Modern Lingo

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November 1, 2010

Language is a growing, organic entity that evolves over time. We can expect to see the changes in our culture reflected back in how we speak and write. Terms like “wonk,” “frenemy,” and “staycation” came into existence only within the last few years. Yet these words, and hundreds of others, have been incorporated into our lives, vocabularies, and even dictionaries.

Words can also take on new meaning as society changes. For instance, a “gamer” was once someone who was always ready to play football no matter the conditions, while now it refers to a person who plays video games all day. It is now also commonplace to use websites as verbs. For instance, instead of saying, “I will look that up on Google,” people now simply say “I’ll Google it.” And that search engine’s moniker has long eclipsed the original definition of the word “google” – a mathematical term for a number that is a one followed by a hundred zeros.

Using a broad vocabulary can make your speech and your writing more expressive and interesting. With many readers, modern lingo is going to be more accessible than using words they haven’t seen since they took the SAT. But be cautious becoming too casual, especially in a professional setting. Incorporating terms like “bromance” and “vuvuzela” into an email may give readers the impression that you are hip and worldly, but telling your co-workers that you are “gonna send a msg” will make you seem uneducated or worse. Always consider your audience and the message you’re trying to send. Unless your business demands being cool and hip, it’s usually more important to appear professional and competent. The rules of grammar may be bent for artistic license, but disregarding them entirely will only leave the impression of ignorance.