Popular slang terms have important cultural roots

Popular slang terms have important cultural roots

As social media use has skyrocketed over the last decade, slang terms have occupied a larger place in the ways youth communicate—digital or not. Slang has also become a staple of many students’ daily jargon. While walking through campus, it is common to hear phrases such as “bro,” “dude,” “what’s poppin’” and a variety of other terms. Some slang terms are vastly familiar, used by both students and teachers, while others are more specialized.

Many words in the English language have been repurposed, with the definitions of slang terms in particular often being redefined by younger generations that adapt them to better fit with what they want to express. Senior Mylie Rodrigo said that a slang word she uses on a daily basis is the word “slay,” which in context has the same meaning as adjectives such as “good” or “great.” One would use this word by incorporating it into a sentence such as “you slay” or “slay (insert name).” Two common combinations that involve this word are “slay queen” or “slay king.”

Rodrigo emphasized the importance of understanding the history behind slang words. For example, some originate from the Black LGBTQ+ community. “[They] have their own vernacular and I think a lot of what they say has assimilated into our vocabulary today,” Rodrigo said. “[We would say] ‘You’re killing it,’ but they say ‘You slay.’ The way they speak or the way they form sentences is considered slang now, but it’s a whole dialect of people.” Rodrigo also added that African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and Black Vernacular English (BVE) have heavily influenced the evolution of slang terms. Some examples of the slang terms that come from AAVE and BVE are “lit,” “woke,” “sis” and “basic.” Whether it is appropriate for other cultures to use these terms is still debated.

According to sophomore Devin Gupta, if students are using slang terms that come from AAVE and BVE, a clear line needs to be drawn between slang and racial slurs. “Let’s not confuse the two,” Gupta said. “Some people make that misidentification. They think that slurs and slang are part of the same group. They’re two [completely] different things.”

Gupta also offers an explanation for the origins of slang words, especially across many languages. “[Some languages] don’t have words that are directly translated,” he said. “A lot of words in other languages mean a multitude of different things that you can’t express in English. Slang [lets] you express that [in a way] normal words in English can’t.”

English teacher Shaina Holdener explains how slang has changed just in the last few years. “Saying that something was ‘lit’ was really big for a while,” she said. “It’s just a matter of which ones are currently cool to use and which ones are old.”

Furthermore, she points out that some slang terms evolve into new iterations. “Drip was probably the most creative one I heard because of the ice connection, [which builds] off of previous generations.”

Many teachers disapprove of students using informal language in their classrooms, since many slang words overlap with swear words. However, Holdener mentions that she enjoys hearing the different types of slang her students use—as long as it’s appropriate. “I think it’s a fun thing—being a human being is a lot about expressing your individuality and [that is] what makes you unique,” she said. “If people didn’t use slang when they’re speaking more casually, it would sound really robotic and not as lively. Sometimes slang gets a bad reputation [for] being a bad way of talking as opposed to something more formal, but I think it’s very natural. A beautiful part of language [is] all of those variations of expressing ourselves.”