As schools report lower than expected grades in GCSE English, words used on reality shows and in social media are getting their official place in the English language.
Lolz, ridic, vajazzle and tweeps are just some of the words that have all entered the Oxford Dictionary online – the online cousin of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary. For those of you not familiar with such lexicon, I will explain:
lolz, pl. n.: an expression of fun, laughter, or amusement; used especially online.
ridic, an abbreviation for ridiculous
tweeps, pl. n.: a person’s followers on the social networking site Twitter
vajazzling, v.: to describe the practice of “adorning the pubic area (of a woman) with crystals, glitter, or other decoration.”
Heard throughout schools across the UK, is the introduction of these slang words into our everyday occurrence a cause for concern? Are they harmful to young people’s vocabulary and in turn having an impact on exam grades across the country?
The language purists would certainly argue that the addition of ‘lolz’ and ‘ridic’ into the Oxford Dictionary is a hallmark of creeping illiteracy and demonstrates a lack of standards in spoken and written English.
Ask a young person to spell ‘ridiculous’ and they’d get it wrong, ask a young person to spell ‘ridic’ and I’m sure they’d get it right.
You only have to look at text speak to see that the way we’re communicating with one another is changing. Grammar and spelling have gone out of the window. And with the advent of social media sites like twitter, new words such as tweeps are cropping up all of the time.
But it’s not just young people, there is a trend amongst adults to mimic teen speak. If you’re sat in a pub on a Saturday night, you’ll be sure to hear ‘OMG’ or ‘LMAO’ from across the bar.
But the small amount of research on this issue shows that kids who use slang abbreviations are actually the more articulate ones. If we have a literacy crisis, surely it’s among adults as well as children.
There will always be a minority who want the English language to remain frozen in time. But language is a vibrant, evolving animal that constantly changes with new fashions, social trends, TV programmes and the latest digital technologies. Instead of getting all worked up about these ‘unorthodox’ and ‘substandard’ words, Government educationalists should move with the times, embrace these language changes and evolve the curriculum to reflect them.
Angus Stephenson, from the Oxford University Press, says some of the slang words they have added have actually been around for a while. ‘Ridic’ is not new. It goes back to the 20s and a song by [George] Gershwin, it was flapper slang in the 20s, but it’s become particularly high-profile just more recently.
As society changes, changes in the way we communicate and the vocabulary we use is an unavoidable process. But for me that’s no shame. The English language has evolved into an incredibly versatile and modern language, but still retains a recognisable link to its past. It is adaptable and durable, and sometimes even ridic, but OMG do I ♥ it!