Do You Even Know What the *&#! You’re Saying?
With all of the text talk inundating us, and Stephen Colbert’s successful quests to get new words like “truthiness” added to the dictionary, one might think that our vocabulary is increasing exponentially. I beg to differ. I think it is shriveling faster than George’s you-know-what on the “Shrinkage” episode of Seinfeld.
Words like “hot” have so many meanings, I’m afraid to use them anymore for fear of being misunderstood. If I tell a kid that something is “hot”, what if they speak Paris Hilton, and decide to grab the steaming coffee cup with both hands thinking I just gave it my full recommendation?
And then there are the substitutes for words, such as the “bleep”. I seriously think “bleep” should have a dictionary all to itself. There’s the actual bleep sound, and then there is the word “bleep” that is used as a noun, verb, and even an adjective if you add “ing” to it.
Or we can just “blank” as they now like to do when they choose to censor music. The other day, we were listening to a song on the radio that had so many “blanks” I couldn’t even figure out what the song was about. Suddenly, Dimples erupted from the back seat (which I was fully expecting by that point) with, “What’s a wild whore?”
I frantically replayed the blanking song in my head because I couldn’t recall any such line.
“Uh, what did you ask?” I stalled.
“What’s a World Tour?” she asked, speaking a little louder. So, she had no problem translating the blanks in their multiple contexts. It was the phrase “World Tour” that caused her consternation.
I can’t tell you the number of kids I’ve heard say, “What the -?” and just stop right there.
They never say the word at the end, but we all know what it’s supposed to be – or, do we?
And it’s not just oral language that’s wasting away. It’s the written word, too. Last year, one of my first graders wrote a very cute, illustrated story about a lost dog who finally finds his way home at the end.
“$&#!” the owner of the dog exclaimed at the end of her story.
“What the $&!#?” I said to myself as I was going over the story after the students left. Where did she get that kind of language from?
Let’s just say she is not someone you would expect to be throwing expletives into her first grade creative writing assignment. Although she is gifted.
So, the next time she came to class, I privately asked her to translate the last sentence.
“Hooray!” she said, very matter-of-factly. “He’s really happy his dog came home.”
O-o-o-kay. I am still not quite sure where her super creative spelling of “Hooray” came from, but at least I could breathe a sigh of relief that she wasn’t a candidate for alternative school.
So, to sum it up, I’m thinking that, in another 20 years, we’re going to be blanking, clicking, and beeping like William Shatner in that Priceline Negotiator commercial. I don’t know what language that’s supposed to be, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t saying, “Hooray, my dog came home!”