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Is slang sabotaging language?

09:44 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The actress Emma Thompson has spoken out against the use of sloppy language saying that people who did not speak properly made her feel "insane". Do you agree?

On a visit to her old school, Ms Thompson told pupils not to use slang words "because it makes you sound stupid, and you're not stupid". She went on to say "There is the necessity to have two languages - one that you use with your mates and the other that you need in any official capacity."

Her concerns echo those of some linguists who have said some young people's language is becoming saturated by slang, leaving them ill-equipped to communicate in the wider world.

Does the use of slang words make you sound less intelligent? Has the use of sloppy language gone too far? Should slang be banned in schools? Do you have two version of the language that you use?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    This discussion was underway in my schooldays , back in the 1960's. It was unresolved then and will remain so for the future.

  • Comment number 2.

    Languages evolve over time; it's like trying to stop a tide trying to stop that. There are Darwinian-type mechanisms at work here too, if kids become so out of phase with mainstream language too quickly, they'll not advance and so be sidelined.
    Its always older people who voice concerns about this sort of thing. The underlying reason always seems to be I had to suffer learning how to do it properly so you should too.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ms Thompson does have a point. Using slang at a job interview probably wouldn't go down too well, as most potential employers want to hire people that are able to communicate unambiguously; unless one is applying for a chief executive slot with a town or county council, in which case gobblydigook reigns supreme.

  • Comment number 4.

    Excessive slang doesn't make you sound less intelligent, it just makes you sound unintelligible.

    Slang itself is not different than regional language traits, but today's mass media means that it is less likely to be regionalised, and more likely to be prominemtn amoung certain groups- particularly young people who watch a particular TV show or listen to a particular band.

    You cant ban slang at school, but playgound slang shouldn't make it into the classroom

  • Comment number 5.

    Of course people sound less intelligent when they talk like Lauren from Catherine Tate's show - most don't realise that Catherine Tate herself is a very intelligent and a well spoken woman out of character.

    Unfortunately its spreading with that silly Fatboy character in Eastenders.

    Slang should be banned in schools - I'm interviewing for an apprentice in the next few weeks and if any candidates use slang then it will definately not go in their favour.

    I just want to shout - Speak English!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    At last, an HYS with some slang in it, innit?

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm sure that to someone from 50 or so years ago, even Emma Thompson's tongue would sound common and sloppy. Go back a hundred years or so and chances are you'd have a tough time being understood at all, and vice versa.

    Language changes daily, this is not a bad thing. I agree that people should ensure they're careful with their language when speaking in an official capacity, but so long as you tailor your speech to your audience the most important thing is that your point is understood.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    You pik on me cuz I iz black?

    Language evolves in time. Thompson needs to get with the times.

  • Comment number 10.

    Besides, before the age of mass communication, ie. radio, regional accents and dialects in Britain were so diverse that people from cities as close as London and Southhampton had real difficulty understanding each other at all, let alone worrying about using 'correct' English.

  • Comment number 11.

    As long as you know how to speak in a professional/work capacity while restricting use of slang to being with friends etc, I see nothing wrong with it. Similarly with text-speak, nothing wrong with it as long as you can write properly when necessary.

  • Comment number 12.

    Absolutely, Emma, and I get exactly the same feeling. Of course languages evolve and will always have slang, but it depends on the amount of slang as to whether it is tolerable. The attack is of course twofold with what I'd call real English because we have the American dimension too.
    The BBC used to be a paragon of virtue, but has sunk disastrously in the last decade. Nouns used as verbs: 'showcasing'; 'lockdown' when you mean 'lock up'; 'math' when you mean 'maths'; the list is endless and horrible. Bring back the BBC Language Police, quickly, before it's gone too far

  • Comment number 13.

    11. At 10:24am on 28 Sep 2010, Hammy02 wrote:
    As long as you know how to speak in a professional/work capacity while restricting use of slang to being with friends etc, I see nothing wrong with it. Similarly with text-speak, nothing wrong with it as long as you can write properly when necessary.
    .....................................................................
    Totally agree, but unfortunately a lot of youngsters these days do not know how to speak properly or when it is appropriate.

    My English is not perfect, but at least I know when to restrict my use of slang.

  • Comment number 14.

    As someone that has made a few quid out of acting Shakespeare, I'd have thought she would be aware that language develops all the time.

    But I see that she has something coming out soon and there is no such thing as bad publicity eh?

  • Comment number 15.

    The problem is, is that there are too many numbnuts who now use slang as their main language and know no different.

    The same type of numbnuts, find it impossible to seperate reality from fiction.

    Their slang language is a marginalised fictional world used by mainly gangs, and also by the occassional muppet BBC DJ, it has an essential gangland "bruvers" dialect.

    Most of these people just have NO IDEA of language acceptability preferences, such as talking different to mates than to your mum/dad or to employers/potential employers.

    Its a playground language.

    Like little boys used to make up at school, little secret niche words, but these numbnuts have not left it in the playground.

    All they have to do is basically open their mouths and they advertise the fact their a numbnut.

    Also dont forget the stupid shoulder stoop & leg shuffle, which is basically, and thankfully/usefully pre-warning that a numbnut is approaching. Init, 5 hi bruv.

  • Comment number 16.

    Slang has been around for as long as I can remember, however it never seemed to have the effect of making kids sound so thick and of low intelligence in the way it does today, you only have to listen to certain teenagers that use "innit" as a means to punctuate what they're saying. "Oh-my-days" is another particularly irritating phrase when delivered in the usual forced jerky manner, along with "Oh-my-god".

