This post is inspired by a prompt which asked “What is your favorite slang word?”
As a writer and as a person who stands up in front of groups on a regular basis to talk to them, I view myself as someone who has a fair command of the English language. And yet, I became aware last summer, when talking to a new friend from Venezuela, that my spoken language is very colloquial. I became aware that I use slang as cheap currency, and I needed to think and translate my everyday, colorful expressions into “standard English” in order to communicate effectively and connect as friends.
Slang can serve as a shibboleth — those subtle markers in speech that identify you as a member of a tribe, a generation, a profession (that slang is commonly known as “jargon”), or an interest group or club. Some slang is like a privae joke, identifying who is “IN” and who is “Out.” Slang can include or exclude.
Despite being advised to use 6th-grade level vocabulary in my writing, I have refused to “dumb down” what I write or say. I write for my own self-expression and enjoyment, and if somebody doesn’t understand the words I use, we’re probably going to have a pretty shallow level of engagement, anyway. Not that big words are always good (or bad), or that short words are always good (or bad). Words are tools. Use the right tool for the job, I say.
Sometimes, the right word for the job is an expletive. If I drop something heavy on my foot, you won’t hear me say “Shoot!” or “Fudge!” Nope, nothing but the real thing from me. Yes, I do have other words in my vocabulary. I get really tired and bored with writers, or comedians, who think a stream of four-letter words constitutes creativity or originality in expression. Say what you have to say, say it clearly and with authenticity. Make me understand, make me care. If you’ve done that, your vocabulary, tone, and diction were all just fine, thank you.
Tonight I spent a lot of time “noodling,” which I have chosen as my favorite slag expression for today. Noodling is a step above “messing around,” or “wasting time.” Noodling has an flavor of improvisation, of being involved in an idea, and just playing with it over time to see where it leads. Perhaps noodling with a pen turns into doodling. Musicians noodle with variations. I noodled with my email signature.
A friend has a really cool email signature, with cute little icons from her social media sites right there. All of them are linked to her various profiles. I thought, that is really cool, I’d like to do that, too. So stage one of the noodling was finding a video on YouTube that would show me how to do what I wanted. [The YouTube search bar is the #2 search engine, and with good reason. If you want to know how to do something, chances are, someone has made a video to show you step-by-step.] The end result was this:
MaryBeth D. Smith, MM, GCFP
The FELDENKRAIS Center of Houston
[my phone number]
Enrollment Open Through April 2011