O MAJESTY! Your Language Is Under Attack!

Posted on March 25, 2011 in Specials


By Shalaka Nitin Desai:

It is people who have helped create the English language the way it is today. Ages ago, roses used to ‘stink’, a ‘villain’ used to be someone staying in a villa and awful used to be a compliment! Words change their meanings with time depending on their popularity. People twist the rules of grammar and even coin new words which suit latest trends. The word ‘pre-pone’ is assumed to be the opposite of ‘post-pone’ when there is no such word originally. New words are being incorporated in the dictionary every year!

English as the major global language has seen a lot of freedom. Apart from British imperialism, the reason it has sustained as the lingua franca is that it adopts new words from other languages, like roti, purdah, and keeps growing. Slang words and the latest lingo used by teenagers these days are spreading to the elder generation too while the former also provide a lead to the younger generations. ‘Dude’ has now become the word for addressing every peer. There have been embarrassing situations at offices when a junior mistakenly called his senior ‘dude’!

Casting aside all other apt adjectives that can be used at any instant, a person’s joke is termed as ‘a sad joke’ or ‘a lame joke’ if it is not up to the mark for the listener. ‘Awesome’ has been among the few words whose popularity has leapt up in a short time. Everything which pleases a person is called ‘awesome’. The food can be awesome, plans can be awesome, life can be awesome and even people can be awesome! When a person says, “That man is so awesome!” it includes a much lesser scope of emotions which the person might have expressed by calling the man helpful, kind, funny, co-operative, a good listener or whatever suited the situation. Similarly, something unpleasant is nowadays called by words like ‘crap’ when a lot of other suitable words also exist. The word ‘like’ is being used quite liberally as filler instead of the usual ‘er’. It isn’t a surprise now if an English teacher would ask his/her student, “How’s you?”

Apart from this, every college nowadays has its own lingo! While some colleges refer to the masses as ‘junta’, some other college may have students who prefer to call it ‘random people’. NBD is now popularly used as an abbreviation for ‘Nervous Break Down’. Some people are also being seen saying ‘LOL’ aloud to just save the pains of laughing. Students make involuntary mistakes in the examinations by writing ‘ur’ in certain places instead of ‘your’! A lot of this lingo is encouraged by TV sit-coms. Be it Joey’s ‘Hey, how you doin’?’ from F.R.I.E.N.D.S or Barney’s ‘Legen… wait for it …dary!’ from How I Met Your Mother, teenage fans very enthusiastically try to emulate them. Says Amrita Paul, a first year student of the Mass Communication course at Symbiosis, “This lingo helps us to relate better to people having same interests as us and also to get along well with the rest.” But every word is a different concept. By learning and using new words, we internalize new concepts. There cannot be any shortcut in practical usage without reducing the efficiency of the meaning conveyed.

Is this lingo ruining the English language then? It has no doubt stretched the limits of the language. But who defines these ‘limits’ anyway? Literary experts may agree and want to take it up as a major issue while the light-hearted ones may tell us to let matters go the way the world is taking them, and to just relax and ‘chill’! In the meanwhile, looks like this trend is not going to stop so easily. Move over your majesty, we are here!