    Yes I'm afraid Emma Thompson is right on this one....

  • Comment number 17.

    Back in the days when I used to have to interview people for jobs with our company, I was habitually swamped with up to 1,000 letters per job available. It would have been impossible to pore over each application with as much attention as I would have liked, so the sad truth is that any letter with poorly constructed English went on the No pile without being read beyond the first couple of mistakes.
    Of the 50 or so candidates we invited for interview, any who could not express themselves clearly, like without not no slang or mumbling like yeah innit omg, were also quietly noted as No. That left us with usually 10 or a dozen out of the original 1,000.
    Prejudiced? Of course, but I doubt very much that we missed any diamonds. I guarantee that my peers with employers throughout the country operate on a similar basis, mostly for reasons of time and HR workload.
    That's the barrier that young people with slovenly speech and self-presentation build in front of themselves. Emma Thompson is bang on the money.

  • Comment number 18.

    Slang has always been around but what seems to be pervading our language is fashionable sloppy articulation. Even members of the UK Shadow Cabinet are plagued by this affliction. Just listen to the Eds and Davids and count how many times the letter "T" is not properly articulated. And this, they like to think, is a government in waiting ! For myself I avoid conversation with anyone who is a sloppy or lazy speaker and confuses "went" for "said", "like" for "thought" or "felt" and cannot articualte the letter "T". Sadly I know some teachers who are so afflicted and should not really be allowed to teach. Naw agh meen.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think slang is fine in the appropriate place. If people know the "right" way to speak and opt not to use it, OK. However we do seem to have a number who don't know the correct form and use slang not out of choice but because they have no alternative. The number of people who say "I wouldn't of done that" and seem unaware that this isn't actually English is concerning. Innit.

  • Comment number 20.

    Slang also drives me insane! I don't see what's wrong with speaking properly - slang makes people sound stupid, especially when grammatically incorrect! I think text speak is the most annoying form of slang, especially when most people have touch screens and hundreds of inclusive free texts to send - there is no longer a need to squeeze in as many words as possible into a tiny text. ThIs AlSo UsEd To ReAlLy AnNoY mE - do teenagers still type like that?

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Did anyone even axe her for her opinion?

  • Comment number 23.

    8. At 10:19am on 28 Sep 2010, Nok wrote:

    Emmma Thompson is snobbish and ignorant.

    As someone who spends a lot of time perusing historical documents I know that language is constantly evolving, despite the attempted restrictions of what is considered polite and acceptable.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    As someone who spends a lot of time hearing what people think is acceptable language in social situations and seeing the level of spelling in official documents, I know that language is constantly devolving into a fluid mess.

  • Comment number 24.

    People are missing the point, your language should reflect your audience. How you speak to your friends and how you speak in more formal surroundings, classroom, at work, should be two different things.
    There is a problem in that in school, teachers don't see it's their job to impress on pupils the importance of spelling, grammar and correct usage.
    If I am reviewing job applications, those mispelt, ungrammatical and written in biro go straight to the slush pile.
    People's life chances are being undermined.
    I'm not advocating that everyone should use RP, just the importance of being able to communicate clearly and unambiguously.
    Example, I was watching the film 'The Truman Show' with my teenage daughter and her friend, I said 'this film is quite sad', they both replied, 'no it's not it's good'.

  • Comment number 25.

    ear ah kid yoh doh think way oughta be wroitin the sairm way as we spake does ya

  • Comment number 26.

    I agree that languages do evolve over time, and the nice people at the OED reflect that, with many slang words and jargon making it into their esteemed tome in recent years.

    There is also nothing wrong with different social groups using their own slang. However it is important for their own prospects if they also know how to communicate in mainstreem society.

    What gets my goat is when people who are supposedly professional communicators (TV presenters are especially bad at this) use poor grammar. The number of times I hear phrases like "comprises of...", "a myriad of..." and "this shop has less customers....." is shocking

  • Comment number 27.

    Slang is a poor man's poetry.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm more worried about those dreadful glottal stops the champagne socialists use to sound more au fait with their clientele, the non-working class.

    But even that pales into insignificance compared to the overuse of certain keywords, such as "fairness" and "vulnerable." Then there's the "questions have raised" or "concerns have been raised" phrases, which are just politicoslang for "I wish to cast doubt on the motives."

    Ugh!

  • Comment number 30.

    #1 barryp: This discussion was underway in my schooldays , back in the 1960's. It was unresolved then and will remain so for the future.

    Of course this is true, BUT...

    Things were very different in the 1960s; the influence of TV and radio was far less, there was no internet. The BBC tended to provide a gold standard where even regional accents were few and far between, elocution was taught in mant schools, poor english and poor grammar (whether oral or written) was corrected.

    Our language is under pressure from many umore influences and as a result is changing much more rapidly because fo this, but also because there is no push-back.

    We are often absorbing the worst of our own and other cultures rather than the best.

    Social mobility to me is more about how you present yourself. I work in a professional customer facing environment. if an interviewee sits in front of me using "innit", "dunno", "fink" then they will be disadvantaged over candidates with good elocution.

    As children my father bought childrens songs and stories on LPs so that we would be well-spoken. Slang and bad language was corrected immediately, and in its worst excesses was rewarded with a clip around the ear. I owe my parents a huge debt of gratitude.

