Is Language Evolving or Dying? by Alffie

Change the meaning of a word and you change the meaning of the world.

I was fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you see it) to have an English teacher being my mother. Let me paint the picture, my English was for one particular reason a little less credible than hers..This is the reason:

“My teacher was a white man whose first language was English. I wasn’t taught English by an Omondi, a Kamau or a Wanyama!” She once put it!

We always argued over pronunciation – our favorite being picking into news anchors’ pronunciation & at best painful use of English! If there’s one thing I’m poor at it’s “sheng“. It’s not that I can’t understand it, I just can’t keep up with its dynamism and ambiguity. Plus the idea that it is location specific also presents a barrier for me so I stopped trying.

So why write this post?Well,since the advent of social media especially..the foundation ground of language as we know it has been shifted. This coming as such things as Hip Hop culture already playing its major role in shifting the language dynamics a great deal!

Allow me to highlight several examples:

Hip Hop Influence

The Hip Hop culture came in with creativity at it’s best, especially so through RAP (Rhythm And Poetry). This art form brought with it witty word play, coining of new words like shawty and word use which include redefining the meaning of ordinary words to mean different things. Now when you mention words like COOL, HOT, CAT, ICE, CHIC, FLY, RIDE…etc you have to consider the audience and context because they all refer to different things from what they should originally. One that bothers me a lot is “Hustler”. Hip Hop has made this word mean a person who works hard to get what he has. If my mother hears this word used, she’ll probably go to the dictionary meaning which is not good at all..

This movement also brought along with it new ways of saying ordinary words. The most common being the one widely credited to Snoop Dogg.. one just adds the “izzle” suffix 7 what u get is for example.. for shizzle nizzle,it’s the big Snoop D-O Double Gizzle!

The Computer Age Bug

This is not much but has changed quite a bit of language. Consider for example how much you hear of  “Windows” and immediately think of the normally glass covered opening on a wall of a building?! Windows, Apple, Mouse, Program among many other words don’t get the same automatic ordinary response they were meant to have.

Social Media

This ties in a lot with ‘The Computer Bug’ because simply put, social media rides on the revolutionary wave of the computer age. Social media has made ordinary language entirely different. Now we have initials to represent reactions like LOL for Laughing-Out-Loud, SMH for Shaking My Head probably in disbelief, among many others. It’s influence is so bad that I recently saw a tweet of a friend who ended up saying LOL instead of actually laughing! Other common acronyms and their meanings can be found here.

There’s this expression; “DEAD” (common on twitter! for some reason, Facebook faithful don’t seem to get this concept!!) which implies that one is dying of laughter. Then there’s this expression “Blog whoring”.. my mother would faint on hearing such an expression used in whatever setting! The idea here is that one moves from one blog to another reading as they go along. Now, I understand that, reading someone’s work has been described as intercourse of the minds but “blog-whoring” seems like pushing the envelope, I would think!

At the end of the day, when you meet someone who can’t seem to express themselves well i.e. articulate their thoughts well, speech punctuated by curse words half of which they hardly understand, mixing languages (we’ll meet in the jios, soma the gazeti!!).. you can’t actually blame the above reasons, at least not without considering other factors.

I realised, for example..not many can sit through a British (English) movie mainly because their “English” is “hard”. They would rather watch the American (US) which defiles English as it is! To start pointing out the errors in American English would be a tedious task.

Is it a case of evolved language or death of it?

With all these changes, the world has indeed changed. For the positive or for the negative…I won’t dare to judge!

PS: And before I go, my name is The Alternative Focus not my names are.

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  1. dyiembo

     /  October 7, 2010

    This is incredibly true. Wish u felt so strongly about something that actually belonged to you though… Swahili. Let the owners of the language sort themselves out

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