I am here to propose the motion that this house believes that the use of slang is an important expression of identity. Slang is everywhere. Whether you are walking down the street, reading in the train or just socialising with your friends, you will experience some form of slang. But what is slang? It is the non-standard use of words in a language and sometimes the creation of new words. These words which are unique to particular members of society express a great deal about their personality.
These words make them appear unique and different from another person – which is essentially why many people use slang. Normal, proper English can be spoken by anyone. It is just a case of learning it and since all the words are pre-defined, a lot of people speak it. However, slang is distinctive. It is made up by the minority so it is not widely used. This makes the effect of slang personal to the group. The fact that not many people use it, gives the impression to the group that they are unique and different to the rest.
Now people may argue that slang must not be used since it creates a gap between the different people in societies. Well, hasn’t there been a gap since the beginning in society already? This generation gap has existed for years. I am sure that when you go to your grandparents, you feel that sometimes what they talk is completely new and unheard of. Well, that’s the vernacular they used when they were younger. Since then you have probably looked at your grandparents in a different light, and realised that they were like yourself when they were younger.
This use of slang has been going on for hundreds of years. It makes other people perceive people differently. In a society, you will find different groups who speak differently to other groups. When slang is used, there is a subtext to the primary message. That subtext speaks to the speaker’s and listeners’ membership in the same “tribe” or group. Because each group has their own individuality, their identity is so important, that slang as a powerful and graphic indicator of that identity benefits.
So when all the people in the group speak similarly, their own personality is established. This makes them bonded together even more and provides self-confidence, that even though they are not siblings, it can be seen as a form of brotherhood connection. This is a very important expression of identity because on the one hand, you are speaking differently to other people and you are expressing yourself differently, but on the other hand, you are linking up with people who share common interests with you.
But many others may argue that when slang words can start very small, they can build up to be widely used by the majority of the public. Examples of this are words such as “cool” and “jive”. Whereas these words meant completely different 50 years ago to now, they are adopted by the public. This does show lack of self-identity. However, the fact that these words have all been accepted now shows how flexible the English language is and there must not be any restrictions. The youth cults can make more words up and derive them from other languages.
This cycle of slang words being created and then used the public is continuous and goes on. This also ensures that there is an identity to people and the medium of using slang expresses the identity well. Our contextual identity is the identity which we are by the groups and subgroups we belong to. Our affiliation with people who are our age or who work with us or who have the same hobbies as us so it’s reflected in the speech we use – both to show our allegiance and solidarity with the group as well as to separate ourselves from others who don’t belong to our group.
Consider the fact that you use slang with your friends nearly all the time. However we do not use this kind of language to communicate with our parents or our teachers. Therefore this in itself is a form of expression of identity – to feel closer to our friends. People may argue that excessive use of slang then influences younger children in our society. But most of the slang words by teenagers would not be understood by children of smaller age, therefore, there will not be motivated to use language which they cannot understand.
Slang is used for a variety of reasons: to display one’s virtuosity; to be more concise; or to ease social intercourse. All of these factors allow one to express who they are or to ‘fit in’ into one particular kind of group that they admire. Finally, ‘Slang’ is too general. Many people adopt diverse words from various languages and so this makes up the different types of slang. The varied use of slang words represents the whole youth gang. People are pressurised through peer influence to join them and talk in that certain way so that they can mix together.
This, I feel though, is wrong. This is forcing people to change their attitude and behaviour in life to follow others. I believe that it should be up to the person himself who makes the decision on how to talk. Speech or slang is the only way that one can express their identity without force. Slang plays a critical role whether it outlines winner (top dog) from the loser (toast), in-crowd (BMOC) from the outcast (dweeb), or oppressor (the Man) from the oppressed (doormat), providing catchy and memorable labels for us versus them.
Therefore slang’s varied and explicit meanings can easily inform the audience what others think about someone in particular. In conclusion, linguistically speaking, slang has an important role in defining our identity in society. Slang is NOT a corruption or degradation of language. On the contrary, slang is a way in which languages change and are renewed. Therefore every day you will see people talking in an unfamiliar language but that’s what makes them who they are. One quote which I feel sums up what I have said is, “Slang is the poetry of everyday life”.