    I don't advocate BBC english by any means, but I do believe that we have become extremely lazy with our language. We need to be more like the French!

    We have a culture of "its better to express yourself and get the message across rather than to trip youself up on grammar" (is this done in the name of 'equality'?). This just speeds up the decline by lowering standards. I'd much rather be corrected and learn something - in this way I can improve.

  • Comment number 31.

    Language, if you like, is a living & evolving organism. We live in the Computer age & that breeds a new whole way of interacting with the world & communicating. However, I do believe that the young should be alive to the rich tradition of their language & to that end they must never give up reading the Classics in their language or, indeed, other languages.

  • Comment number 32.

    LeftieAgitator wrote: "If I am reviewing job applications, those mispelt, ungrammatical and written in biro go straight to the slush pile."

    The same applies for many comments on HYS.

  • Comment number 33.

    24. LeftieAgitator wrote: People are missing the point, your language should reflect your audience.

    Why? English should reflect good English! There is no reason to lower standards otherwise how will your audience learn.

    24. LeftieAgitator wrote: How you speak to your friends and how you speak in more formal surroundings, classroom, at work, should be two different things.

    To a degree this is true, but the problem is that the lazy informal creeps rapidly into the 'formal' environment. how will children learn to behave in the formal environment if they don't use good inglish in the home or amongst friends?

    24. LeftieAgitator wrote: There is a problem in that in school, teachers don't see it's their job to impress on pupils the importance of spelling, grammar and correct usage. So true... but the REAL problem is neither do many parents. All children should have the opportunity to better themselves - and to achieve BEYOND the status of their parents and family. This is being denied to so many.


  • Comment number 34.

    The essence of language is communication. It is one thing to say that language is continually evolving, but another to say that all deviations from received language are necessarily a positive part of that evolution rather than a degrading of the language or an evolutionary cul-de-sac or even the development of a diverging and different language. If meaning becomes uncertain or ambiguous then people are entitled to criticize. If words are used not only to convey meaning but also in part to cause offence or to show a particular political or other allegiance or as a humorous euphemism then, again, people are entitled to criticize where that use is inappropriate. Change for change's sake is not good and simply accepting and embracing into the received language all slang because it is there rather goes against the nature of slang as a revolt against the received.

  • Comment number 35.


    8. Nok wrote: Emmma Thompson is snobbish and ignorant.

    Ahhh, there we have it. If you have standards and live up to them you are labelled a snob. What rubbish.

    Personally, I think that this comment is applying th 'ignorant' label is being applied to the wrong end of the social spectrum.

  • Comment number 36.

    "Is slang sabotaging language"? is the HYS question.

    Am divided on this question for a few reasons.

    a) Mono-tone speech is more difficult to understand than any slang?

    b) Dialects are different - but easy to understand if they spoken clearly, or if you simply just listen?

    c) Does Ms Thompson have a film or a book coming out soon?

    In conclusion, mono-tone speech is the most serious barrier to communication than slang as can be identified by most sports reported interviews? So, no, I don't have a problem with slang, only those who can't enunciate slang properly for others to understand.

  • Comment number 37.

    We all experience slang in everyday life. My solution when spoken to in slang is to ask them what language they are speaking and keep doing it until they give up or turn away. It doesn't solve the problem but just maybe it should register in their mind that they are not capable of communicating properly. On the wider front, it demonstrates to me that our education system is not doing it's job properly, what happened to a rap on the knuckles for lapsing into slang in school, what happened to detention, what happened to being made to write lines?

  • Comment number 38.

    11. Hammy02 wrote: As long as you know how to speak in a professional/work capacity while restricting use of slang to being with friends etc, I see nothing wrong with it. Similarly with text-speak, nothing wrong with it as long as you can write properly when necessary.

    This OK for those who are 'educated' but what about Children in their early years who hear little else. How on earth do these children get a chance to learn good English? These children have the greatest chance of becomming the adults who are denied 'social mobility' they cannot communicate at a formal or professional level.

    So, you see, there is something VERY wrong indeed with this notion.

  • Comment number 39.

    Whilst I partly agree with Emma Thompson, she has a point. However English is evolving. Look at Middle English, any lay person could not read it. Then look at Tudor English, most people can read it but it is different. Slang terms tend to run it's course and then fade out when it is not fashionable. Look at any American show and there is plenty of slang spoken. Yes, we still understand it yet that is the beauty of our Language...it changes with time.

  • Comment number 40.

    Slang is often fine - it's what you use with your friends and family. If you are careless with it at a job interview, you will be probably be judged accordingly and you will, likely as not, not get the job.

    Slang note to BBC news presenters and so called child experts that are allowed air-time. "Kids" are young goats and the term when used in news bulletins etc., to refer to children is not right.

  • Comment number 41.

    #33

    OOPS - before anyoone picks up on it - please forgive my typo "inglish" ???

  • Comment number 42.

    THE European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

    As part of negotiations, the British Government conceded English spelling had room for improvement and has accepted a five-year phase-in plan that would become known as Euro-English.

    In the first year, ‘s’ will replace the soft ‘c’. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy.

    The hard ‘c’ will be dropped in favour of ‘k’. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

    There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome ‘ph’ will be replaced with ‘f’.

    This will make words such as fotograf 20 per cent shorter. In the third year, publik akseptanse of new spellings kan be expekted to reach a stage where komplikated changes are possible.

    Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

    Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent ‘e’ in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

    By the fourth yer, people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing ‘th’ with ‘z’ and ‘w’ with ‘v’.

    During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary ‘o’ kan be dropd from vords kontaining ‘ou’ and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.

    Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

    Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

  • Comment number 43.

    As the overall intelligence of the nation diminishes, so does the quality of the language.

  • Comment number 44.

    36. wrote: Mono-tone speech is more difficult to understand than any slang?

    There is no reason why 'good english' needs to be mono-tone

  • Comment number 45.

    I have sympathy with Emma, in that I am comfortable with the words I learned as a young boy. But I am also aware that living languages are dynamic. They need to change to reflect new inventions, new sub-cultures, and even new ways of communicating.

    While purists, for whom the English language should be as spoken by The Queen, want sentences to conform to old ideologies such as never ending a sentence with a preposition, language should be the tool with which we communicate and not our master. Sloppy English is, perhaps, indicative of a sloppy mind, but many people of my generation seem unable to focus on what they are writing (I'm also not perfect). I hear such phrases as "and another think", "pacifically" and "I could of", and I cringe inwardly. But I realise that our American cousins are also guilty of changing the language by the use of ...ize, ...lor or ...vor, and my pet hate - aluminum. So if they can carry on using a corrupted language then I'm sure that we can also cope, and maybe even gain some words that are more effective in describing modern society.

  • Comment number 46.

    I think language evolution is a poor excuse for failing to correct poor speech. Emma seems to make some good points but I am unconvinced that her audience were not stupid as she claimed, presumably to win them over. If they were not then they would not have needed to be told the blatantly obvious. Few speak perfect English, but one should at least be seen to make some attempt to comply with the basics.

  • Comment number 47.

    The inability to construct a sentence and a poor grasp of grammar combined with a generally poor use of English and a limited vocabulary will always count against youngsters when entering the job market.

    The National Curriculum does not encourage the correct use of the English language and this is one of the biggest barriers that a comprehensive school educated person has of getting jobs when up against a privately educated or grammar school educated person.

    The importance of the proper use of the English Language is not underestimated in private and grammar school education.

    I never had the benefit of a private education, a grammar school education or a university education and it did take me some time to get to grips with sentence construction. Fortunately, my Primary School education included spending much time on punctuation – including the use of colons and semi colons so I had a base from which to work.

  • Comment number 48.

    I have to agree with Emma on this one. I am appalled at the apparent lack of understanding many kids have of our beautiful language, it seems even education has been dumbed down for the little dears so they can all 'achieve'. Parents & teachers need to work together to impress on kids the importance of speaking & writing properly.

  • Comment number 49.

    15. MrWonderfulReality wrote: The problem is, is that there are too many numbnuts who now use slang as their main language and know no different.

    Hmmm, I suppose I concede that slang has some value - we can hear the numbnuts approaching and walk the other way.

  • Comment number 50.

    Did she actually mean 'slang' or did she really mean 'cliche'?



  • Comment number 51.

    You pick your language according to your audience.

    An e-mail to a prospective employer might say "I look forwards to meeting you next Monday" whereas one to a friend might say "CU L8R, M8" - both express your anticipation of a planned meeting, but in terms suitable to the recipient.

    Just so with slang. It has its place and its uses; it is when it is used inappropriately that it jars, and makes the person using it sound 'stupid' or at least ignorant (not the same thing!).

  • Comment number 52.

    It might be but since I can't understand a word of it I am in no position to say. What would really worry me is if these pantomime teenage innits could no longer understand grammatical and correct English, which after working twelve years in a comp. school I consider to be a real prospect. It is incredible when the rest of the world is paying billions to learn English that many of our own kids seem to be the only ones unwilling and unable to speak and write it. Most educated continental kids speak better and more grammatical English as a second language than most English kids do as a first.
    All these liberal free-expression linguistic evolutionistas seem to forget that logic is a function of grammar.
    By the way if Emma Thompson is reading this and would like to compare notes at some intimate little restaurant....

  • Comment number 53.

    8. At 10:19am on 28 Sep 2010, Nok wrote:
    Emmma Thompson is snobbish and ignorant.

    As someone who spends a lot of time perusing historical documents I know that language is constantly evolving, despite the attempted restrictions of what is considered polite and acceptable.

    For Pete's sake, we've only had standardised spelling since Dr Johnson invented the dictionary in 1755 - before then spelling was multiple choice - Shakespere had at least 3 different ways of spelling his own surname.

    =======================================================

    But how many hundreds of years is needed to learn standardised spelling, or basic verbal language.

    We KNOW language evolves, but in this instance is is BACKWARD, and it also marginalises people.

    Just as if someone from another nation comes to UK and seeks work or even if they need medical attention , but their spoken language is little understood, the issues, are SERIOUS.

    For whatever reason, these people who use "bad Bruva" slang and dialects are not only economically and socially damaging themselves, but also the UK as a whole.

    We have more than enough interpretors in UK, we dont NEED any more to iterpret the spoken or written words of an ignorant section of society.

    These people are ACTUALLY and FACTUALLY creating their OWN class, and it is a LOWER CLASS, with a few flamboyant pop stars and maybe sports stars at its head. This nation already spends MORE than enough taxpayers money on attempting to improve peoples lives. This "bad bruva" slang just proliferates an already huge social problem of deprivation and low quality life, which is an essential reality, of the MAJORITY of those who share this verbal slang language as their main and ONLY form of communication.

