Friday, October 21, 2011

Keeping it street

There's a new wave of TV dramas and UK films on the way which feature gangs, council estates and street crime. It's not surprising that given the summer riots and subsequent moral panic about the state of our nation (and more importantly the state of our estates) these programmes are taking a look at life on the fringes for young people, but what's apparent is that for many writers and directors the key way for them to make their visions of urban Britain look and sound authentic is to get the slang right.

A clued-up young urban audience is not going to believe that the people they see on the screen are genuinely like them unless they speak like them, you get me? So, in order to keep it real they've used slang consultants - what a great job that must be.

This piece on the BBC News magazine site takes a look at some of the slang and its uses among young people, while this is a short article I did for the MacMillan Dictionary blog earlier in the week, looking at how slang gets picked up and appropriated by mainstream society.

I'm not sure how I feel about slang being seen as the one, crucial marker of authenticity, because like so many other aspects of language use, slang is about identity and more than just a series of buzzwords for outsiders to pick up and use for a while. Then again, part of the joy of slang is that it's constantly reinventing itself, with slang innovators generating new words, new meanings all the time to keep a sense of individuality and identity even as their words start to seep into the mainstream.

Maybe it's that cycle of creation - appropriation - recreation that keeps them on their toes, feeding the new slang into the system.


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