There was a really interesting article in last Sunday’s New York Times about slang. I learned about some interesting slang reference works because of it, including u.c.l.a. slang 6, urbandictionary.com and slangsite.com. I then had a good laugh when I visited the sites, learning such interesting terms as “food douche”, which according to urban dictionary is “a person that thinks they know the best place to get any one specific item of food and that the places you know all suck”. Maybe I laughed so loud because I am not alien to food douchery myself.
So, being teachers and having students who often ask to be taught slang, the next question is: should I try to work “food douche” into my next lesson plan? Or how about the newest of the over 2,500 alternate words or expressions in circulation in the English-speaking world for “drunk”? I would have argued “no” and, after reading this article, I have a few more reasons to argue “no”. The long and the short of the article is that slang was and is a very creative form of language play that groups of people create to strengthen the group and exclude other people. However, because of the internet and social networking sites, it is becoming very difficult for new slang to be kept under wraps. Therefore, new words and expressions are being invented and discarded at the speed of lightning. By the time slang becomes mainstream enough for many people to notice it, it becomes “uncool” to use that language.
All that having been said, I think it would be great to create a lesson based on the NY Times article and the websites mentioned. I think it is important to discuss these things with students and give them insight into language; let them read about this phenomenon and why it is best not to spend too much time on slang. I also like the idea of highlighting to students that language is creative because too many learners think the key to proficiency is memorizing dialogues, set grammar rules and a long list of “ten cent words”. It would be really great, I think, to develop an activity that would encourage learners to play around with English a bit and come up with their own classroom slang. It would also do wonders for classroom dynamics!
Posted by Nicole