  • Comment number 54.

    There's a big difference between the evolution of a living language and simply not knowing or bothering to use words properly.

    One particularly lazy phrase is '..and I was like ..grimace or inserted quote..', this is just surrendering to laziness, a limited vocabulary or both.

    Language is how we communicate, and as humans we're lousy a that (given violence, abuse, war etc) so it's something we should pride ourselves on and encourage proficiency in above almost anything, a civilised society absolutely cannot 'get by' on a 500 word vocabulary.

  • Comment number 55.

    You cannot stop slang but those young adults who think that they can advance their career whilst still talking the language of the street had better wise up (sic). Those in authority (eg teachers and the Beeb) should continue to use currently accepted norms of English because their communications are better understood.

    What I cannot stand (as a professed pedant) is the corruption and misuse of perfectly good and useful words. For example, "gay" has been highjacked and is difficult to use in its previously accepted meaning, whilst "decimate" is constantly misused to mean to destroy nearly all rather than just one tenth.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    Of course language evolves, but at any one time it must have rules and structure and people who can teach and uphold them. Part of the problem is the lack of role models. Many years ago the BBC could be relied upon to set standards of correct speech, but now so many of its presenters and newsreaders use sloppy speech and bad grammar. Some of them, and the 'celebrities' we see on TV, seem deliberately to use street slang in an attempt to sound 'cool' and streetwise. Actually it makes them sound uneducated and rather silly. Who will lead us back to a sense of pride in our language?

  • Comment number 58.

    I agree.

    The ability to write and speak properly is an essential quality in communication and when forming any kind of relationship. Spelling and literacy standards generally have declined since my childhood day, when mistakes were often met with a rap across the knuckles and an order to spell the word correctly 100 times. Now, many in the teaching profession are unable to spell or speak properly, often mumbling with pointless add-ons such as "yer know wa ar mean?" and "like" every time another thought enters their heads.

    Indeed, I notice that many contributors to Have Your Say are equally illiterate and either don't refer to a dictionary, or rely on a spellcheck program to correct what to many are obvious mistakes. All those with grammatical errors, and where the contributor can't even be bothered to use the Caps key, should be rejected as failing to meet even basic standards.

  • Comment number 59.

    42. Tatcher.

    I think the French would step in long before then and declare the French language as the official languiage of the EC. Gets you thinking though....

    1807: I wandered lonely as a cloud. That floats on high, o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils. ...

    2010 I wuz on mi tod like wonner-em clouds an saw somma dem yella fings like they got int park, innit.

  • Comment number 60.

    People - yes, even teenagers - are adept at what linguists term "register switching"; we use different styles of speech in different contexts, usually without being aware that we are doing so. People use slang as a choice, not because they have no other speech-forms available to them.

    Spoken language has always been a "fluid mess", as one contributor described it. If you read commentary on changes in language, you will discern a recurring theme that "people spoke better in my parents' day" - and people have been saying this for centuries. If language had truly been "deteriorating" over such a period, we would not have the vibrant, expressive English that we have today, and that we always have had.

    The linguistic sky isn't falling, so relax - or should I say "chill"?

  • Comment number 61.

    Miss Thompson like many of her age lament the passing of a language which is evolving all the time which is why it is the most spoken laqnguage in the world. The English language can adapt to all new words people use considered slang by Miss Thompson. The best examples of all the changes are there for all to see in the Oxford Dictionary. No doubt she would have us all speaking old English from 500 years ago!

  • Comment number 62.

    "36. At 11:04am on 28 Sep 2010, corum-populo-2010 wrote:
    "Is slang sabotaging language"? is the HYS question.

    Am divided on this question for a few reasons.

    a) Mono-tone speech is more difficult to understand than any slang?

    b) Dialects are different - but easy to understand if they spoken clearly, or if you simply just listen?

    c) Does Ms Thompson have a film or a book coming out soon?

    In conclusion, mono-tone speech is the most serious barrier to communication than slang as can be identified by most sports reported interviews? So, no, I don't have a problem with slang, only those who can't enunciate slang properly for others to understand."
    __________________________________________

    Whoa there, boy. I thought a previous poster was difficult to understand, but your syntax is atrocious. From where did all the question marks spring, when you're not asking questions? Perhaps you meant to use exclamation marks - they are usually found alongside the numeral "1" on your keyboard! In your last sentence, as well, you seem to be missing the comparison that allows you to then apply "than", such as "more than" or "less than". I don't want to be overly critical, but while small spelling mistakes can appear on such fora one expects a certain level of competence.

  • Comment number 63.

    43. At 11:10am on 28 Sep 2010, geezershoong wrote: As the overall intelligence of the nation diminishes, so does the quality of the language.

    Cripes! The UK must be populated by amoebae.

    (Just in case any of the numbnuts that MrWonderfulReality refers to are reading this: amoebae - plural of amoeba - are tiny, slimy critters with no brain)

  • Comment number 64.

    37. At 11:05am on 28 Sep 2010, Kadazan wrote:
    We all experience slang in everyday life. My solution when spoken to in slang is to ask them what language they are speaking and keep doing it until they give up or turn away. It doesn't solve the problem but just maybe it should register in their mind that they are not capable of communicating properly. On the wider front, it demonstrates to me that our education system is not doing it's job properly, what happened to a rap on the knuckles for lapsing into slang in school, what happened to detention, what happened to being made to write lines
    -----------------------------
    I agree that the education system is not doing its (not 'it's') job properly. Neither is the BBC, which should as a public broadcaster be maintaining standards of proper speech. Neither is the government, which should be doing something to restore pride in our language which has enormous power when not debased by fools.

