I’ve always been a linguistic chameleon.
By which I do not mean that I am good at languages. After four years of mangling my rolled-r’s in Spanish class, I admitted defeat. However, I am fluent in many English-dialects, and I pick up slang like a bad habit. If I visit Texas, I come back with a drawl. If I watch too much Harry Potter, I start sounding British.
It all started as a young girl, when I had to camouflage my embarassingly large vocabulary – acquired from crazy amounts of reading – in order to fit into the Southern California scene. I can like totally rock a Valley Girl accent.
It took years of engineering school to start to undo that tragedy, but Val Gal and tech speak is a strange hybrid. My friends joked that my vocabulary got bigger the more beers I had. That was because the verbal filter was loosened and the natural base language – wordnerd – came out. By the time I reached graduate school, I realized that suppressing my inner nerd wasn’t in my best interest. In the wilds of academia, you were expected to talk like that.
It was a liberating experience.
I was reminded of all this by my recent post on FB:
Dude! Like, what’s the latest lingo in Southern California? I want to totally nail it for this character I’m writing, but, like, it’s been a long time, yanno? Bring it, Facebook Friends! K? Sweet.
My California friends came out and helpfully suggested terms like random and awkward, but then words like fail started showing up and my non-California friends chimed in that fail was spoken there too, and suddenly it was Happy Llama, Sad Llama all over again.
Internet slang was everywhere.
It made me pause. What if all those quaint regional dialects were being overwritten by a universal slang? There are no geographic boundaries to language anymore, and anyone (English-speaking at least) could be affected. Was the world-leveling of the internet seeping into our language, destroying the eccentricities that make humanity, well, cool?
I think it’s less dire than that, and the Internet is just one of many influences. Regional real-life (RL!) speech patterns will probably still drive local slang for a long time.
That is, until we all get the brain implants. Then it’s game-over, people.
Do you speak interwebs in RL?