Urban Dictionary: Slang Dungeon or Haven for Innovative Words

Innovative Words

Frenemy: A friend who is disguised as an enemy. Textrovert: One who will often only say what they really feel over text messages. Ten years ago, no one had ever even heard of these words let alone used them in a sentence, but with the explosion of the website Urban Dictionary, words (well figments of words) are being used in daily speech and social networking sites. Some people would say that Urban Dictionary is just an outlet for people who make up words despite rules set in place in typical grammar books and “real” dictionaries. On the other hand, others would say that Urban Dictionary is a site for the creation and innovation of new words. These two sides are known as the prescriptivists and the descriptivists respectively.

 

Prescriptivists

The first group mentioned, the prescriptivists, aims to prescribe rules and maintain the Standard English grammar found in grammar books and pamphlets. To these people grammar is sacred and should not be altered or changed in any way. There are rules that should be followed for nouns, adjectives etc. These rules are to maintain order and should not be broken as they typically are on sites such as Urban Dictionary. The prescriptivists embrace the belief that words are borrowed, and created using morphemes, but they are not created willy-nilly or at the discretion of any English user.

Descriptivists

Descriptivists, on the other hand, do not agree with this stingy view of the English language. They believe that their role is to describe language as it changes and evolves from year to year. They follow the normal grammatical rules, but they feel that when a word has been used often enough and in a variety of mediums it is acceptable to enter it in the dictionary, whether that dictionary is Merriam-Websters in print or Urban Dictionary online. The descriptivists go with the flow, and feel that this is the people’s language and that they should be free to use it how they wish and when they wish.

Slang

Slang is the typical term used for the language that the prescriptivists despise and the language the descriptivists describe and encourage. Prescriptivists believe that slang is for lazy, uneducated people who hold low or no social status. They make words up and alter language to seem “cooler” and to impress those around them with their creativity. However, creative is one thing they are not. By combining two words using no grammatical technique, they are simply insulting a language which has taken hundreds of years to build and perfect. There is always room for improvement, but it should be taken seriously and it should occur in a meaningful way. There are other ways to describe a friend who is really an enemy, including the one just mentioned. Slang is for people who have nothing better to do than make up silly acronyms and take the Standard English language for granted.

When speaking to friends in person or on social networking sites, some might say that the use of slang is acceptable, but there is a line which many step over. Often times, when students address their professors in an e-mail they will use slang terms and improper grammar. Obviously small mistakes will be made, because no one is perfect, especially not when it comes to grammar usage, but there are simple tools such as spell check and re-reading a message. When addressing people who have authority or hold a high position within an organization it is important to make an effort to use Standard English, not slang terms found on sites such as Urban Dictionary which should be used for pure entertainment purposes only.