  • Comment number 65.

    24. At 10:42am on 28 Sep 2010, LeftieAgitator wrote:
    If I am reviewing job applications, those mispelt, ungrammatical and written in biro go straight to the slush pile.
    ------

    Were you being ironic when you misspelled 'misspelled', or should the moderator have put your comment 'straight to the slush pile' (sic)?

  • Comment number 66.

    Absolutely. While it's clear that language naturally evolves over time, the 'dumbing down' of the language in recent years is appalling. I, for one, find it not a little sad that even the Oxford English Dictionary seems to be following the trend.

  • Comment number 67.

    Personally I find the language used by management, business and government far more annoying than slang or colloquialisms, especially the use of phrases such as blue-sky thinking, going forward, holistic and incentivise.

    Then there's the ever so annoying pseudo-scientific phrases and terms such as pro-v & pro-namel that are used in advertising which I find particularly annoying.

    The one use of language that annoys me more than any other would have to be "it's only a theory" which is predominantly used by people with no scientific training when they wish to discredit a field of science that, more often than not, disproves aspects of their religious beliefs. The misuse of the word theory is a tragedy not just for language but for our whole society as we have large sections of our population growing up believing that some of the fundamental scientific facts that underpin our understanding of the universe are little more than untested assumptions when in fact they are some of the most tested scientific theories in existence.

  • Comment number 68.

    46. At 11:16am on 28 Sep 2010, Nemesis wrote: I think language evolution is a poor excuse for failing to correct poor speech.

    This is a very astute obervation with which I agreem fully

    (Translation: Yo Bro!)

  • Comment number 69.

    I swear down man enit, i dunno whut ya is talkin bout hu cum ya dunt speek proper inglish like i duz man.

    Translation, I can not believe this, i find it incredulous that you are discussing this issue. Perhaps one should enunciate the English language in the correct manner.

    The "dumbonics" as I like to call it is part of the Ghetto slang culture that permeates every so called class in society in this country it appears around the same time that the young begin in high school or sooner dependant entirely on the area that you are in.

    Fortunately the workplace filters this and slowly but surely by the time the Young reach the age of 25 they begin to use English correctly. Unless your name is Westwood then you continue to speak like a 13 year old wanna-be gangsta enit bruv massive geeza until your employer incists that you use the english language.

  • Comment number 70.

    A teenage boy spoke to me on the bus recently. He was speaking English as his first words were "Me is" but after that I only got one or two words of it. After the third attempt to understand him, I had to say I couldn't help him and walk away.

    Similarly, when I joined a previous employer, I had to interject in my first meeting because someone was talking about lining ducks up to grab low hanging fruit whilst watching an elephant in the corner. I asked three different people in the room to tell me what had just been said and they all said completely different things.

    The purpose of language is to communicate. Excessive use of slang certainly hinders the person using it as they often struggle to make themselves understood outside their own peer group.

  • Comment number 71.

    I agree with #34.

    Language is for communication. English is a rich, dynamic, rapidly evolving language, but clarity and precision of meaning is being lost through use of a mispronounced, restricted vocabulary that reflects decades of poor education in grammar and literature, and the persistent use of 'Estuary English' in the TV 'soaps'.

    Inability to pronounce 'th', misuse of was/were, repeated use of 'sortalike' when vocabulary is limited, are commonplace.

    The poor correlation between what children read in books and how they hear language spoken by parents, teachers, peers and on TV, must inhibit learning. If 'free' and 'three', 'think' and 'fink' are pronounced the same, what hope is there that other words containing 'th' are understood?

    In my view, all primary school teachers should be trained to use standard, grammatically and syntactically correct english, with a broad vocabulary, when speaking to their students, so that in the 20% of their time children spend at school, they at least have some exposure to the language that they will have to use when engaging with higher education and employment.

    Slang is perfectly OK in the restricted environment of a closed group, but its use in the wider world of work can place the user at a disadvantage and indeed transmit the message that they are of low intelligence and/or poorly educated.

  • Comment number 72.

    60. Grey Animal wrote: People - yes, even teenagers - are adept at what linguists term "register switching"; we use different styles of speech in different contexts, usually without being aware that we are doing so. People use slang as a choice, not because they have no other speech-forms available to them.

    Again, I majke the poibnt that this is fine IF you are taught different styles but it marginalises children who a brought up in environments where slang is the norm - these children lose out on social mobility.

  • Comment number 73.

    I speak slang, but I couldn't get away with it when giving client presentations, whether they are native English speakers or not. Being able to speak English as it is taught in school is imperative. If all you speak is slang, you're a moron.

  • Comment number 74.

    Stems from poor education standards. Can't spell, no worries!!!!

  • Comment number 75.

    Language is a living evolving thing. You just have to listen to kids talking on the streets of Hackney to hear how English, Bengali, African patois, has all been annexed to make a kind of "street tongue" much like in the 1982 film Blade Runner.
    Why does Thompson have a problem with this natural evolution that has gone on since before Chaucer?
    Perhaps she just wants a bit of free PR for her reworking of My Fair Lady which deals with class and proper language. Well done BBC, job done! Perhaps you could get Lloyd-Webber to produce it and promote it on another Saturday night show and the toff-tastic free advertising for both of them can go on as they try desperately to hang on to their class-structure and controlling vowel-sounds!! ;)

  • Comment number 76.

