Many words are being shortened to smaller versions of their previous selves and many of them are being added to the dictionary. So that raises the age old question that I’m sure many teachers are hearing from their students, “Why can’t I use the word ‘thx’, it’s in the dictionary?” There are countless other words (and I use that term lightly) that have been added: obvs, totes, omg, lol, lmao, and the list goes on. I suspect the answer is the same as it was when I was in school, “If it is catagorized as a ‘slang’ word, it is not acceptable.”
Slang is “language which takes off its coat, spits on its hands — and goes to work.”
I am, generally speaking, not a serious person. I don’t do serious very well. When I am at work I have to be serious and speak correctly…most of the time. That is, when they allow me to mingle with the general public. But there are times when I just can’t stand it anymore and have to break out some good ol’ southern slang. It just slips out unexpectedly. Usually, in front of my boss who shakes her head and looks at me like I just fell off the turnip truck…oops, see what I mean? She’s from California and I doubt that she’s ever even seen a turnip truck. Maybe a vineyard truck but that just doesn’t seem to have the same kick, now does it?
So when does a slang word become an acceptable word of the english language? As an example, I remember it being a big issue when I was in school to use the word “ain’t.” This was not a word that was commonly used in my little part of the world (city kid) but kids will be kids and when they grab on to a new buzz word they just have to test the waters. We were told that it was slang and we couldn’t use it. You know, the old “ain’t ain’t a word and you ain’t gonna use it.” But as I have lived and worked with people in various parts of North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas and Kentucky, I find that “ain’t” is a very common word in their vocabulary and some of these people are educators.
Slang is the poetry of everyday life.
-S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Action, 1941
I don’t use the word ain’t very often. Sometimes I will toss it out there for emphasis through gritted teeth when doggedly pursuing an issue, as in, “I AIN’T gonna do it, no sir, no way, no how!” And sometimes I use it in rebellion to all of those years I wasn’t allowed to use it. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate its value.
I remember being totally elated when I learned that “ain’t” had been officially added to the dictionary. It just seemed like a little victory for the common man. Regardless, victory or no victory, my teacher still wouldn’t let me use it.
So as a salute to the word “ain’t” and it’s enormous contribution to mankind, here are a few of my favorite words that have been added to various dictionaries over the past few years:
anyhoo – I didn’t realize that this word has been around since the mid 1800’s. I’m not particulary fond of it because it makes me think of Mrs. Thurston Howell the Third, “but anyhoo…Thurston dear, could you bring me a martini?”
range anxiety – fear that your electric car will run out of juice before you can recharge. You’ve got to be kidding me.
underbrag – boasting about your failings in a way that shows you are confident enough not to care what people think. Okay, this just confuses me.
on the bubble – at that fine point between success or failure. Yes, been there many times.
bromance – close, but not sexual relationship between two men. This one cracks me up.
twitterati – frequent users of Twitter. Makes perfect sense.
locavore – a person whose diet consists of only locally grown food. Should add, “and lives in Asheville, NC”