Is #LIT Still Relevant? How Communication Has Changed Through Slang and Emojis

There has been much debate concerning the use of slang in academic discourse. Some thinkers argue that colloquial speech dilutes the integrity of English, as it is associated with illiteracy and perhaps unintelligence. Yet, there are also figures of literature—such as Walt Whitman—who believe that slang has literary value, due to its contributions to words in the current academic and scholarly world. Whitman’s “Slang in America” is always an interesting piece to think about on this subject—I would recommend that you read it due to its relevance to this debate today. While I am on the fence of how to approach this larger issue, I do think that slang and other similar forms of informal expression are a game changer on communication and how we interact with our peers.

I have to admit that I am not always up to date on the current lingo used by my friends. I often find myself asking friends to explain a term, which makes me feel silly because I ask in pure ignorance. Most times I am not exactly enthusiastic to adopt these new words into my vocabulary, although it is always interesting to try and understand (so I’m not so completely clueless). “Ahlie,” “say less,” “nize it,” and “fam” are just a few most frequently used slang terms. However, my acceptance of such terms does not support its use in an academic setting. Instead, I maintain that slang is a significant part of our culture and society, drawing commonality within groups of people.

As technology evolves daily so too do forms of simple communication. In a similar manner as slang, emojis capture an uncomplicated form of conversation by which words are substituted by icons. Messaging with emojis eliminates the effort needed for elaborate articulation. Take the iPhone for example. In the past few years, there have been many software updates including new generations of emojis. What used to be a caricatured woman with a sassy tipping hand (formally titled “Information Desk Person”) now comes in six different shades of skin and hair, in an effort to promote inclusiveness and equality.  Furthermore, other faces or images are used to add emotion and character to a message that could otherwise be dry or emotionless. Trust in the power of the smiley face that can change the overall meaning of a text! Emojis have become a language on its own.

In recent years, dictionaries have included terms like “selfie” and “tweet” legitimizing them as English words. Although it is technically a pictograph, the Tears of Joy emoji was decorated with the Word of the Year title by Oxford Dictionary in 2015. With this interest in slang words, why deny your regular visits to Urban Dictionary? Advertisements have also caught on with the times, feeding off this informal language and our obsession with emojis. Why fight it when you could just enjoy our changing communication? Just remember that there is a time and place for this language. Perhaps you’d like to avoid it in your resume and on your job interview, just to be safe. #STAYLIT, friends.

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