    As a Dutch graduate in English i have been appalled by the atrocious language skills of the British population in general ever since i arrived here 10 years ago. Spoken language is one thing, but a lot of British people are unable to write even one sentence without making at least one glaring error.

  • Comment number 77.

    Most of the countrty cannot spell or speak English so what hope has slang got ?

  • Comment number 78.

    Gadzooks! 'Tis sorely vexing, and I didst wax wroth at the flibbertigibbet.

  • Comment number 79.

    I find that people who use slang and have a very basic grasp and limited vocabulary, tend to be more prone to aggressive outbursts and I suspect this is down to the inability to communicate complex thoughts, ideas, feelings etc in a way that can be understood, thus frustration at not being understood.

    Whilst slang is great if that is part of whatever youth culture you are from, there is no getting away from the fact that people who continuously speak using slang actually do sound stupid - a harsh fact.

    I recall a white kid in a baker’s, trying to order some food, all the while speaking with a broad use of slang and in some convoluted West Indian style. It was the greatest piece of comedy I have ever witnessed. Even the woman behind the counter could barely contain herself through laughter. When your attempts to sound cool, by adding such slang and accents makes you a source of fun and ridicule (think Vicky Pollard) surely it is time to call it a day and speak in the Queen's English.

    innit?


  • Comment number 80.

    60. Grey Animal wrote: Spoken language has always been a "fluid mess", as one contributor described it.

    Also true, but from a time where pesants were pesants, the working class knew their place and social mobility was to be resisted at all costs. Now we demand the lowest of the low has real opportunity to achieve far beyond their environment and background.

    That said, my working class Yorshire parents and grandparents had barely two farthings to rub together but were imensely proud and never used slang in front of friends, family or children. Their peers were no less proud.

  • Comment number 81.

    You have to wonder what children are being taught in school. How many celebrities do you see on television (footballers in particular) that can't talk properly? It's embarrassing to see people who represent your country finking this and fanking that wiv no apparent idea that they are an embarrassment to the nation. When I was at school, reading lessons sat with the teacher was a basic requirement, if the celebrities that talk so badly had those lessons, surely they wouldn't leave school in such poor shape. We then have the buzz words such as 'absolutely' (without exception), why can't people just use a simple 'yes' as usually it's in answer to a question that's been asked that they agree with. To summarise, we have the fickies that can't talk properly, and we have those that can, using totally unnecessary words just to be with it.

  • Comment number 82.

    Init juss!

  • Comment number 83.

    Slang English is bad in the workplace?
    Well I've just done a brain dump and some blue skys thinking on this proposition and have decided to touch base with HYS.

    I think many of us actually alter the way we speak to fit who we are trying to communicate with at the time so will use slang when it is appropriate, but will talk in a totally different way in our own homes.

  • Comment number 84.

    Oh get over it Emma, the English language has been evolving for centuries, and will continue to evolve: it will evolve in a manner that's not to everyone's taste, but that's just the way life is.

  • Comment number 85.

    Yes. Emma thompson is spot on.

    The lazy and offensive way that BRITS use their language is almost unbelievable.

    Texting on mobile phones is largely to blame, but the bottom line is that a lot of people are just plain ignorant and proud of it these days.

    Know worra mean!!

  • Comment number 86.

    I'm amused by this topic as slang is a necessity on the BBC's own boards. You cannot convey your true feelings or opinions because of the BBC's banned word list.

    Emma Thompson is a fine piece of fingle but she should keep her opinions to herself or be forever be tainted by the reputation of being a surfer.

    I'm also amused because I have to tone down my slang in front of Jonny Foreigner because he does not understand. It's impossible for me to communicate with him in a friendly and casual way because there's not a chance in hell he'd follow my meanings.

    Don't confuse local dialects with slang either, you. Them sayin's don't mean much to ya, but they're easy for us, y'know? Say 'ah boy' if you agree.

  • Comment number 87.

    Slang is language innit?

  • Comment number 88.

    Yes. The slang makes me "insane" too.

    Its a shame that people living in the x-colonies of the British Emphire speak better English than the sum-total of natives in the UK. The reason being, they learn English spoken in the Westminister, BBC, or, what is sometimes called King's/Queen's English and even "Ox-forage".

    Ask any highly skilled migrant worker coming from the X-collonies and Common Wealth countries, visiting UK for the first time, and they all agree that intially they struggle with the words/accent of people in the UK. If no attention is given to the unification of the English Language in UK, the Linguists, and dictionaries, will refer to American, Australian, and Indian English.

    Let there be, atleast, one English Language- the medium of exchange between people, not necessarily believing in the demorcarcy of the Westmisister, for the exchange of human feelings/emotions. Those who promote 'Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought' foreget that "voice of the people(without any discrimination)is the voice of God. Slang refers to the revolt, the anger, and the deviation and English Language-at its best- is conservative.

  • Comment number 89.

