Exchanging text messages online is one of the most popular forms of communication around the world. People send billions of messages every day using emails, social media networks, mobile applications, and so on. The daily amounts of messages, as well as the valued speed of information exchange, has led to the development of digital slang—usually abbreviations or contractions of words used in communication most often. And although many people do not see the problem in slang language, there is an opinion that it can pose a threat to literacy.
Slang is a specific category of conventional language used by a relatively small group of people who share situations or interests. It consists of words and phrases that cannot be found in regular dictionaries, but possess real meaning and are used to efficiently convey information; slang words and phrases can be either completely made up, or based on existing linguistic constructions (Boston University).
Among the most common digital slang terms and expressions are well-known abbreviations used in electronic messaging: “bb” (bye-bye), “brb” (be right back), “lol” (laughing out loud), “idk” (I don’t know), “smh” (shaking my head), “c u m8” (see you, mate), “btw” (by the way), “u2” (you too), and so on. Although it may seem convenient to use such distortions in order to accelerate communication, in fact slang overuse poses a problem; nowadays, this can be most often noticed in the academic environment. Slang is common among students, and unfortunately it has moved from online communication to student assignments.
According to a study involving around 700 students between the ages of 12 to 17, 85% of them are actively using at least one form of electronic communication, whether through instant messaging, text messaging, or social media. Terry Wood, a foreign language teacher at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Md., believes that Twitter and Facebook are among the reasons of a great decline of students’ writing abilities. “They do not capitalize words or use punctuation anymore […] Even in emails to teachers or [on] writing assignments, any word longer than one syllable is now abbreviated to one,” says Terry Wood (U.S.News).
At the same time, not all of the experts believe slang is negatively affecting linguistic and writing capabilities. Slang expert Tony Thorne thinks slang is an appropriate part of the English language. “The very nature of the English language—and what it means to be British—is its flexibility […] A long time ago, slang was about work. Market workers, carpenters, public houses, farmers had their own slang […] All groups—it doesn’t matter whether they are soldiers, policeman, criminals or whatever—always generate to some extent their own language. It’s not just to communicate information, it’s in order to include people into your group and exclude people out of your group […] Slang has not become more prevalent, simply more public,” says Tony Thorne (BBC News).
It is hard to deny that slang has become a part of everyday communication. It is convenient for quickly exchanging messages in the environment of the Internet; slang can also be a part of professional, cultural, or other subculture. At the same time, young people tend to use slang words in inappropriate situations (in an academic environment, for example), which, as some specialists believe, negatively affects their communication and writing capabilities. So, slang should be used where it belongs—within informal and/or small groups of people, sharing the same situations, occupations, or interests.
“Slang Guide.” Boston University. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Lytle, Ryan. “How Slang Affects Students in the Classroom.” U.S. News. N.p., 13 June 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Barford, Vanessa. “Mind Your Slanguage.” BBC News. BBC, 08 Dec. 2009. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
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