift School (private) but live in more "up-and-coming" middle class areas like Balham and Clapham in close proximity to the original innovators of the slang.