    I agree with Steve. Of course language is constantly changing, mutating and evolving. Even if words don't change, meanings often do.
    But that's not the point. Just because language changes doesn't mean we shouldn't have a standardised vocabulary for formal communication. Words don't just convey meaning they actually shape thinking. Therefore it is very important to have the right set of linguistic tools for every task. So for example, professions such as law, medicine and science have evolved their own specialised vocabulary in order to convey specific concepts of these areas.
    It isn't the case that it is wrong to speak slang; just that in many circumstances it the wrong choice of vocabulary to communicate because it relies on the person listening to actually understand the slang. In that sense it can definitely harm somebodies life chances if they do not wish to learn the accepted language of the wider work place and choose to remain in a sub culture.

  • Comment number 90.

    Languauge constantly evolves.
    Slang is a way for younger generations to create their own identity from their peers.

    chill-ax and be cool, dady-o?

  • Comment number 91.

    Slang is not sabotaging language.

    Languages evolve over time they are not a static thing, slang is one of the ways in which languages evolve, they always have and always will. Of course the pace of change in language is increasing due to mass media and mass communications (the internet), which people do find hard to keep up with. As with all change some will embrace and some will resist, that’s how it should be.

    Personally I love slang and regional dialects and expressions, they add colour to a language and tell you a lot about the origins and background of people you’re talking too.

    I’m afraid Emma is only telling us something about herself, her age and background with her complaints.

  • Comment number 92.

    Language changes over time. The Brothers Grimm discovered that long ago but there is a massive difference between natural changes and enforced changes. These days, people read far less than they used to. This has meant that their idea of spelling is based on how they hear a word. Just reading some of the comments made over a period of time on various HYS questions, it's plain to see that many don't know the difference between:

    There and Their
    Your and You're
    Loose and Lose

    even

    Two, To and Too!

    The whole point of there being a standard is that EVERYONE should be able to understand it. I work in IT and if you don't follow the standards, you soon start messing up communication. Can you imagine the internet working in any way, shape or form if everyone used their own standard of communication? How would people with English as a second language ever really learn the language? I know many who speak English better than those with it as a first language!

    Sadly, even on TV, you can see showmakers dumbing down and basically trying to look cool by having the presenters "speakin' da lingo, init."

    Add to that the wonderful array of first names that seem to have been spelt by taking some letters out of a scrabble bag and arranging them in some obscure way and it's no wonder people can't spell or speak to a reasonable standard. Watching X Factor (yes I know, I feel my IQ dropping every time my other half sticks it on) and they have a 'contestant' called Treyc. Apparently, that is supposed to say Tracy. *facepalm*

  • Comment number 93.

    77. At 11:40am on 28 Sep 2010, Ken B wrote:
    Most of the countrty cannot spell or speak English so what hope has slang got ?

    Was the spelling mistake in 'country' intentional? If not you've proven a point!

  • Comment number 94.

    Frankly I stopped listening when "guys" an appalling Americanism replaced the word "chaps"

  • Comment number 95.

    Doing things properly is nice and has it's place, however communication is vital, you have to speak in a language that the other undestands and languages do evolve, for the better? Time will tell. If Victor Borg was with us still I'm sure he would hold a converation in pure binary!

  • Comment number 96.

    Most foreigneses speak better English that some natives and therefore they have better job opportunities. It makes a huge diferrence whether someone addresses a client in a slightly dim sounding London accent interspersed with slang (what is it with that random use of the word "random"?), and it often causes my non-London clients to stare at the speaker with a mix of horror at what they do understand and bemusement at what they don't. Some of my highly articulate foreign employees however usually charm potential clients into doing business with us with their educated, almost posh sounding English and very interesting, exotic accent.

  • Comment number 97.

    Emma Thompson is correct in her concerns but its a bit rich to be complaining about something that her "ilk" have largely bought about.

    Going back to the sixties the cultural and political elite have laboured to create what we have now!

    "Its a fair cop but sociaty is to blame", as someone may have said?

  • Comment number 98.

    I think you can get too upset about slang being used by young people - people have always used slang to create their own identity.

    The problem is when teachers and parents don't teach proper grammar as well. Once children are comfortable reading, writing and speaking (say about 8 or 9 for typical children), then grammar & spelling should be clamped down on in class and school work. The problem is that some parents (and some teachers) don't know the correct grammar and spelling either... (My son's teacher in year 2 said that 'happy' was an adverb and wouldn't accept that it was actually an adjective when we tried to correct her... You can have a 'happy cat', but the cat can't 'eat a fish happy')

    As long as teachers enforce good grammar in the classroom, pupils will learn good grammar, even if they choose to leave it aside when with their friends. If teachers don't/can't do that, then the children will grow up with bad grammar being their only option.


    Nowadays, the media has an important part to play as well. In a children's drama, then using slang is fine, but, in documentaries or news items, there should be proper grammar.

  • Comment number 99.

    I agree completely. On a daily basis I am disappointed about the lack of standards and respect people show to there peers, others and themselves. I work with young people and quite frankly give up with the way both their parents and education system has dragged them up. It is not unusual now to receive a piece of work or notes from a young person which is written entirely in text speak. Slang is awful but it has all gone too far. Years of 'the soft approach' are now paying off in more ways than one.

  • Comment number 100.

    #42 Funnily enough your mail is actually closer to the truth than you'd think. As far as I'm concerned I speak about 5 words of German but I was watching 'Das Boot' (the German made film about a U-boat crew) and the English dubbing was so diabolical that I switched the DVD to German with English subtitles... after about an hour I started understanding what the characters were saying because its remarkable how many German words sound like English words pronounced in a funny accent...especially the swearing!

 

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