Advocate editorial board opinion: American language constantly changes for the better

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Jan. 7, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2011 at 7:08 p.m.

Noah Webster is either rolling over in his grave or celebrating the English language. After all, he compiled the first extensive American dictionary published in 1806. That dictionary - the Compendious Dictionary of the English Language - broke from the British version of English, and with that revolutionary break, American English was established, as well as our ever-changing culture.

Through the years, our language has changed with the times. Technology has brought on the latest slew of words, such as "Internet," "Twitter," "Facebook," "e-mail," "hashtag," "emoticon" and even "full-body scanner" to name a few.

Our younger generation has created its additions to the language, as well, including textese, almost a code-like language born out of texting.

Of course, each generation has adopted language that individualizes and characterizes that generation.

For example, popular in the Roaring Twenties was the phrase "23 skiddoo," which simply meant "Let's get out of here" or "Let's get out while the getting is good." Another early 20th century term was "hubba-hubba," which was an expression of approval or excitement.

In the 1960s, terms like "groovy," "cool (timeless term)" "far out" "having a gas," "neato" and "out of sight" were common. Can you dig it?

Nowadays, we have these words just added to the dictionary:

befuzzled - an adjective meaning confused.

fakecation - a noun meaning working while on vacation, usually by cell phone, e-mail and computer.

webhead - noun for a person knowledgeable about the Internet.

TWD - new abbreviation for texting while driving.

While generations have claimed a set of words and meanings, so have various professions: We have legalese, medical vernacular and even newspaper terms and others that the public usually is clueless about.

Let's not forget our rich ethnic diversity having an affect on English. Here in South Texas, we hear about Spanglish, a mixture of English and Spanish that results in new words to American English. This occurs with other ethnic groups, as well. And certain subcultures have added words, too, such as hip hop.

While we accept these modes of communication, we have to say that formal writing is of the greatest importance. Being able to spell and use grammar and punctuation correctly is key to success in whatever field a person enters. Still, we enjoy the freedom our language offers.

So what does all this say? We think it says our language is alive and well. American English changes daily, keeping it and our American culture vibrant and exciting. And that's "bad (good)," man.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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