I have been practicing argumentative essays with my sixth grade students. Here is a sample I wrote for them about today’s journal topic.
How many times have you heard some obnoxious preteen spew out the words, “swag,” “yolo,” or “twerk?” What do these words even mean? Many people of an older generation may not understand the modern language of today. Whether or not these types of phrases and slangs are overused is a questionable matter. Many of these words and phrases are overused because it makes communicating with the mature community more difficult, such dialect doesn’t allow us to carry ourselves in a respectful manner and these phrases do not accurately convey our ideas.
Firstly, many of today’s slang is overused because it makes the older generation struggle to communicate with the younger generation. Many times, a young individual will find that their parents or older loved ones do not comprehend the words being used lately. Such is the case when a young boy might be asking his mom while wardrobe shopping that he wants clothes that will increase his “swag level.” While doing this, the mother does not understand what kind of clothing the child is specifically asking for and may mistakenly buy the wrong outfit. Many times older people will overhear a group of young friends conversing and not have a clue of what’s going on. We are told to act like good citizens and intervene when needed. If they’re speaking about something that could be threatening, how can this adult be able to intervene and turn a potentially dangerous situation safe? How good of a chaperone can anyone’s parents or older sibling be when they are completely oblivious about what the kids or teens they’re taking care of are talking about?
Furthermore, the modern phrases of today are overused because speaking improper English does not allow us to have a respectable reputation. If we get used to speaking in this manner, many people may not know when to switch it off. Imagine being able to only communicate yourself using urban dialects. What would happen if you walked into a job interview? Would the potential employer respect you or even take you seriously? It’s very unlikely that you would get hired for that position. Similarly would be the case if one got themselves into trouble. If one does not know how to defend themselves respectfully under such circumstances, they are likely to dig themselves deeper into the grave. For instance, if a classmate got into a verbal altercation with another classmate and was sent to the principal’s office to tell his/her side of the story and the student does not defend themselves respectfully, his/her words would be dismissed. The principal may assume that this person is just a delinquent by the way they speak.
Finally, these phrases are overused because they don’t allow us to truly and accurately express our ideas. When one is just muttering “I got swag!” what does that even mean? The modern youth might realize that this person is just trying to express the idea that they are cool, popular and well-liked but someone who is unaware of the meaning behind “swag” might assume it means something completely different. They might think it sounds like a disease. Imagine not knowing what “swag” is and you hear someone exclaim, “I’ve got swag!” You will probably run to the nearest surgical mask and protect yourself from whatever bacteria or germs that are carried by “swag.” Many immigrants might come to the United States and begin using American slangs and phrases without knowing what it actually means, thus, they aren’t expressing their ideas or feelings precisely. Also, imagine you just made a foreign friend who is new to the country and you asked her to “chill” with you at the park after school. If American English is her second language, do you think that she is going to understand what “chill” means? She might take the term too literally and think it has something to do with the cold or weather. If she was just told, “hey, I would like to spend some time with you at the park after school” then she probably would have understood better and the message is conveyed more accurately.
On the other hand, some might feel that this dialect is not overused because human language is constantly evolving overtime. Considering this, it may seem normal for many to constantly use these phrases. It is true that language always evolves; otherwise, we would still be talking like Shakespeare. However, by accepting this new dialect, despite the negative connotations with certain words, we are also indirectly adopting values that we might not necessarily agree with. For instance, many people casually use the term “nigga” without realizing the correlation it has with a violent and dehumanizing history. As most of us should know, “nigga” is a variant of “nigger” and by loosely using such terms, we are accepting the oppression of an entire group of people. The same is true when people use “faggot” as a playful insult toward their friends. However, these are terms that are not playful and should not be taken lightly because by using them we may be mistakenly adopting values that we do not agree with. By using these two terms, one is indirectly degrading the entire homosexual community and black culture and can be perceived as ignorant, racist or homophobic. These are just some examples of the array of offensive terms loosely used by many. Some feel that the use of these phrases and terms are mostly used in a playful tone and amongst friends, thus, they are okay to use. It is true that it is okay to loosen up amongst friends and loved ones, however, many people do not know when to turn the switch off when needed. As a result, they talk this way during times that it is least convenient for them (like job interviews, or around respected scholars, or colleagues, etc.). Language is an art and acting carelessly with it will be butchering the very means that separates human intelligence from animal intelligence, the fact that we have developed a clear form of expression and communication through words.
To conclude, many of today’s phrases are extremely overused because they hinder the youth’s communication with older generations, one may lose a respectable reputation by using them and because they don’t convey our expressions accurately. I urge you to think about the way you express yourself. Think about the way you want people to perceive you before you decide to express yourself. Think before you speak. Yolo.